3 Ways to Engage Poverty Now
We typically define poverty as “the lack of material things or access to tangible resources.” There are three elements to poverty that you may not initially think about that I would like to shed some light on. The most obvious element of poverty that we see is someone’s physical well-being. We are able to analyze if they have access to food, clean water, shelter, etc., but what we often cannot see with our own eyes is their spiritual, emotional, and social health.
The more I encounter individuals who are among the 26.8% of Waco residents that live in poverty, the more I am convinced that their social/relational welfare is what we should really be more concerned about. We do not know how to help someone unless we are willing to take the time to get to know them. Again and again, I’ve learned that getting to know individuals is critical in giving appropriate immediate relief as well as long-term development. Relief is defined as providing “emergent aid to reduce immediate suffering for those that are incapable of helping themselves” (When Helping Hurts).
In a culture that’s addicted to busyness, I encourage you to schedule time in your day, maybe just five minutes before or after appointments, errands, the grocery store, etc., to invite conversations with people who may be socially/relationally impoverished.
You need to understand and really know the community you serve. Start researching the needs, barriers, demographics, etc., and don’t ever stop being a student of your city. Waco more than doubles the national poverty rate of 12.7% (source: the U.S Census Bureau’s 2017 estimates). It is no secret that we have a plethora of resources through non-profits in Waco for people living in poverty. A huge responsibility we have as the Church is to be educated on the available resources in our city. For example, did you know that Salvation Army (located at 300 Webster Ave.) serves a meal every day for 365 days a year? Waco residents also have access to a food pantry every day of the week. Information like this is crucial when you find yourself in a conversation with someone asking for assistance. When in doubt, making referrals to our local partners is one of the best things you can do.
As the Missions Director, I keep a resource guide on-hand at all times. Please never hesitate to call, text, or email me if you have questions about making a referral or resources available in Waco. I would also love to talk with you individually about our local partners and the services they offer our community.
As Christians, it feels good to be the “savior,” but we have to be careful we aren’t doing too much for someone that robs them of their responsibilities. One question you can ask yourself is, “What is the most loving thing I can do for this person?” You may be surprised that people often desire to have a simple conversation, someone to pray for or with them, or receive encouragement. Ask God to provide opportunities for you to share about His grace and love, along with the courage and discernment to converse with someone in need.
Scriptures: Genesis 1:27; Matthew 9:10-13, 25:41-46; Luke 6:27-36; Acts 20:35; 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 2 Thess. 3:6-15
Generous Justiceby Timothy Keller
When Helping Hurtsby Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert
Toxic Charityby Robert D. Lupton
2018 Heart of Texas Region Resource Guide (hard copy available by emailing Bethany Stephens.)