I remember asking once if it is possible to minister to the poor – if you don’t know anyone who is poor? Is it possible to love the rejects when you do not know rejection? You don’t know a loser?
- Perhaps loving the marginalized,
- Understanding the margins of society,
- Relating to the poor among us,
Means a little bit more than what we’ve been taught? Maybe it means something different than we thought? Perhaps it is bigger than the vision we are comfortable with?
Perhaps “solidarity with the poor” means you might have to live in the margins?
- move to the ghetto,
- dwell in the hood,
- participate in the “less than ideal neighborhoods”… not just drive through them or around them?
Does loving the poor, rejected and abandoned people and places mean that we have to see the projects as MORE THAN JUST PROJECTS.
I was beginning to head up the marginalized stuff at church… but something was off. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was off, but I wondered a lot.
I have known the poor and broken my whole life because we lived with foster children in our home. Kids abused and rejected, sometimes orphaned, but all alone and afraid – they lived in our home, ate with us, shared life with us.
I remember when my husband and I were dating and the first time he met a kid coming into care. That little guy sat with his mullet running down his back and his feet shoved into too small, broken shoes with no socks. He sat at the table in his under pants and a t-shirt eating cereal.
That little boy was filthy and matted. He had nothing with him. He had just been taken from his home.
So Mr. Hubby and I got back in the car and drove to Walmart. Where I took my own cash and bought that little one the basics: socks, underpants, shoes, and some clothes.
Because sometimes there is NO immediate extra cash for emergencies. Sometimes things may never be reimbursed.
You can’t anticipate or prepare or hedge your bets for stuff like this.
The lost and forgotten kids need fed and clothed and bathed and loved while no one is watching to applaud or give you credit or reimburse your endeavors.
The Margins won’t make you rich!
When you live among those who are hurting you have to do what you have to do… and you don’t worry about the consequences or the reimbursement checks.
You concern yourself with that little one right in front of you. You don’t have time to think about HOW this is going to look or WHO is watching.
You live the margins every single day. It isn’t a project or a “get rich quick scheme” it is a way of life
So as a grown woman raised like this I was left wondering in the middle of trying to get a certain percentage of the church membership to participate in marginalized ministries - how could God be asking us to live among the very wealthy… while leading a ministry back into and among people from the Hood?
Isn’t that kind of opposite? Counter productive?
It seems like a giant waste of gas and miles and time for a show…of solidarity?
Can you really love people just by dipping into or dumping into their lives – occasionally?
One face. One time. During a scheduled hour of marginalized time will really teach someone who lives in such extravagance understanding, compassion, or EMPATHY?
It’s like those wealthy, churched folk are throwing up their fists saying, “I’m with you man, but stay over there. Keep to the margins.”
If Life Were a Banquet Who Would You Bring to the Feast?
So our “outreach” filled up backpacks and gathered cleaning supplies. We did what rich folks do – we put together a theater benefit where the wealthy sit and enjoy a performance, listen to a little presentation on a local homeless shelter, eat some dessert and socialize over coffee in the foyer… while the “marginalized” do not have a car to get to the performance, let alone being able to afford to attend.
They get the cash we make for them from the party… but they aren’t actually invited to the banquet.
It’s quaint. It’s cute. It’s clean. It is the exact opposite of the examples Jesus gives.
“The servant went back and told the master what had happened (no one invited wanted to come to the banquet he was throwing). He was outraged and told the servant, ‘Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and wretched you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.’
22 “The servant reported back, ‘Master, I did what you commanded—and there’s still room.’
23-24 “The master said, ‘Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! Let me tell you, not one of those originally invited is going to get so much as a bite at my dinner party’” (Luke 14:21-24 tm).
That’s how the wealthy folks do marginalized ministry… they forget the margins.
- Give a few hours of service once a month or once a year.
- Write a check.
- Fill up a backpack.
- Attend a benefit.
- Stand up and get a plaque & applause at an awards ceremony.
- Fast for a week from money or food, or whatever to show you are “With them”.
But we aren’t really WITH them, are we?
A Final Example:
One time when we filled up and collected backpacks I got that “you have got to be kidding me” email from someone who had abundantly donated a bag to overflowing,
but they wanted to know how they could get their tax receipt for what they had given.
They wanted credit.
And I sat down and cried.