Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Christ Centered Social Services

- you are a battered or sexually abused wife and mother who needs a safe place to stay;

- you are a family of 6 and are facing the possibility of having to choose between paying your electric bill or putting food on the table;

- you are homeless, living with all your possessions in the back of your car. The weather is cold and rainy;

- you are stranded in a strange community because your car broke down and you don't have the means to get it fixed or to put gas in it;

- Your monthly income doesn't stretch far enough to meet all your needs;

- you have a job interview but don't have appropriate, clean clothes to wear;

- you are struggling with depression or an addiction and you don't know where to turn;

IMAGINE - It's difficult isn't it. In fact, you may not even notice the nameless, faceless people that exist in our community under those or other dire circumstances. Maybe you shrug them off by saying, "They've made bad choices in their lives. What they need to do is take responsibility and begin to pull themselves up "by their own bootstraps."

IMAGINE - Imagine that there were no place for someone to go to for help? IMAGINE!

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IMAGINE a centralized, unified agency where people could get food, receive job counseling, find help with utilities, get emergency, safe shelter, find a warm, loving, group of volunteers and paid staff that really care and have the resources to help with your needs. IMAGINE!

I have good news. You don't need to imagine. There is such a place and such a group of people right here in Enumclaw. Plateau Outreach Ministries is a unique agency that exists "to provide Christ-centered social services on behalf of the churches of the Plateau Ministerial Association. Over the years of its history from very simple beginnings in the basement of Calvary as Plateau Care Corps, it has grown and morphed into an amazing, flexible, efficient, loving place where people - young and old, male or female, brown, black or white, rich or poor, can go to receive the love of Jesus in tangible expression.

Samaritan Project provides rental and utility assistance. The food bank hands out groceries every Wednesday. More Pennies from Heaven sells quality used clothing, household items and other unique items at unbelievably low prices. Not only do the proceeds from those sales go to help underwrite the costs of running such a ministry, it also provides people with the dignity of being able to purchase needed items at a resonable price.

Networking with other social service agencies - both non-profit organizations and government agencies - POM is able to meet just about any need a person or family may have. They do so with the love of Jesus in the face of ever-increasing need. What makes this ministry most unique is the way the entire community has embraced it. Receiving funds from churches, other agencies and ngos, the city of Enumclaw, individuals and corporate grants, POM exists as a true expression of the unity of the Body of Christ and of the Heart of Jesus for the poor, the widows, the orphans, the aliens and strangers living in our midst.

Kimberly Fish is the Executive Director. She is an incredible person with a heart for people and a heart for the Lord. She epitomizes, in my mind, what it means to let our faith and worship of God translate into tangible, life-transforming acts of witness and grace. She is speaking at Calvary this Saturday and Sunday - May 29,30.

I hope you can come at 7:00 pm Saturday or 9:30 am Sunday to hear more about this incredible ministry and the ways you can support and volunteer to be a part of its gospel witness in our community.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The World At Our Doorstep

When I was growing up as a self-absorbed kid, somewhere around 1956 or 1957, I have a distinct memory of my parents opening our small home to a family that had moved to the US (in particular, the Denver area) from a strangely named country called Hungary. I knew little about it except that it was in Eastern Europe and that a dish my mother used to prepare for dinner was called Hungarian Goulash. I suppose for a kid of 6 or 7 that was probably quite a bit to know.

This family sat around our dinner table telling us stories of the bloody revolution that had been taking place as Hungarians sought to break free from the brutal, and even bloodier rule of Stalinist Russia. Thousands - maybe more like tens of thousands - they said had been killed and even more arrested.

This family had been granted assylum in the US and somehow had been sponsored by Corona Presbyterian Church, the church my family attended in Denver. I was mesmerized by their stories and wondered what it would be like to be a refugee; someone displaced by war and persecution and forced to flee to another country for safety. That was my first introduction to the problems faced by refugees and I remember that this family's parents were well-educated professionals who were forced to accept menial, low-paying jobs. They were barely able to survive.

Today, the problem of refugees is staggering in number and in need. According the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2009 the number of refugees fleeing to other countries stood at 16 million. An additional 26 million were considered "internally displaced peoples," meaning that they had been forced to flee their homes and villages but were still needing assistance in their countries of origin.

In the last 20 years, our country has struggled to define what qualifies as refugee status granting temporary assylum in our country. Generally speaking, if a person has fled their country for reasons of economic, political religious persecution or from danger of war. Considering the fact that over 90% of the world's population lives on $2.00 or less USD per day, it is a pretty broad definition.

My ancestors were refugees. The fled England because of religious persecution and went to Leydon Holland. They were expelled from there as well and so they hopped on a little boat known as the Mayflower in 1620 and came to the new world to establish a new life, free from the tyranny of persecution. You might be familiar with that story.

In 1974, after the fall of Saigon and the takeover of all of Viet Nam by the communists, there were literally thousands of refugees pouring into the US being sponsored by families and churches. Seattle received a large number of those refugees who had fled because of the persecution and imprisonment that educated and religious Vietnamese people were experiencing.

When we lived in New Mexico during the 1980s the issue of immigrants fleeing the economic and war conditions of Central America had become a real problem along the southern borders of the country and many churches were offering sanctuary for those refugees. It became a real political hot button and continues to be so today as our Southern Borders continue to be a gateway for thousands of Latino immigrants - both from Mexico and points south. The new Arizona Law has shed the light of the nation's press and commentators on this issue and it also is a hot topic right now.

This Sunday, Cal Uomoto from World Relief will be speaking at Calvary regarding the refugees who populate the Puget Sound Region and the different kinds of ministries that are being offered to help these peole adjust to their new homes, surroundings and strange culture. Just in Seattle Presbytery alone we have worshiping fellowships made made up of Korean, Indonesian, Persian (Iraq and Iran) Latino, Ukrainian, Kenyan and Ethiopian refugees. Their needs are complex and real. World Relief is addressing those needs. For those who may read this prior to Saturday or Sunday, I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about the refugee situation in this region. The World is at our door more than ever before

The Bible reminds us to welcome the strangers and the aliens living among us for once "we too were aliens."