I’m back in the burbs. So much has gone through my mind, my heart, and my soul as I have been processing what the past two weeks have meant for me. Many have asked, “So how was your time in Chicago?” or “How was your time away?” hmm… My answer has been all over the map. Eye-opening. Amazing. Heart wrenching. Incredible. Thought provoking. But none of them gets at the feeling of being overwhelmed with the desire of needing and wanting to do something about the injustice and racism and violence in the city and yet feeling helpless.
But how was my time Away?… Perhaps that sums up what I’m feeling fairly well. Away. I feel far away from the events and experiences that occurred only last week – a world away. When I came back home to the comforts and niceties of my life, the urban struggles of the city seem a world away. The simple fact that I got to leave, leaves me with a hole in my heart. I’m away.
I came home to a new roof on my house. After watching all the neighborhood houses have work crews on their roofs all summer long, we decided to find out what was going on. Turns out that most of us all had hail damage from numerous storms last spring and summer and we were all cashing in on our insurance policies and getting new roofs for an affordable deductible. Then I heard at church from one of our members this week that there are still blue tarps on some of the homes in the Lewis District in the city that suffered from the tornado that came through a year ago on New Years eve and damaged many homes in that area. It appears that the city is for whatever reason, not dispersing the funds that are available to help these victims. Could it be that their roofs were already damaged and the city doesn’t want to pay for roofs that should have been fixed at the cost of the owner? Ahhh…… powers and principalities… Where is the justice and goodwill?
I heard several times during my two week immersion in Chicago, that in terms of economic justice, what we should desire for all people is what we already have or would want for ourselves. For those that have too much, enough really is enough. It’s not that people should be denied a comfortable life, but that we should desire that same comfortable life for all people. Enough is enough!
So what to do? I’m still pondering. I had a conversation yesterday with some colleagues about the response and responsibility of the church and how to move our congregations to be a voice of peace and justice in our communities as well as the communities next to us. That we need to encounter the other, the poor, the destitute and walk with them. Truly walk with them. To be Jesus’ hands and feet and heart in this world – speaking out for the ones that are unable to speak for themselves.
But for those of us in the burbs – its like going to a foreign country. The injustices of others, the poor and homeless are in a different world from us. And it’s easy to shut the door and never look, or at best send some funds their way and feel good that we did something. OK – so that’s necessary. Charitiable work is necessary. But what if we were to partner with those institutions and organizations that actually engage and fight for the rights of those who suffer oppression? Those organizations that help move people from charity to empowerment – helping to dig them out of their pits and enabling them to better their lives in a sustainable way.
Gateway 180 Homelessness Reversed does just that. They are a shelter for primarily women and children who find themselves homeless and jobless and they help them get on their feet. They work to help the client achieve the skills necessary to provide for a sustainable lifestyle that includes their own place to live and a job that provides for their needs. It’s not just a hand out. But rather its a hand up to a better life – the life that God intends for all of us to live. Some folks at STHS have begun to have conversations with Gateway 180 about how we can become involved and we are waiting on the Spirit to show us how to use the hands and feet of Jesus.
So for me, the sign hanging at the back of St. Sabina means even more to me now that I’m back in the burbs: “Discipleship is costly. Are you willing?”