by Heather Bock
On Sunday, I was sitting in my church community group, and we were talking about the state of schools in our city. We were bemoaning the same problem that goes on all over the United States: schools with major discipline problems end up with fewer good teachers and lower test scores; children who graduate from these high schools can’t get into good colleges; students who graduate from lower-end colleges can’t obtain the best jobs.
A lot stems from families not involved with their kids, but a lot of these parents, many of whom came out of the same system, are working hard in low-end jobs and don’t always have the energy or time to devote to helping their kids. It’s all part of the poverty cycle, and the problem is so deep (when you throw in racism, physical abuse, mental health, and substance abuse to name a few other factors), it makes me just cry out, “This world is a MESS!” More Christians should be helping somehow in this huge mess (as some definitely are), but it feels hopeless and overwhelming.
I was devastated to think about us sitting in the church talking about this problem, shaking our heads like we’ve done before, and going on with our lives the same as usual, never helping. I begged God before the main service, “Stir Your church, Lord, to do something about it! Can You restore this mess? You bring restoration, God–I know that well. Where is the restoration there?”
Afterwards, my husband and I went to the main service, sitting in a place we rarely sit: the side front. You see, the left side and the right side of our church’s seats face each other in the front, while the middle seats just face the stage. Therefore, the whole right side of our self-restrained church could see my face when I silently, but completely, lost it.
My pastor was describing heaven, how it would be a place with no more pain, no more sadness, and no more tears. He talked about how racism would be gone. He may have even said that poverty would be no more. I guess this should all have been a comfort to me, and to some extent it was, but I just kept thinking, “Do we have to wait until then, God? Your kingdom is now!”
I told my husband about it on the way home, and he said, “Maybe you should go back to college and get a degree in TESOL so you can start teaching ESL to the poor who need English to get better jobs to provide for their families.” Very funny. Yes, I do have a Masters in TESOL, and I am doing just that–teaching adult ESL at night. As God stirs me, I am also trying to do my little part to fight any knowing or unknowing racism directed against the Hispanics I teach. God has given me a lot more than that to accomplish each week, so I know I can’t add much more to help this problem.
Even though I was doing my little part, I was still praying and asking God to send more workers into this field: more good teachers brave enough to follow Jesus’ example and take a job where they might even have their life threatened, more strong father figures willing to take young fatherless men under their guidance to mentor them, and more loving families willing to invite a foster child into their safe homes. It’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone (I can’t do any of these right now–especially be a father figure). However, I hoped God would call more of those who could fit these and other roles, and that more people would listen and follow.
God does bring restoration and renovation, but He oftentimes uses people: teachers, mentors, prophets, pastors, leaders, and so many more to help do it. The poor are precious to Him. Think of Proverbs 14:31: “He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,
But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him” or Proverbs 29:7: “The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, The wicked does not understand such concern.” In Isaiah 58:7, God asks what kind of fast He desires from His people, demanding, “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
I still questioned God, asking Him when He would send more of these people to care for those He obviously values. He answered me on Monday, but I’m going to have to leave that for next Wednesday. I hope you’ll come back next Wednesday to hear what I believe He responded to me.
Will you encourage me with stories? How have you or someone you know done a little part in helping the huge cycle of poverty, especially in our own country?