Posts Tagged ‘poor’

Educational Leadership:Poverty and Learning:The Myth of the Culture of Poverty.

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For many years as the Christmas holidays are approaching, I have often had the privilege and opportunity to speak with groups of young people involved in a youth outreach or in youth groups.  With the increasing commercialization of Christmas, it is a welcomed occasion to remind and discuss the “reason for the season” as we like to say.

It is a researched fact that the average attention span of teenagers is to be right about 12.5 minutes (for adults it is 15-20 minutes).  With that fact in mind, I have always known it to be important to grab attention, spark curiosity and be as relevant as possible within that short timeframe.

Young people often like to “rep” where they are from geographically in their cities so as I researched where the promised Messiah was born, I learned that Bethlehem was a small village five miles south of Jerusalem.  My friends in Chicago especially appreciate the title I created, “South side Messiah.”  Now that you have read this far, I share a few thoughts about this Messiah.

This miraculous child anointed by God to save human-kind is to establish a throne as the King and the Messiah.  The wise men who were seeking to worship the King went to Jerusalem first thinking it would be the city where the new kingdom would be established.  Think about it… if that were to be the case, the magi would have been the only ones who could have visited and worshiped the newborn King.  The shepherds and the lowly would have been forbidden to enter the gates of the palace and not allowed to see the Son of God.  

It had to be this way because the Good News was being delivered to everybodyeverywhere.  What an incredible moment it must have been!  All of the heavens celebrate to see God’s plan of love and salvation unfolding in this south side village of Bethlehem.   The new born King was not born in a palace, but in a stable; laid not in a crib for royalty, but a manger; dressed not in fine, princely clothing, but in swaddling rags.

The manger illustrates God’s affinity for the poor and the lowly.  The King of Kings was born into a condition that many of our young people and their families identify with today.  A condition of poverty and it could not have been any other way.  This poor and ordinary birth was an indication of the spiritual poverty required within the hearts of Christ followers to come.

It is those who know their own internal poverty who are the closest to God’s heart.  It is the religious, the self-important and puffed up that are most resistant to Christ… most resistant to a “South side Messiah”.  Jesus told us it is the simple, the childlike, and the weak who are closest to the kingdom of God (see Matthew 19:14; Mark 10:15; Luke 9:46-48).

The Messiah came to knock down barriers to God not raise them. The mystery of the King of Kings born in a lowly manger is simple yet profound. Out of a humble manger in the little town of Bethlehem came the greatest love man has ever known.  The Messiah born in that indistinct setting still touches and changes people 2,000 years later.

By  June 22, 2011 / http://www.urbanfaith.com

It had been a long day. Not long because I had crammed one activity after another into a very small window of time, but long in the tangible way I had felt every hour pass. Even though I arrived late to pick up my son from track practice, his older brother and I ended up having to wait for him to come out of the building. As he opened the van door, pitched his backpack into the van, and hopped onto the seat, I skipped my customary “Hi, how was your day” greeting. My mind was too harried to bother with perfunctory courtesies.

I swerved into the exit lane of the school driveway, but just then a man walking alongside a bicycle stepped into the crosswalk. He appeared to be talking to himself. At the precise moment when my car stopped to wait for him to pass, he turned and saw me. Now he was coming back toward the van. Oh no, not today, I thought. But yes, today was the day, and it has now become to me an act of mercy and life-altering grace that I will never forget.

I rolled down my window, lowered the radio volume so he wouldn’t hear the Christian music playing, and fixed my face with an impassive look that I hoped would indicate an absence of hostility but also a need to finish quickly whatever our interaction would be.

When he came to the window, I was expecting him to start explaining what he needed. But instead, he handed me a piece of notepaper that I could see was about half full of writing. As I started to read, he began saying something that I couldn’t quite make out, but I could tell he was probably hearing impaired. His note basically related that he was new in town, didn’t have a place to stay, had no friends or family in the area, and hadn’t eaten in three days. He concluded with a simple request for money to buy food.

Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the experience, I realize that should have been my first clue that something unexpected was about to happen. Even with all his apparent needs—without a home, physical and perhaps cognitive impairments, hunger, no family—he had narrowed his request down to one thing: I’m hungry. Can you help me get some food? I see this now for what it was: raw humility.

I looked up from the note and explained that I didn’t have any cash. Usually I at least have some loose change in my ashtray or the well in the driver side door, but not today. So being satisfied that I had dispatched my obligation as best I could, I apologized for being unable to help and began rolling my window back up. Unlike other people in his situation I’ve met before, he didn’t look angry, nor did he become aggressive. He took the note back from me, smiled, and started walking back in the direction he was originally going.

As I pulled out onto the road, I said to my sons, “I really need to start carrying some cash so I can help when situations like this come up.” They both mumbled, “Yeah,” and I could hear in their voices that surly cynicism people get when they hear someone say something that they knew would quickly be forgotten. They were right. I had said this before.

But this time it felt different.

Continuing in the vein of my day, I started mentally processing what had just happened. Unsolicited, I heard and felt God’s whisper in my heart, saying, “You don’t have any cash, but you can still give him something to eat.”

Duh, of course … I did have my debit card! In a flash, it hit me with such intensity that it came bursting out of my mouth without me really intending it to. “Hey, I have a card!” I shouted.

Now my sons were energized too. They both sat up straighter in their seats and started looking for a place we could stop and buy our stranger something to eat. At the same time, we all spotted the Burger King to our left. In my new excitement and haste to rectify my original un-helpfulness, I swung the van into the turn lane and practically skidded into the BK drive-thru line. We were all thinking the same thing: we needed to hurry because he might not be in the near vicinity for too long. My sons both started yelling things we could order, and we settled on grilled chicken, fries, and a sprite. We figured if he hadn’t eaten in three days, his stomach might be sensitive, so grilled rather than fried seemed to fit the bill. I also was price conscious because my own finances were pretty slim.

After we ordered and paid, we started looking for him. Panic began to rise as we scanned the street in front of us and the sidewalk on both sides and didn’t see him.

“There he is!”

My younger son spotted him in the parking lot of a corner convenience store where he appeared to be talking with another driver about his plight. I made a half u-turn into the store parking lot and pulled up beside our friend. When he shifted on his feet to face us, I could see on his face a flicker of recognition, but just shy of familiarity. My older son was closest to him, so I handed the bag of food to him and he reached out the window. A look of sheer surprise spread over the man’s face. Clearly he couldn’t believe we were back. My son handed him the bag, and tears welled up in the man’s eyes.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you so much, and God bless you,” the man said. We blessed him back and pulled off.

I knew what had just happened, but I also knew something else had happened. That simple hand-off of food had ushered something “other” into our midst. A hush fell over all three of us, and my spirit bore witness that the interior of my van had been transformed into holy ground. The presence of God was overwhelming. Tears started running down my face, and I saw that my younger son was struggling to hold back the tears that sat pooled right behind his eyelids. Finally he said, “Gosh, he was so grateful … poor guy.”

I heard what my son said, but I also heard someone else speaking: “Whatever you do to the least of these, you’ve done it unto Me. Thanks for feeding Me when I was hungry.” Then again: “When you give to the poor, you lend to the Lord. Thanks for the loan; I’ll pay you back.”

I was speechless. On a day when I felt the burden of so much of my own need, and was almost near the edge of panic about my own money situation, the Lord Himself visited my little tribe and gave us an opportunity to see Him, and to be blessed not just by Him but with Him. God was there as real as I’ve ever experienced Him. I saw Him in the man’s unashamed humility, his open gratitude, his peaceful demeanor despite what had to be a grinding existence, and his ready forgiveness of my earlier rejection. This man may indeed be a pauper by earthly standards, but he was just as sure a prince by eternal standards. In that simple act of obedience, I had received so much more than I had given.

Since my meeting him that day, now more than a month ago, I have thought of him every day and prayed for him when I thought to do it. He makes me wonder how many times, in our harried and distracted living, we miss the opportunity to see Jesus because we don’t recognize Him when we see Him.

