The Symbolic Power of Your Donations

9 Dec

Your financial contributions to The Hub make our work possible. Without you, we simply could not do what we do.

But there is much more to your giving than that. In addition to supplying our needs, your contributions are a living symbol of love and unity to the poor in downtown Shreveport. It reminds of us something in the Bible.

During the first generation of Christianity the most difficult place to be a Christian was where it had all began: in and around Jerusalem. The very earliest Christians were, of course, Jews, and for them believing that Jesus was the Messiah cost them immediately. Social connections, family connections, jobs, homes. Jesus’s promises to the one who “has lost his life for My sake” were more practically relevant to them than anyone (see Matt 10.34-39). Their faith cost them “houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions” (Mark 10:29-30).

For these reasons at least, the original Jewish Christians were very poor.

The apostle Paul, running around the wider world spreading the gospel to Gentiles, remembered them (Gal 2:10). Even though his ministry took place outside of Jerusalem and Judea, he made it his aim to take up a collection from his Gentile churches as a gift to take back to Jerusalem. He mentions one such collection in Romans 15:25ff and 2 Corinthians 8-9. The practical purpose of the collection, obviously, was to provide financial relief to the poorest and most persecuted community of Christians in the world. But, the symbolic meaning may have been even more important.

As you know, Jews habitually kept themselves separate from Gentiles. And even after some Jews converted to Christianity, it was still difficult for them to imagine fellowshipping with Gentile believers. Many criticized Paul’s mission and even questioned his apostleship. But Paul was convinced that, in Jesus, God had “broken down the barrier” between Jew and Gentile, “making the two groups one…establishing peace,” intending to “reconcile them both into one body..through the cross” (Eph 2.14-16). The collection was Paul’s way of saying to Jewish Christians: “The Gentile churches love you, are thankful for you and want to be in fellowship with you.”

In our view, your gifts to The Hub function in a similar way. Your gifts do more than just supply the physical needs of the poorest in Shreveport. Your gifts say, “we love you and want to be in fellowship with you.”

The Hub is convinced that God does not want different churches for different kinds of people. This was Paul’s conviction, and it is ours. We minister in order to erase a horrible assumption that exists among the most destitute in Shreveport. Just this weekend, one of our street friends asked if he could come sing in the choir at my church. He followed this request by asking me to make sure that no one in the choir told him to get out. How heartbreaking. Impoverished Christians in downtown Shreveport assume they do not belong and our not wanted in our churches.

Your gifts, backed by the unifying message of our gospel, say otherwise. Thank you for giving.

Thankful

14 Oct

Hi Hub family!

I am thankful.

I am thankful
that I have the honor and privilege of serving our city.  The fact that the Lord allows me to be a part of His redemption plan for people never ceases to amaze me.  If you know anything about me you know that I am the least likely candidate to lead a charge.  I am scattered and emotional and unorganized….so I am thankful that God chose to wire me from the inside to do the calling He has placed on my life.

I am thankful for the people we serve.  I get to sit down face to face daily with some of the most beautiful, strong, courageous, hungry, sad, anxious, tired, joyful people on the face of the earth.  The people that we serve through The Hub have taught me more about the heart of God than any teacher from the pulpit.  I have learned how to serve and lead from a place of humility…and I’ve learned that because they are my friends.  I have learned how to fight against injustices and to be a voice for those without one…and I’ve learned that because they are in my life. I have learned that God’s heart is for the ones everyone else has decided are worthless…and this truth has set me free.

I am thankful for persecution Our ministry has seen its fair share of attack, persecution, slander, nay-saying…etc. in the past year.  I can honestly say that I am thankful beyond reason for it.  The last year of my life has sharpened my vision, challenged my motives, tested my dependence on the Lord and taught me what it’s like to suffer (nothing in comparison to those all over our world) for the Lord.  I am thankful for persecution because it has made me more like Jesus.  I am thankful for persecution because it is a marker that tells me to press forward…that we must be doing something right.

