Thursday, August 20, 2009

Do You Hear Her? Guest blogger, Anna Lancaster

When I heard that there was an effort to create a home to help single mothers who need help, get on their feet, I became so excited. At the Resource Center for Women, young people come in every day, that are stuck in the cycle. We help them with some of their immediate needs, counsel them, and love them, but we don't get to give them a home, help them get a job, or give them transportation to that job. We do our best to direct that young person to the places that can help them best, but sometimes it isn't enough.

A home where they can get a fresh start would be a God-send to these women. I have known times of need and have made mistakes. Thankfully, I always had a loving family and friends who were able to help me. These women don't have that. If someone cares about them, they are often in the same boat. Some are just victims of circumstance. How do you fight poverty with no weapon? No money, no education, no job. If you can get a job, how do you get there? Would you make any money after you paid for day care? Probably not.

Crosswind Ministries found a building that they would like start this home. Because of zoning issues they had to go before the Mayor and the Aldermen. The people of the surrounding neighborhood came and protested the use of the home for that purpose. The 3 aldermen and the mayor voted no to the rezoning. You can read more about this on the Daily Journal web site.

But, like the others involved, I know that this does not mean that this is the end of that dream. God still wants us to love others and help them. He will help those who want to do those things. So this is what I want to ask of you: How can you help?

Do you have time, resources, or love to give to these women? I know that sometimes we care but don't know how to begin. Now it is easy. You can join these other individuals who care and have a plan.

You know, the reason that the Indian doctors and officials didn't want to help the orphans was that they were of the lowest caste and because of their religious beliefs they thought they should stay there. That they didn't deserve help because, they believe that God had put them there. When I told people here in the United States that, they were shocked. They couldn't believe anyone would act that way. But, if we don't help these women, their children, and all of the others who are on hard times and want to get out of it, are we not just like those Indian doctors and officials? Are we saying that because of the choices they made, that they deserve to be right where they are? Are we going to leave them in the gutter because we might lose something by giving to them?

Matthew 9:13 says, "But go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Let us show mercy as we have been shown mercy. Let us LOVE mercy. I am glad that I am not where I DESERVE to be. I heard this song this morning. I have heard it hundreds of times but it hit home today. Please listen to it and see if it speaks to you. It is Casting Crowns-"Does Anybody Hear Her?"

Let me know if you want to help.
With love and in great need of mercy,


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Moms and Mobs

In case you missed it, Corinth City Council voted NOT to allow Crosswind to operate a home for single mom's in a facility that used to be a day care. The vote was split 3-4 with Mayor Latch being the deciding 'no' vote. The residents of the community the day care was in were out in force. The organizer of the residents had a petition that alleged to have all the residents in near proximity to the proposed boarding home.

Here's how prejudice and mob mentality works.

First, you create a monster. In our case the monster was a single mom in Corinth, MS. The way you do this is to make a caricature (exaggerate particular features) of the people. So in our case the people were told that the single mom's were drug addicts and ex-prostitutes, victims of abuse, etc. We heard also that they had men coming to look for them and abuse them more. Remember, none of this has to be true and in most cases of prejudice represents a small sampling of a particular group of people, but those are the only features that you hear about.

Next, you generate fear of the monster you've created. In our case a person from the community took a petition and went home by home generating interest and fear in the "monster" single moms. He highlighted portions of a newspaper article and began the process.

Then, you add community and conversation and research, increasing fear. Once you have created a monster and gotten the word out the frenzy begins. People do research, draw on their own personal experiences (all negative of course), but most importantly they talk to one another, endorsing and adding to each others fears. We heard a neighbor generating fear about home values presuming they would decrease, we heard some talk about history in the prisons and working with "the monsters", etc. Each person shares stories and research increasing the fear and prejudice of the collective whole. The only thing the ringleaders must do in this phase is to ensure no one hears the truth and definitely not the other side of the story. We made an effort to sit down with the community organizers and answer questions, clarify concerns and our intentions but that offer was rejected. The sheep were afraid. That was enough.

Finally, you release the community to their lowest instincts, of fear, hatred, and prejudice. In our case, this was the meeting. People came in afraid and angry and that was all that was needed. It usually is.

This is a simple process that draws on primal human feelings of self preservation and fear.

Here's the problem, Single mom's are not monsters. My mom didn't know she was marrying a guy with childhood abuse that would later be acted out in her home. She worked three jobs barely surviving trying to raise six children, on her knees every night, at church every week, loving her children, doing her best, not a monster at all. Or the girl who gets pregnant and the male is not held responsible to help and now she is a mom and ill-equipped to be one and trying like crazy to make it, not a monster at all.

Or any of a zillion other reasons there are single moms.

If you take any of the mob, get them alone with the moms, let them hear their stories and feel their struggles... with few exceptions, the hard hearts would soften and the same people who were afraid and angry and operating at a primal level would rise, their souls would feel compassion and the cycle would reverse.

