Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Lessons From Outside the Box

Words to wrap around the end of a summer are always hard to come by. The simplest summary is shown numerically - 672 students & leaders from 15 states serving at 29 ministry sites, along with 8 hosts, to make up 119 days of service (so far!) at CSM Philadelphia in 2015 so far.  
Yet, the depth of that goes beyond the simple statistics.

Our team of hosts for the summer
The numbers discount the fact that the Lord taught us a lot about boxes this year.
Boxes are a
familiar thing in our world - moving boxes, cereal boxes, boxes to be packed with canned goods, boxes of cleaning supplies... Yet, the Lord was quick to remind us through this season that the world He created often doesn't fit neatly into straight lines and organized, black and white fixes. A box is man-made invention; nature prefers the crooked and the intertwined and the messy and the beauty of the in-between.
While there were countless stories of boxes being torn up, a new vision of the homeless population was a common conversation amongst groups, especially after serving with Hands of Hope. Here is a segment of an interview our apprentice Scott conducted with Hands of Hope's founder:

"While the issue of homelessness has not gone unnoticed, the treatment of it has simply been erratic. A homeless man named Lucio, 68, has been homeless in Philadelphia for the past three years. 

'We don’t really need the food all the time. The most difficult is to find a place that’ll really give you help and hear you out,' he says, 'It don’t do me any good at all if they isn’t gonna listen.' 

Such is the mission of Joetta Kieffer, the founder and heart behind Hands of Hope, a homeless outreach ministry in Philadelphia. The basis of her ministry rests in the idea that a connection and conversation is more helpful than a pamphlet.

She believes that everyone is deserving of an open ear to hear their voice. She becomes passionately indignant when the notion of inequality comes up in regards to the homeless population in Philadelphia. 

'They are no different than anyone else. Their circumstances are just different than where I’m at. That does not demote them as human beings,” she says, “we are created equal.'

The greatest issue, perhaps, is not necessarily that things are not being done, but that people are not willing to understand the issue on a holistic level. People are people, regardless of their circumstance, and deserve to be treated as such. The homeless of Philadelphia are passed by more than 2,000 people each day. The intention behind Hands of Hope is to send people out with the only goal of not being the 2,001stperson to walk by. 

'God loves them and does not see them any different, so why should we,' Kieffer says, 'We’re all the same when it comes down to it.'"

May we all continue to grow together in a commitment to not see things in boxes.
- Brittany Nyce, CSM Philadephia City Director

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