I am thankful that The Hub, the volunteers and the people we serve, are my family and my community.  A few weeks ago I was at the end of my rope, feeling beat up and tired.  I was exhausted and felt attacked on all sides.  I walked into the Discipleship class at The Lovewell Center.  The 60 people in attendance gathered around me and prayed over me.  They prayed for my strength, healing, rest, encouragement and my heart.  They prayed against the enemy, the attacks of satan, doubt, fear, insecurity and many other things that I was feeling weighed down by.  I am thankful that I can walk into a room of people that most have counted out and be met with an army of prayer warriors who truly care for my well being.  I am thankful for a community of misfits and rag tags… because with them I find great company.

I am thankful for the churches in our city.  I am honored and blessed to work alongside the local church in our city.  The Hub is supported by over 30 churches from all over our city, every size, shape, color and denomination.  We live in a city where God is moving and we are beyond blessed with the churches He has planted here.  I am thankful for every pastor, minister, staffer, secretary, Sunday school or small group teacher and every member that attends our churches.  You are our heroes at The Hub and we will never cease to pursue the local church as a place for people’s freedom.  I am thankful that our ministry has the covering of the local church and not the government.  I am thankful to say that our entire work is funded through the church and individuals in our city.

I am thankful that I can be a leader who is vulnerable, honest and myself.  It is rare to be in leadership and be allowed to be raw, open, emotional and honest.  You, Hub family, have allowed me to lead from that place and I am thankful.  Thanks for putting up with my crazy.

I am thankful for The Hub/Purchased staff.  Words can not do justice to what those 10 individuals mean to my life.  They have forever changed me.  I am thankful to live, laugh (a lot), love, serve, fight, cry, celebrate, travel, eat (a lot) and walk through my days with them.  God has brought together the greatest team on the face of the earth to love our city.  I am honored to be their leader.  I am thankful that they stand in agreement with me for the poor.  I am thankful that they never quit, no matter how tired, worn out, angry, frustrated or challenged they feel.  I am thankful for their stories of redemption and the hope that they bring every time they open their mouth.

I am thankful for our volunteers.  The Hub has the greatest boast in the army that God has called out to fight with us for those in our city who are broken.  I could have never imagined 6 years ago, when “The Hub” was me and 5 volunteers…all of which were family so they weren’t volunteering…it was by force, that The Hub would be blessed with over 1200 dedicated people.  I am thankful that you give your time, energy, talents, money and are willing to step out of your comfort zone to love people.  I am thankful that you put up with us…even when we’re unorganized or flustered.  I am thankful that you come, ready to serve, with a huge smile on your face and a story of hope to tell.  I am thankful that you allow God to speak through you to the people we serve.  I am thankful for volunteers that will lay down church names, denominational lines and personal preferences for the greater calling of service.  I am thankful that you too believe in the love of God and what it can mean to a person who is hurting.  I am thankful for your words of encouragement, support and for truly being a family for us.  The people we serve will never be the same because of our volunteers.  They now have a family.  Thank you.

I am thankful for Jesus.  Sounds cheesy and sort of obvious.  But I am.  I am thankful that everything I need is found in Him.  I am thankful that He walked the earth and left us a template for how to live life like the Father.  I am thankful that when He was here, he hung out with the broken, the widow, the orphan, the prostitute, the tax collector…the “wrong” crowd…showing us what our lives are supposed to be about.  I am thankful that every problem, injustice, hurt, hang up, addiction and emotional pain has its healing in Jesus.  I am thankful that Jesus is ENOUGH for anyone who comes to Him.  I will never back down from my belief that helping the poor MUST begin and end with Him.  I am thankful for His death and even more for His coming back to life!  I am thankful that He took me, dead and in a pit, and breathed life back into me.  I am thankful that He never changes, never leaves, never forgets and never stops loving me.

Cassie Hammett
Director
The Hub: urban ministries
http://www.thehubministry.com

“Fitching” the Homeless??

10 Jun

Abercrombie_Fitch_Logo

Teen clothier Abercrombie and Fitch has been in the news lately for their controversial preference for thin women and “cool kids.”

