Churches need creative partnerships
It was interesting to pick up the paper and find this article - especially when our church is currently housing many homeless people as a warming shelter (O Father, Where Art Thou?, Dec. 10). Last night alone, more than 130 were cared for (along with nine pets), and I'm sure more will be here tonight as the word spreads. Portland Foursquare has been blessed with a large facility, and we're committed to using it as a resource for those in our city. But our partnership with the Red Cross really helps to make that work.
For any church, large or small, there are multiple issues that make it difficult to open their doors to the homeless. City regulations, liability, volunteer training and coordination, safety, hard costs, wear-and-tear on facilities, etc., all make this issue one that is very challenging. For most churches, these kinds of issues build up to become seemingly insurmountable.
What will make the difference? For us, it's been our partnership with the Red Cross. They know the ins and outs of how to make this work. They receive special funding from the city and provide knowledgeable leaders to help navigate the issues. They also know how to manage the actual shelters and provide on-site facilitators that make it happen.
Perhaps this model, along with that of Human Solutions, will provide hope for the future. Where it could seem nearly impossible for single churches to take on the issues associated with housing the homeless, let's look to creative partnerships to help fill in the missing pieces. We really are better when we're working together.
Use government buildings for shelters
Commissioners Nick Fish and Deborah Kafoury's request for churches to help out with sheltering homeless families was fair (O Father, Where Art Thou?, Dec. 10). We just have to remember that most church congregations already do work for social justice in similar or other ways. I suspect church members are over-represented among those confronting social issues in Portland. Finding a 'one-time, short-term' solution for homeless families during this economic downturn and cold weather isn't a problem our local governments can solve without the help of good citizens.
There is an abundance of emergency shelter space available between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. - government office buildings and schools could provide a warm, secure overnight space for homeless families, and concerned citizens from churches or service organizations could provide the manpower.
Primary goal is to spread faith
So, the government needs people of faith to do the human outreach that everybody believes they are obligated - by their faith - to do (O Father, Where Art Thou?, Dec. 10). But they probably insist those same people of faith do this necessary work not in obedience to Christ with his love inspiring them, but in the name of a bureaucrat's humanistic altruism with some comforting guilt thrown in.
I'll bet all sorts of church people would gladly put their faith to work on behalf of those who are down and out. But they know that their most important task is to lead a soul to Christ. Getting folks fed, clothed and housed - with no concern for their eternal soul - is not our primary mandate.
Of course we want to help those in need and we will do so regardless of their response to our message of faith. But we will obey God over the temporal dictates of government legalists to attend to the spirit as well. If government regulations prohibit us from leading children in Christian activities or from insisting that people we are caring for at our own expense attend church while they are with us, then the government can find another community to answer their call.
We are not talking about forcing religion down anyone's throat. We do have a calling from God to offer his grace and peace to people in trouble.
Churches ignoring Bible's wishes
I just finished reading the article 'O Father, Where Art Thou?' (Dec. 10) and I am appalled, ashamed and very angry. As an evangelical, born-again Christian, I am deeply ashamed of every church that shut their doors - no, they should be ashamed and deeply convicted for not responding to one of the greatest commands given to Christians, 1 John 3:17:
'If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.'
You take nothing with you when you leave this earth, so why not use every single resource at your disposal? Jesus did! He had nothing but gave everything away! Love your neighbor as yourself!
To turn away a woman with a family? She called more than 50 churches and they could not help her? Oh dear Lord, what has happened to your pastors, elders and lay people? Where are their hearts for those hurting and in need?
Thank you so very much for printing that article. It only confirmed one of my deepest fears for our churches. The fire burns passionately for me to continue the good fight and to pray unceasingly for all of us.
I say this with all humbleness for those wondering. I am a single mother, work full time and volunteer two or three days a week serving the homeless in our city, and I love serving them!
Bring churches up to code
This article does a wonderful job of pointing out just how unchurched Portland is and how the congregations are shrinking, but it seems to ignore that city codes and lack of inclusion of the religious community with the city are the main causes of this issue, not an unwillingness to help our neighbors (O Father, Where Art Thou?, Dec. 10).
Most church buildings are not equipped to legally house people at night and do not have shower facilities. In the old days, church members would actually house people in their own homes when needed, but with the graying of congregations this is no longer considered to be a safe practice.
If the city wants to be about helping people and building the community, we need to stop spending money on political landmarks, such as MAX and downtown parks, and begin to focus on people.