Tuesday, February 20, 2007

being poor in America

We have some dear friends who are struggling financially. She's had two silent heart attacks; he has a bad back; in their fifties. He lost a good job months after suffering a new back problem. In spite of the fact that he had never let up on his work. He's on a piece rate job now. They fell behind because initially he brought home only $75 one week, and not much more others. He's now making $300 more per four weeks, than expenses.

In the mean time the company dealing with their lot rent has hit them with fines and court fees. For being $21 short one month (November), they were fined and feed well over $100, alot for them. On top of that they fell behind in the mortgage of their mobile home. Both companies have come across to them as ruthless.

A church has kicked in nearly $1,000. $500 towards the mortgage debt. And the rest towards ending more fees and getting them caught up on lot rent. Now agencies have turned them down, after assuring them that it was just a procedure they had to go through, before getting the needed money. And on top of that, because he's pulling in the equivalent of $8 an hour (believe me, that's not much here in Michigan), they're taking away their medicare coverage. So the lady won't have her needed heart medication at $100 a pill. They were told, after having had the man send more information in, that they were denied because of lack of information. The mortgage company is on their heels again.

This is only one true story. Be assured. There are more.

Am I angry and upset? Yeah. We have plenty of wealth in this city. But people are falling through the cracks. Many in Michigan. And here in West Michigan.

The church needs to become stronger in addressing this problem. We are. And we still have plenty of room to grow. Likewise the government needs to be helpful. If we as a society, are not willing to have programs to help the poor, not willing to pay for them, then we are not a compassionate, caring society. I know there are complexities here. I had a good conversation by e-mail with Michael Kruse last evening. He was very articulate at voicing his thoughts- nuancing the issue better, and empathized and agreed with mine. This is nothing short of a crisis for many.

In the long term, there may be an adjustment going on as to how we live. Though technical advances seem to offset dwindling resources, to some extent, at least.

We look forward to the day when there will be no more poverty. When the kingdom of God in Jesus is set up on earth. And God's will is done fully on earth, as it is in heaven.

Meantime, we're to do this work here now. Any reading of Scripture will tell us that.

What would you add here?


L.L. Barkat said...

I think the church can play many parts. Ours also helps "make ends meet" in crisis times. However, there's also the question of what creates the crisis. Sometimes it's illness, as here. But sometimes it's poor choices. Our church is beginning to look at that side, by offering the "Good Sense" seminars out of Willow Creek. I really like how GS goes beyond financial discussions to the spiritual heart of the matters.

Bob Robinson said...

There is good news about injustice like this. It is the "good news," the gospel.

The church needs to see these kinds of economic injustices as a major part of the very purpose of the gospel. Jeremiah 22:16 says it all, doesn't it? How do we "know God?" Is it by having our little churchy meetings and maybe having some small benevolence fund to help here and there with one bill or a meal?

Or is it "defending the cause of the poor and needy?"

We need to have long, hard discussions in our churches about what it means to be God's People in this world!

Anonymous said...

thankyou for alerting me to this post.

I am glad you are caring for your friends in their time of need. I agree that people are slipping through the cracks and that our system seriously needs to be repaired.

I'll see what I can do...

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., (wow, I just lost my comment. here's goes again.)

Thanks for sharing that. Yes. We need to lovingly address anything that may be contributing to the hardship being suffered. Sometimes, as a last resort, we may need to bring on some "tough love".

That seminar sounds very good.

Ted Gossard said...

Though, I guess it depends on the cases. But the tough love I think of is to gently bring the ultimatum that they may have to change some poor lifetstyle choices, and be open to counsel. Or else we may/will be limited in what we can do for them.

Ted Gossard said...

Bob, We are very much lacking in vision. I just don't think we see helping the poor as inherently a part of the gospel. The gospel of the kingdom of God come in Jesus. If we did, our budgets as churches would look different? Am I being harsh here? I can be.

Yes. You're so right. We need some good, hard discussions on this.


Ted Gossard said...

DLW, I appreciate your interest and work on the political side. As this anniverary connected to Wilberforce's good work reminds us, this is sorely needed, surely in every generation.

I just received word on the phone. And it looks very grim, indeed, about this case. Thanks.

Michael W. Kruse said...

Ted I wanted to jump in this conversation today but ran out of time. I hope to be back Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

Ted, I am praying that my friend Jon knows someone who can do something for your friend.


Ted Gossard said...

Michael, Thanks. Your thoughts were informative, interesting and encouraging in our e-mail exchange.

Ted Gossard said...

Thanks so much, DLW.

andre said...


These are good thoughts. Thanks for sharing. To incarnate the gospel means to care about the poor and suffering. Not just say "be warm, be filled, and be on your way".

Ted Gossard said...

Andre, Thanks so much. I like your point about incarnating the gospel. Ours is an incarnational faith and good news. Right down where we live, in every way. A very human and creation oriented message and life.