October 1999 Newsletter
The Letter from the Heart
Greetings to my dear friends who are learning to love God and your neighbors!
The last fall season of this century has come abruptly upon us here in Appalachia. The summer drought has brought a sudden fall and early winter.
I was recently asked by PRISM Magazine to contribute my thoughts on the subject:
Do most evangelicals agree that assisting the poor should be a priority for Christians?
Our priorities as Christians are revealed by our preparations. If evangelicals believe assisting the poor is a priority, this is revealed as ministry to the poor competes in the arena of other priorities — church budget, sermon topics, leadership development and how Christians use their time outside of church meetings. Priorities are also revealed in fruitfulness. Are there poor people involved in the body life?
If we ask “Is the evangelical Church prepared to assist the poor?”, I
wonder. While I observe a wide range of relief work– meeting immediate
needs (primarily food and clothing), I see little effort beyond ‘relief’
to the deeper issues of rehabilitation, addressing the root issues of
poverty and oppression. While there may be a handful of church members who
have passion to care for the poor, I see so few church governments whose
priorities reveal this.
As I see through a glass dimly, Christian culture has had far more power
to determine the priorities of the church than scripture. Even as
scripture teaches over and over the necessity of loving the poor, it is
being silenced by the overwhelming example of what believers actually do.
When a contradiction between what scripture says and what believers model
occurs, our Christian culture pressures new believers to tame their view
of scripture to the examples they see.
Deep within my heart I carry the invisible force of HOPE that propels me
beyond discouragement into the future of possibilities; to the place where
I have courage to carry on in spite of what my natural eyes reveal. Hope
enables me to see the glorious Church Jesus is building and the power of
the gospel to transform all of our lives. This is what has sustained me
these 19 years in ministry among the rural poor and homeless.
G O O D G I F T S
As many of you now know, we believe that one of the most significant
things Christians can do to help the poor is to create jobs. As a result,
we launched our first small business last week: Good Gifts. Good Gifts is
a mobile “buggy” which is transported by our Jobs staff (Jim Todd) to
uptown Athens four days a week. Good Gifts has three goals: First, to
provide job training and eventually create jobs for those moving from
welfare to work. Secondly, to help the poor in third world countries by
selling hand-made crafts developed by citizens in small villages. We buy
through a company called Ten Thousand Villages. They pledge that these
citizens are being paid a living wage for their work. Finally, our goal is
to be both a prophetic and evangelistic influence to OU students and
shaping their perspective of the poor both locally and internationally.
Through a small grant from the Sisters of Saint Joseph, this idea has now
become a reality. The vending buggy is operated by local volunteers who
will eventually ‘mentor’ citizens in our community moving from welfare to
work. Our motto is: BUY A GIFT, CHANGE THE WORLD. If you would like to
arrange for one of our staff to bring Good Gifts to your church or home
group, please contact us to arrange a date.
C R E A T I N G C O N T E X T
A theme which runs through all of our ministry is this intentional
“atmosphere” of evangelism. Our vision is to create a ‘context’ through
which lives can be shared and where the power of the Holy Spirit can work
through us as agents of transformation. If Christians have ‘salt’ in
their lives, then this salt will create a thirst for Christ as different
groups of people serve the poor together. Furthermore, we welcome
not-yet-Christians into various service opportunities to serve the poor
and in doing so, we provide a context to face and discuss the issues of
injustice both in our local community and in the world. When unbelievers
injustice both in our local community and in the world. When unbelievers
are brought face to face with the issues surrounding injustice, these very
issues force out the great question of ‘Where is God?’ and thus provide a
context for valuable discussion in an atmosphere of safe relationships.
In short, our vision is to create many opportunities for Christians and
non-Christians to have fellowship which results in natural friendships
that unleash the power of the Holy Spirit to teach and transform our
I N T H E N E W S
…. We hosted our 2nd annual “welcome picnic” for all of our new (and
old) neighbors near the emergency shelter on the west end of Athens. The
picnic was designed to help build a better sense of community by helping
neighbors get to know one another and learn about Good Works at the same
time. …. Our cabin project is slowly coming to the place where we need
volunteers to do some internal decorating. How about you?….. We are
planning a special Christmas Eve Friday Night Supper on December 24th. If
you would like to participate by sharing some gifts to those whom we
serve, contact us….. Our summer KIDS CLUB was our largest and most
successful ever, serving an average of 30 kids every day. We are now
planning our Summer 2000 program and we are looking for summer interns.
….. We would still like to do an afterschool program next year if we
can locate funding… We had to cancel our very successful after-school
Kids Club this year simply because we did not have the money to fund it.
…. Every Monday Night Bart Bruehler teaches our PERSPECTIVES class. We
are now examining what scripture teaches us about The Poor and
Vulnerable…. Upcoming work days at Hannah House and the shelter for
this fall are Saturdays : October 23, November 6 and December 11. If you
can help us, contact Bart Bruehler at 594-3336… for those of you who
may be interested, we have established a way of giving to Good Works
through electronic transfer. Just let us know and we will mail you the
necessary information on this . … Keith had an article published in
July/October issue of PRISM Magazine called TAKING STOCK: Does Your
College Ministry Reach Out to the Needy.
-a small wood stove for our new cabin, and a lawn tractor for the HH
-someone to help us design a web page for our Good Gifts project.
-a team of people to come and help us build a picnic shelter at Hannah House.
-phone cards for the homeless with no expiration dates.
Concerning the Hannah House roof: Ever since we purchased Hannah House in
1994, we have been painfully aware that the old roof was in need of some
significant re pair. Every time it rains, we have internal damage. Several
times, the internal painting done by work groups has been ruined as water
leaks into the building. The cost of replacing the roof is significant
(more than $10,000.00) and the work required comes with some risk. To be
honest, I am not sure what to do. Any thoughts? .
– …OTHER NEEDS: Lysol type spray, large freezer & zip lock bags, honey,
laundry soap, bleach, coffee and creamer, hot chocolate, an electric
skillet, new pans, oven mitts, bath and toilet mats, and a lawn tractor
(did I say that twice?)
–Love God. Love your neighbor. In the end, nothing else really matters.