Our cities and urban areas are full with people who need to be fed, clothed, comforted. But I believe we pass Him by because of the “distressing disguise” in which he appears to us. Run-down tenements, trash-strewn alleys, and overrun housing projects are not usually our idea of heavenly places. But heaven is where Jesus is, and I think maybe He’s waiting for us to realize that truth.

I almost wish I could see my hungry friend again, just so I could thank him. Through his humanity and his need, he gave me a glimpse of Someone I desperately needed to see. He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, CHANDRA WHITE-CUMMINGS

Chandra White-Cummings is a columnist for UrbanFaith and a freelance writer, nonprofit consultant, and speaker. She’s currently working on a devotional series of books to help people apply God’s wisdom to their everyday lives. She has a Juris Doctor degree from Regent University School of Law, where she was named an Asuza Scholar.

Because a Large Population of People Live There

Our inner-cities are a diverse, active and exciting part of modern society.  Some things about the city are easy to celebrate and enjoy – the cultural, educational and social opportunities.  But at the same time, our cities are also permeated with their share of difficulties such as poverty, hopelessness, crime, drug abuse, illiteracy and other tragedies.  Those that inhabit our inner-cities have in many cases fallen victim to years of urban decay, neglect, oppression and limited opportunities.

In most of the large cities in the United States approximately one half of the geographic area in those cities is now considered urban. This is typical in most of our larger cities; New York, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Los Angeles and even in many medium size cities.

Note: the word “urban” can carry with it a great deal of baggage.  The reference here is not intended to identify various groups of people, whether by income level or by racial or ethnic background, but to only identify the neglected and oppressed areas of our cities that are often diverse and multicultural.

A disproportionate percentage of our country’s ethnic minorities live in urban areas.  Overall, 29 percent of U.S. families live in the city.  Yet, 58 percent of African-American families and 54 percent of Hispanic families live in the inner-city.  As you can see, ethnic minorities are really ethnic majorities in many of our cities.

We are talking about a large percentage of the population in the United States.  On an international scale we are talking about a large percentage of the world’s population.  It was Jesus who said to “go into all the world” with the Gospel.  Since our inner-cities are a large part of that world, Christians should be deeply concerned for reaching the inner-city as well as other parts of the world.

Because the People There are Poor

Most U.S. ministry resources target our middle to upper middle class population.  In contrast, the resources of Jesus (His time and energy) prioritized going to the poor.  Jesus preached to the poor, (Luke 4:18).  The scriptures prove this over and over.  Just look in a concordance for all the references to the poor.

You will see that God truly emphasizes going to the poor and ministering to the oppressed.  Obviously, a majority of poor people today are found in our inner-cities.  Therefore, from what we see in the scriptures, these areas are very precious to the heart of God and a top priority in His view of things.  And they should also be a priority in the view of Godly Christians who are following His Word.

Because There’s an Open Door.

In I Corinthians 16:9, the Bible talks about an open door.  This indicates that we should look around to observe where God is already at work and has already opened doors for our ministries to serve Him.  There is no place where the doors are more open than in the inner-city.  People are looking for help; they will accept help from spiritual sources.  There are no problems getting building permits or occupancy permits for ministries or churches.  The government, businesses, neighbors; everyone is happy for you to do anything that will help people in need.  There are very few restrictions.  We should not take this for granted.  For now the door is open, let us walk through it while we can.

God emphasizes by means of His instruction and example – that ministry to the poor and oppressed are high on His priority list.  A majority of poor people today are found in the urban areas of our cities.  Ray Bakke has said, “We must keep the urban poor high in our priorities.  The poor are no less sinners than the rich are, but they have also been sinned against.  They are the victims of other people’s sins and injustices.  Our ministries must be accompanied by a struggle for justice and righteousness.  Many Christians are missing the point that social action is not done in order to communicate the gospel, but as a sign or evidence that the gospel has already been received and acted upon.”

In looking at these three simple answers to the question, “Why Go to the City,” it is easy for some of us to feel some emotions of conviction and guilt.  That is not the intention here at all, however do not ignore those feelings either.  Ask God to help you see where they come from and what it is He would like to teach you, or have you do about those feelings.

Renewing the City with Hope, Compassion and Justice