A Word About John Wesley, and Other Writings
A WORD ABOUT JOHN WESLEY
In 1738, at the age of 31, John Wesley, father of the Methodist Church, marked his ministry by an experience at Aldersgate in England with the phrase, “My heart was strangely warmed.” Though not a doctor, over the years, Wesley invented many cures for diseases. He had started clinics for the poor and organized outreaches to orphans and those in prisons. In short, Wesley had a social conscience and powerful social component to his ministry. The greatest success of Methodism was NOT among the rich and “successful” in England but among the poor. The strength of early Methodism was its burning desire to seek out and minister to the forgotten people of Britain.
This, too, is our vision! Wesley saw ministry beyond the local church as normative and necessary. Never intending to start another church or denomination, Wesley was loyal to the Anglican church. The separation as we know it today, occurred only after his death. His purpose in ministry was to awaken and cultivate the faith of the masses in the Church of England. Wesley was culturally sensitive and provided a church for the unchurched. The world and time in which Wesley lived was one of rapid change: overpopulation, disease, unemployment, poverty, alcoholism (gin was the drug of choice back then), oppression (particularly in child labor), and high illiteracy. There was a cultural lag. The needs of society ran ahead of society’s ability to meet them. Wesley’s message to the people was what someone once called “a gospel for the gaps.” His ministry strung out a net for those who were falling through the cracks of society. This was one of the keys to the impact of his revival! Wesley had a ministry to “displaced persons.”
But Wesley’s greatest impact was on the lower classes of people. He was a man motivated by Matthew 25:31-46. He knew the heart of Jesus for the poor and oppressed. His theology was not too heavenly-minded that it was no earthly good; rather, it was a religious framework through which anyone could find God’s love. Wesley supported the movement to abolish slavery. John Wesley was pro-life and fought for the rights of the oppressed.
Wesley and his followers went to prisons, hospitals, and work-houses to bring the message of salvation. The Methodists went to where the needy were. They DID NOT WAIT FOR THE NEEDY TO COME TO THEM! The reform they worked for was that of turning a hopeless situation to Christ. And this was not easy. The people in prison in those days were condemned to ruin. Even after they were released there was little hope for them. The sick were taught that illness was a form of God’s judgment and this compounded their despondency. People who were debt-ridden and women offenders had little hope and little prospect for release. This was the world that John Wesley broke into with the message of the gospel. And broke into it he did! God used him to create a movement called Methodism that, at the time of his death, numbered 79,000 in England and 40,000 in America and which, 200 years later, numbers more then 40 million. Our vision, like Wesley, is to develop a ministry which will awaken and cultivate faith in the same innovative way. May the Lord give us His grace and the heart of John Wesley!
THE WOMAN WITH AN ISSUE
Do you remember the woman who touched Jesus clothes and was healed? Such a woman came to be with us recently. Like the women in the story in Mark 6:25-34, Janet has suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and has spent all she had, yet instead of getting better, she grew worse. And during Janet’s stay with us this year, she seemed much worse than the woman I remember staying with me almost twelve years ago. Janet, like many women who are mentally and emotionally ill and homeless, had lost custody of her children and had come to live each day in the terror of her own thoughts and emotions. She was afraid of things that wouldn’t have troubled most people. Yet she found joy in simply being needed around the house. Janet was intelligent and attractive. One evening, several days before she abruptly left us, I witnessed her calling out to Jesus from her bedside, crying out of her pain. She was so tired of living in fear and anxiety each day. ‘If only she could touch the hem of HIS garment,’ I thought, ‘she could be well.’ For Janet, I suspect our role was simply one of “being with” her in her suffering. “I was sick and you came to me” (Matthew 25:36). For our part, we still have the vision to help Janet and many women like her who cry out for help. We want them to hear Jesus say, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
THE MECHANICS OF BEING LOVED
AM I LOVED? DO I HAVE A PURPOSE? These seem to be the most consistent questions shouting at us through the lives of the homeless. I suspect that much of the behavior of those who stay with us is goal-directed at these two fundamental questions. People who feel loved feel secure and are less likely to project their problems onto others. They are more likely to take responsibility and to welcome accountability. They are simply less threatened by others who are concerned for them. They can receive constructive criticism. People who don’t believe they are loved are continually searching to fill their insecurity. They often turn to temporary pleasures such as sex, drugs, food or materialism to relieve or distract them, or try to find the answer in an unhealthy relationship where they end up being co-dependent. How do we come to believe we are loved? What is the role of our parents, our theology and our own choices? We continue to wrestle with these questions in an effort to help our residents. “See how great a love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.” Will you pray that God would grant us wisdom and guidance?
THE OLD AND THE YOUNG
Janice was 74 and had been to Good Works three times. Her most recent stay came because she feared living with the rats at her “low rent” apartment on the West side. Janice, who attends church regularly, is unable to read and suffers from a lifestyle which revolves around coping with and covering up this deficiency. She has family in the immediate area but is unable to stay there because she has “burned her bridges.” Janice is homeless and has a monthly pension and some food stamps.
Sarah, Joshua and Robbie all came to us with their parents; all three were under 10 weeks old. These little vulnerable people are precious and there is a lot of care and attention going around for these kids. I fear I will see them again as I have so many of our kids. I fear they will grow up in poverty.
MY POEM FOR THE “LEAST OF THESE”
I was hungry and you sent me to the soup kitchen. You were afraid to take me to your home.
Afraid of me? OR afraid of the image in your mind of me?
I was thirsty and you offered me something to drink. Thank you. But I was hoping you would see that there is much more to me than physical thirst. You didn’t.
I was a stranger and you didn’t invite me in. You were wary of me because of what you had read in the paper and had seen on TV about “those homeless people.”
But I am different. All I want is a chance to show you.
I was naked and you sent me to the thrift store. I am grateful but long for some new clothes. I long for work that produces dignity. I don’t like myself because of what this dependence has done to me.
I was sick and felt so alone. I began to degrade myself. I don’t like myself this way.
I don’t like what I have become.
I was in prison and I felt like I had paid enough for my crime. The loneliness was punishment enough.
I feel like no one understands. No one cares.
Love is a verb,