Life can be a roller coaster ride

Because Special Gathering fosters a project called Networks which is a Faith in Action program, I receive a lot of calls from people with needs.  Our funding must go to people who are developmentally delayed and none of these folks fit into that category but I can help with most inquiries, steering people to state and local agencies who can help.  Therefore, I do need to find out some information about the people who are calling.

On Monday a received a call from a woman who was seeking help for her friend.  He has cancer and he has lost his voice box.  One of my first questions was “Are you active in any church?” 

Her voice became curt, “No.  But I’ve called a lot of churches and they refuse to give me any help.  I was surprised because I thought churches are here to help people.” This is the usual response and almost without exception, the bitterness drips from their voices. 

This is not a problem that Special Gathering encounters.  All of our funding must go to people who are developmentally delayed.  And our ministry doesn’t have the resources to help the general population, even if we could.  We deliberately own nothing so that all of our resources can go into evangelizing and discipling.  For those reasons, I feel that I can speak freely in regard to this issue.

For years the church has been seen as a rather convenient social services organization.  That image has been promoted by the extremely effective efforts of Salvation Army and Compassion, Int., as well as many other local churches, denominational and parachurch organizations.  Feeding the poor, helping the weak, visiting the prisoner and downtrodden is more than a ploy to recruit more members, it is part of the New Testament mandate to the church.  (There is some discussion about whether the command extends to the general population or to active participants.  But that’s an issue we won’t address in this column.)

However, the Church does not have unlimited resources.  In addition, local congregations have become a brasen target for petty con artists, who will make up amazing stories to get money from what they consider easy prey.  Also, the demand on resources has ballooned.  As the congregants have gotten older and more frail, the demands on financial resources and man power has increased.  On the other hand, offerings and volunteers have decreased.  Many churches struggle to peddle fast enough to keep up with the demands within their household.  They are not able to finance the unknown concerns–even those most valid–that arrive on their doorsteps at 5pm Friday afternoon.

Almost every Christian would like to meet all the needs around the globe and many of them give sacrificially but is it fair to take from those who have sacrifieced when the people in need don’t want to return the favor? 

These are some of the reasons that people give to me who have refused public funding and resources.  “Can’t take the bus.  I’d have to walk a couple of blocks to the bus stop.  They won’t give me door-to-door pickup.”  Or the retiree who lost his driver’s license because of his eyesight,  “Do you know how long it takes to go anywhere on the bus?  I could get to the grocery store in 15 minutes in my car.  With the bus, it takes at least 30 minutes.  You can’t expect me to waste my time that way.” 

Another lady  never got her driver’s license.  She had depended on the genorosity of her friends to transport her.  As everyone she knew got older, it was suggested that she ride the bus.  “Are you kidding?  It cost $1 everytime I have to ride a bus.  I won’t pay that amount?”  Guess she had never contributed to the vehicular expenses of her friends who had been transporting her for more than 60 years.

“I went to a church and they had a whole pantry full of food and they allowed me to take only one bag of groceries.  I couldn’t believe how stingy they were.” 

“Well, the church on the corner wouldn’t give me money for my electric bill.  all they would do is refer me to the Sharing Center.  Then the Sharing Center demanded to see my Social Security card.  I just walked out.  I’m not showing them my Social Security card.  That’s none of their business.  Anyway, they’ll only pay my bills once every six months.  I’ll not go back there again.”

There are the adult children who call from Pennsylvania or New York or Michigan because their parents have dementia or cancer or a broken leg.  The parents must have someone to take care of them.  “Why can’t a church send someone out to help them? My parents are desperate.  Doesn’t anyone down there care?” 

Okay, I could go on and on.  We are facing a national crisis as baby boomers age.  Statistics show that about 50 percent of boomers aren’t prepared financially to retire much less for a health emergency.  Is this a church crisis or a societal crisis?  Perhaps it is both but I contend that it is a crisis that is bigger than the local church (and our younger generation) can sustain.  People can no longer expect the church or society to pick up the burden of poor planning and excessive expectations.