November 1, 2007 Volume 21, Number 16
Street Level & Friends
Giving more than "the usual"
By Ken MacLaren | Special to ChristianWeek
Many agencies and ministries across Canada work hard each day to help alleviate the suffering of those caught in the web of poverty.
Soup kitchens deliver hot, nutritious meals; outreach teams make contact with people on the streets; donations of food and clothing are distributed and we try in different ways to "connect" with people who call the streets their home. Together, we are making an impact.
As we seek to understand the complexities of poverty and homelessness it becomes evident that we need to do more if we want to make a lasting difference. We need to develop relationships and provide a system of support to people who are alone.
Kendra comes to our drop-in and has become a part of our Ottawa Innercity Ministries family. Her 30 years have been hard ones, and she is well acquainted with poverty. We have developed a relationship over the past several years, and we often talk about real life issues. Would she be willing to risk more?
"Kendra," I inquired, "How would you like to be 'adopted' by one of our volunteers? You know, like a family?"
She didn't hesitate, but replied instantly: "I'd love to have a big brother or sister. I grew up with brothers, but no one calls me anymore. I'm all alone. Do you want my phone number?"
Her immediate and compelling longing took me by surprise. I was amazed that she would so quickly expose her deep desire for relationship. I was humbled that she would reach out with such intensity.
Imagine for a moment what it would be like for you to be aloneall alone. No family, friends, church associates, nobody. No phonecalls, no letters, no gifts or cards at Christmas or your birthday, no one to go to coffee with, no one to talk to. Alone.
More than 2,000 scriptures clearly speak about our responsibility to look after the poor, the alien, the widow and the fatherless.
When we look at the "mountain of homelessness," we are overwhelmed. We need to break it down into manageable pieces.
What if you could make a difference in one person's life? What if you gathered a small group of like-minded people, and together you were able to help two or three people in need?
The key is building relationships. It takes time, commitment and energy.
You could call it whatever you like: sponsoring, mentoring, adopting, supporting. It's about being a friendand it has the potential to change someone's life.
The big picture
We can change the face of homelessness in our country the same way evangelist Billy Graham intends to win the world for Christ: one person at a time.
"Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these my little ones, you have done it unto me," Jesus said (Matthew 25:40). Changing the world one person at a timereally, that person is you.
Ken MacLaren is executive director of Ottawa Innercity Ministries. He notes that Kendra has been "adopted" by "Grandma and Grandpa," two volunteers with Ottawa Innercity Ministries. Their twilight years are upon them, but they are convinced that they can make a difference. Instead of retiring and relaxing, they are determined to change the world.