Throw Your Pebble in the Pond–Addressing Homelessness

By Jerry Bowley, used by permission CreativeCommons license

By Jerry Bowley, used by permission Creative Commons license

“What we would like to do is change the world–make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended for them to do. And to a certain extent, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute…we can to a certain extent change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world.” (Dorothy Day, 1942, emphasis added.)

It’s quite possible that you read the word “homelessness” in the title of this post and felt yourself sigh. We hear about homelessness all the time–we pass homeless people on the streets and feel a variety of internal reactions. It feels like something that has already been talked about and talked about. Or, more accurately, perhaps that sigh indicates that it seems an overwhelming problem. What can we do? No sooner is one person able to move out of homelessness than five more seem ready to take her place.

Forasmuch as (even as Scripture reminds us) the poor and homeless have always been with us, the problem is growing and, to a certain degree, changing in our modern times. And even our own assumptions need to be checked about what causes people to be homeless. Do people become homeless due to drug addiction, or do they become drug addicted because they’re homeless? Do people become homeless due to mental illness, or does homelessness by its very nature bring on mental illness? And is every person who is homeless responsible themselves for their lack of secure shelter? Or are there larger, societal issues at play here? Are our traditional church approaches to serving the homeless sufficient, or should we be digging deeper?

It’s time to take a good, hard look at homelessness and inadequate housing from a Christian perspective. American Baptist Women’s Ministries is engaging in this issue by offering a virtual mission encounter for women, “Break Every Yoke: Homelessness,” May 5-9, 2014. “Break Every Yoke” will inspire and equip women to use their voice on behalf of the homeless and inadequately housed. This virtual mission encounter offers the opportunity for women to explore homelessness from a faith perspective, including how individuals or congregations may most effectively engage in ministries of prevention, support, and advocacy. Each day’s focus will be studied as it has impact upon youth, adults and families, and seniors, with suggestions for advocacy around a range of issues throughout the week.

Special guests include Rev. Francesca Crane, executive director of Bridge of Hope Lancaster & Chester Counties (Pennsylvania); Corenne Smith, American Baptist missionary serving with homeless youth in Brazil; Luz Jurado, an American Baptist woman who ministers with homeless youth in Los Angeles, California; and Rev. Judy Fackenthal, pastor of the Garfield Park Baptist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, which is engaged in ministries with the homeless.

Virtual mission encounters offer the opportunity for women to engage with mission themes in a deep and meaningful way while still being able to care for work, family, and church responsibilities at home. Each participant in the virtual mission encounter receives a daily email with interesting and thought-provoking activities that can be done within the normal schedule of one’s day. Every evening, participants interact with one another and a special guest on a conference call, and there is a private online discussion tool for participants to share their learnings and observations with one another.

Learn how you can cast your pebble into the pond. Your individual passion and compassion, or that of your congregation’s, can indeed change the world.

Registration for “Break Every Yoke” is now open. Visit www.abwministries.org/vme for more information, speaker bios, and to register.

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New podcast episode posted: Prison and Aftercare Ministries

Be sure to check out the newest episode of our In Their Shoes podcast series! “Episode 49: Prison and Aftercare Ministries” features an interview with Rev. Errol Cooper, associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey. The congregation at First Baptist is deeply engaged in this ministry with members and with the community. Our conversation includes why there may be more people connected with the judicial system in your congregation than you’re aware; why this ministry is so critical, and some ideas for how you can engage in it yourself.

You can subscribe to the series, or download or listen to the episode through iTunes. You can also listen to the episode by clicking the “Listen now” button at the bottom of the show notes on the In Their Shoes Podcast page. You can forward this blog post to others, “like” it on Facebook, or post it to Twitter to help spread the word! And, as always, leave your comments and be part of the conversation!

Did You Observe Human Trafficking Awareness Day on January 11?

Contributed by Barbara Anderson

January 11 is designated as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Human trafficking—and the abolitionist movement—have been a passion in my ministry for several years now. I am one of the founding members of All Hands In, which has the purpose of raising awareness and advocacy; we are also working in partnership with other organizations to create a safe house for victims and survivors of trafficking in the Boston area.

HTAJan2014AllHandsInAll Hands In led a human trafficking awareness worship service at Trinity Baptist Church in Arlington, Massachusetts, on Sunday, January 12th, as part of Human Trafficking Awareness Day (and month). The theme for the service was “The Power of One”: It only takes one person to reach out to one person to make a difference. Individuals, churches, and communities need to reach out to those who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and who need assistance in coming off the streets. Christ is our power of one, and we are called to share God’s love because, as we know, love heals.

HTAJan2014AllHandsIn2At the service, All Hands In presented Trinity Baptist Church with a starfish clock in thanks for their assistance in launching this organization three years ago. In addition, All Hands In made and served dinner to the Trinity congregation following worship.

All Hands In has been engaged in service for three years, and we’re committed to the future. God is showing us what our next steps are, slowly but surely. I share this report with you in hopes that you, too, will be inspired to plan a special worship service or an event that will help raise awareness of the issue of human trafficking—and you don’t need to wait until next January 11th to do so!

Barbara AndersonThis blog post is contributed by Barbara Anderson, president of “All Hands In,” a ministry organization sponsored by Trinity Baptist Church of East Arlington, MA, addressing the issue of human trafficking. Barbara is a former national president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries. For more information about All Hands In, click here.

Did you observe Human Trafficking Awareness Day? Leave a comment here to share your experience with others!