Instead of bad memories and experiences and research they would have a great sense of urgency and creativity mobilized to help the mom rather than hurt her. Now they would be telling their friends the stories of hope and progress and baby steps forward, instead of made up stories from our worst examples and our worst fears.

The only thing you have to do is to take the imaginary monster and replace it with a real single mom. And please, for the sake of single moms and their children, and their future... Pick moms over mobs.

In case you're wondering, we love single moms. We're gonna stand with them, try to figure out how to help them, struggle with them, cry when they do, celebrate their baby steps forward, and look with great hope to the day they will be able to live in the very neighborhood that rejected them... not for spite's sake, for their sake...

And for yours.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Fresh Love, Fresh Fire...More Reflections From India

When I was asked to go along on this medical trip to India, I said "yes" without even thinking about it. Then reality set in...I would be taking a week and a half off from my practice and I knew it would put more stress on me when I got back. But here was the rub: At Crosswind, we are constantly referring to James 1:27 as our basis for ministry. You know that really inconvenient verse where God calls us to look after the orphans and widows in their distress. The way I read this verse is that we are to care for the most vulnerable people in our local communities and our world at large. There was no denying that the orphaned children in Kota, India qualified as some of the most oppressed and vulnerable people in our world. I've learned a whole lot about James 1:27 from actually entering into conversation with the real flesh and blood reality of poverty and social oppression. Actually touching the children from the slums and being touched by them changes your outlook on life. You can't go on a trip like this and not be affected.

I know that a lot of people didn't see the value in a trip like this. I, for one, have always been a bit skeptical of short-term missions. What's the point of spending thousands of dollars to go to the other side of the world for just a four day clinic, when that same amount of money could have put three pastors through seminary in India or something? I struggled with doubts like this before the trip, but here's the thing. God wouldn't ask us to do it if He couldn't accomplish something worthwhile. We went on this trip because we are Christians and this is one of the ways we follow our serving others. So even though we were with them for just a week and basically only treated their immediate medical needs once, it did make a difference. I could have just sent money. I could have sent medicine. I could have sent Bibles. I could have sent stuffed toys. But those things are not the message. How do you show someone what God is all about? You stand in front of them and say "I'm here for you".

Between medical clinics, our group had the opportunity to help serve lunch to the 400 children in the Rajasthan orphanage. It struck me that these kids have had lives I could never even imagine. They've lost their families to starvation, illness, murder, natural disaster, and who knows what else…but they're kids just like we were once. It was a life-changing experience to be in the middle of a sea of children who would be roaming the streets of India without God and Hopegiver's International. In that moment, looking around at dozens and dozens of eyes looking at you, needing help, it felt overwhelming. I think I needed to see it that way to realize that all we can do is love on them with the time we have and remind them that they are loved and that God has designed them for a purpose.

When I reflect back on our India trip, I think about people…broken people…hurting people…impoverished people. I think about the thousands of people God allowed my life to intersect with and the awesome group of people I had the honor of working with from our small town here in Mississippi. I was completely humbled to have this opportunity, because I have been able to see the impact of a life-changing ministry first hand, and I have loved on and cared for children that may not have survived without the help of Hopegiver's International.

-Bubba McQueen

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Hard Work of Missions

I hear this every where I go, "Bobby, I feel God calling me, I just don't know exactly what he wants." Sometimes it sound like this, "I know that what I'm doing is not fulfilling. It's not that I don't love my church or my life, it's just that God has put in me a burden, a burden that is not yet fulfilled."

So what do you do?

Prov 16:9 says, The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
What this verse says to me along with many others is that the Lord is "giving me the desires of my heart", burdening me, urging me, making me dissatisfied with the present, uprooting me and at the same time he is making me trust him for what to do next, "establishing my steps."

So how do you know the steps? How do you know what's next?

It usually comes in an opportunity, a door the Lord opens for us, for you, something simple, something maybe even too simple, trite, but meaningful. You like it, it fits, it excites you, but... "is this really it?"

Col. 4:5 "make the most of every opportunity..." that's what God says, that's what we do. The opportunity is the step that the Lord establishes or directs. What happens next is very cool. God takes that step and opens up to you your way, your next chapter, your next phase. Maybe it's school or an environment that is simply meant for your training, maybe it is something to purify you and cause you to trust God more like a sickness or a job loss or a failure, and maybe it's a big break.

But whatever it is, you come to it by seizing the opportunity that is before you that is in line with the burden of your heart and voila, God does the rest.

And that's the hardest work we do. It is trusting that Jesus really is in charge of the desires of my heart, that he really directs my steps, that he really opens doors and that I can confidently, full of faith and without doubting take that step know God's plan for me right now.

Your turn. Take the step.