Monday, 21 June 2010

the church: engaging the poor, the elderly, the lonely....

20 June 2010

Recently my husband resigned from his position as a Resident Care Aide at a seniors facility, because he could not, in good conscience, work in an environment where apparently making a profit was more important that taking enough time to truly care for each residents. And where preferential treatment was given to residents whose families had "connections" related to wealth and/or high-placed individuals in the industry. For my husband, growing up in a culture where elders are highly valued, and are treated with respect and care, these attitudes drove him to be willing to take work at another facility, losing his seniority rights and working on-call rather than full time, but now able to provide the residents with the equality in care and respect which they deserve.


Yesterday I read an article, "Canada Through Immigrant Eyes" (by Don Sawyer, in North Of 50 magazine, June 2010). In the article, Florence, an immigrant from the Philippines, shares how she really loves Canada, but finds that there is one aspect of Canadian society which really concerns her. The article reads:

Florence... grew up in a working class neighborhood, where everything was shared to make sure everyone got by....

[She says,] "We [in Canada] focus too much on the outside, how to make ourselves beautiful or how to get a new car. But we miss being good inside because it's always about me, me, me." ....

"People are so isolated and lonely. We don't even know our own neighbours." ...

Once, she confides, she was so lonely she even thought of suicide herself. "But then I said, 'What would we do in the Philippines?' So I made soup and took it to my neighbours. And they were surprised," she smiles. "But very happy. Some of them are still my friends today" ...

"The only way to ease the loneliness is to reach out to others, to love people."

She smiles her bright smile. "Try making some soup and take it to your neighbours!"


And from the same issue of North of 50, an article "Secwepemctsin Revitalization Efforts" (by Sherry Bennett) which describes the efforts of the Secwepemctsin speakers of the Shuswap First Nation to save their endangered language.

With only about 250 fluent speakers left in a Nation of over 7,500 members, the need to revitalize the language is urgent. The Secwepemc Cultural Education Society has developed a "language curriculum that is now viewed as a model of excellence in immersion programming and language revitalization."

A key component of this program and its success, is that it works "in an environment where decision-making responsibilities have always been delegated to the collective - staff, parents and elders."


Keith Giles, in a blog posting on June 17, 2010, "Solidarity With the Poor" shares a discussion he recently had with his friend, Tom Crisp. Giles says,

"... we talked about the radical way in which the early church engaged with the poor. Their perspective was so Kingdom-minded that they fully embraced the idea of being in community with the poor at any cost. Their compassion for the needs of their brothers and sisters that they glaly surrendered their earthly possessions to ensure that everyone in the Body had enough to eat and a place to sleep.

In contrast, I began to see how the Church today - and this includes myself - has focused largely on engaging the poor by attempting to improve their economic status. Rather than give up what we have, our energies have been applied to helping the poor in our society to acquire the skills necessary to become like us and join the middle class of society.

Eventually, the early church sold off their possessions to become one with the poor, and today the modern church holds on to its wealth and looks for ways to eliminate poverty.


Jesus told us that the poor would always be with us. References in the New Testament to the early church truly feeding and caring for the poor, and treating all members of the church with equal respect and love, abound. Over and over again we read about how decisions in each local church were made collectively, by all the members.

What would happen if the church really began to live by these principles?

It is time to stop making excuses.

We can do it, if we really want to. We must do it, if we would truly follow Jesus.

It is still the way of the Kingdom.

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