I had a new experience last night...I'm ashamed to say. You see, I worked for 5 years in the benevolence ministry. I've seen it all. And during those 5 years, I struggled with, "What's the truth of helping the poor?" On the one hand, Jesus told us the poor would always be with us...and on the other hand God said that if you don't work, you don't eat. During those 5 years, we gave people groceries and clothing once a week. But because I'd been a volunteer for that ministry before I became the director, I knew that we were still helping the same people we'd been helping for the past 10 years. I knew something was broken. So I began trying to help renew their minds by offering programs to help bring them up out of poverty. During the 5 years I was there, I saw three people transition from poverty to a self-sustaining position. So I left that ministry more confused than ever. How do we help the poor?
And because of what I'd seen while in benevolence ministry, I never helped people on the streets. I'd heard all the stories...people panhandling and making more money than I ever dreamed of making. People using money to buy drugs, etc., etc. And in other countries, we were told not to help the beggars because they'd never leave us alone--or the missionaries with us later. I mean...I'd seen the abuses up-close and personal. But I began asking God what His heart was in the matter. And then I watched my own kids and grandkids give, help, love...and challenge the rest of us to do the same. God is so faithful. About 2 months ago, I read this in Luke 6, "If someone begs from you, give to him." Period. There are no qualifications in that passage. If someone begs, give. Something shifted in me when I read that. I purposed in my heart to be that kind of giver. And I promised God that if I saw someone begging and had something to give, I would.
Last night, Andy & I had gone on a date and had eaten at Hoffbrau. Andy began feeling sick and we left with 2 boxes of Brau chips, steak, hamburger, rolls--two meals hardly touched. And then we had to run by Wal-Mart to get medicine. As we were leaving, a family with two children was standing there with a sign which read, "Need Food & $ for a Motel Room." I stopped in my tracks. My mind raced with what I had to give. I got in the pickup and picked up those two boxes of food and the cash I had in my purse (which is quite unusual!) and took it to the mom. She began crying and looked me in the eyes and said, "I promise to pray for you!" Someone else was walking up to help at that moment so all I said was, "You're welcome. God bless you!" As Andy & I drove away, I saw them digging into the boxes and the kids were already eating.
You might think I'm telling you this to pat myself on the back. But I'm telling you this because my heart was broken---and I was ashamed. Ashamed that it's taken me this long to help people who beg. As we drove out of town, I saw a motel sign which said, "Rooms $35." And I cried. Why didn't I think of taking them to a motel? I had enough money to do that--and it was getting cold outside. Before I went to sleep, I saw their faces again and prayed for them. This morning, I woke up thinking about this family--and praying they got a room. And I cried that my heart had been so bound up in judgment that this is honestly the first time I can remember helping someone who begged. I cried that I didn't say more, pray for them, take them to a ministry in town who would help them.
But it won't be the last time I help. I know the heart of God now.