As I write this, I can hear the wind whipping around the corner of my office and I can see the branches of a pine tree being blown back and forth. The thought of going outside for any reason makes me want to curl up in front of my fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate. And I think of those who have no other choice…who have no warm office in which to work, who have no warm home in which to live…..who have no choice but to hope a shelter is open in the evening where they might get a warm meal and a cot on which to sleep and thaw out for a bit.
That’s why Calvary is a strong supporter of Home Sweet Home Ministries and a regular provider of meals for Safe Harbor…both agencies which offer shelter for the homeless. I love Home Sweet Home’s vision statement: ‘Our ministry is to be a place of refuge and renewal powered by Jesus Christ.’
In an effort to better understand the needs of our community and to most faithfully use the tithe that Calvary so graciously gives to glorify God, I did a very informal community needs assessment last summer. One of the things I learned was that affordable housing is one of the biggest needs in Bloomington/Normal. It is impossible to work a minimum wage job and provide housing for a family. In fact, minimum wage jobs often don’t guarantee a 40 hour work week, so it’s nearly impossible to provide housing for one. Work more jobs, you say? If you are single, that might work (although when your employer calls you to work and you have to go to your other job, how long do you think they’ll keep you?). However, with even one child, going to work and paying for childcare is cost prohibitive…and when you add the other living expenses…well, you get the idea.
Is there something we can do? Yes! I’m glad you asked! Of course you can always just stop by one of our community shelters and offer to help in any way that they need (remember to ask what they need rather than what we think they need). There are always financial needs for those places in town who provide shelters. Although we certainly don’t have a homeless shelter, Calvary uses our Good Samaritan Fund to help with emergency needs (which sometimes include temporary housing or food). Our Christmas Offering this year goes to the Good Samaritan Fund so that we might help folks who just need a boost.
Along with others in the community as well as our church, I am going to participate in Home Sweet Home Ministries’ ‘A Night in a Car’ on Feb. 2 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Bloomington. You can donate toward my ‘car’ or sign up to bring your car and spend the night yourself.
None of us likes to see someone suffer from homelessness…and it’s even more frustrating to see the problem and not know what to do about it. As we celebrate Christmas this year, may we know that our God sees every single person and allows each of us to reach out to others in a variety of ways. Maybe someone just needs your encouragement this year. Maybe they need a coat. Maybe they need a meal. There’s one thing that people of all ages and stages can do: we can all pray. Will you join me in praying for those who are cold today?
About the Author
Debbie Reese is the Co-Directing Pastor of Calvary UMC