The recent media storm began with the opening lines of a Business Insider article back on May 3: “Teen retailer Abercrombie and Fitch doesn’t stock XL or XXL sizes in women’s clothing because they don’t want overweight women wearing their brand.” The article goes on to quote a 2006 Salon bio on A&F CEO, Mike Jeffries:

“…[W]e hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that…In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids… Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”

Things got worse for A&F six days later when Elite Daily dubiously cited an unnamed A&F district manager claiming that it is the company’s policy to “rather burn their clothes” than give them to non-profits requesting donations.

Part of the unsurprising public backlash that has ensued is an intensely sarcastic youtube video campaign (over 7 million views) calling on Americans to “Fitch the homeless” by donating all A&F apparel to local homeless shelters. The stated goal is to “rebrand” A&F as “the world’s number one brand of homeless apparel.”

Yikes.

It doesn’t take the wisdom of Solomon to figure out that #fitchthehomeless, despite clothing the needy, is an idea in the category of NOT AWESOME. Still, Rachal Karman, a social worker in L.A.’s Skid Row, does an excellent job of explaining why in a recent article for Relevant. Especially poignant is the response of her homeless friends to the video. One said, “we may be homeless, but that doesn’t mean we want to wear…clothes to prove a point—what purpose would that serve, to dehumanize us even more than we already have been?”

Abercrombie and Fitch discriminates against a certain class of human being for profit. “Fitching the homeless” uses another kind of human being to make a political point. Exploitation, like partiality, is a long way from love.

photo

Hub staffer Sarah Ditt expresses her opinion of the “Fitch the homeless” campaign.

The Lovewell Center

21 May

We at The Hub seek to intentionally love the materially poor in such a way that they will one day—hopefully—no longer need our help. We really do labor to make ourselves superfluous in the lives of those to whom we minister. We want them to learn to provide for themselves materially, and join a church where they can serve and be shepherded. Our first three blog posts from the month of March (3/4, 3/11, and 3/18) provide our rationale for these ideas. If you have not read them, please do, as they include our definition of “poverty” and what it means for us to truly “love our neighbors as ourselves.”

This kind of thinking informs our plans for the soon-to-open Lovewell Center—a facility specifically designed to address the endless cycle of poverty by encouraging participatory earning instead of a handout system. Our program intends to challenge the generational issue of entitlement and replace it with one of biblical stewardship. The Lovewell Center will be a place that views poverty as an unhealthy version of humanity (spiritually and materially), and it will therefore address the needs of the entire human.

We believe that The Lovewell Center will be a place of learning, accountability and life change.

HOW IT WORKS…

Every person who comes into The Lovewell will receive a membership card upon registration.  Any one is eligible for a Lovewell Center card.   On the back of each card is a magnetic stripe (like the one on your credit or debit card). Using software designed primarily as a reward system for businesses, we can credit or debit points to/from every person’s account.

Each card holder will choose a “track” to work to earn credits.  The tracks are designed to offer holistic teaching and skill building, based in Biblical truth, with the goal of building a solid foundation in their life.  These skills will assist them in their journey out of poverty and into freedom and the life that God designed for them.

Once a track is chosen by a participant, they then can begin attending classes and meetings.  Each time they attend a class and work on their track they earn points on their card.  Those points become a currency for the people we serve.  They will get the opportunity to earn the resources that they so desperately need.  They will feel again what it’s like to be a part of thier own lives.

Points are earned within one of six stewardship “tracks.” 

1 – building maintenance (2 pts. per task)

2 – discipleship (10 pts. per bible class attended)

3 – GED (10 pts. per class; 50 pts. for taking placement test. 100 pts. for passing final test)

4 – Financial Literacy (10 pts. per class)

5 – Addiction Recovery (10 pts. per Celebrate Recovery class or 20 pts. per Active Recovery class)

6 – Jobs For Life job training and placement (10 pts. per class)

REDEEMING POINTS:

The Lovewell Center will offer downtown many amazing resources.  None of these resources will be free, they require points to be purchased.

Earned points can be redeemed the following ways:

Eat Well: Grocery Store

Groceries

Family Bag = 5pts. (cap of 1 bag per week)

Snack Bag = 2pts. (cap of 1 bag per week)

Hygiene

5 items = 5pts.
1 item = 1pt. per item

Smell Well: Laundry

5pts. per load

DressWell: Thrift Store

shirt = 1pt.
pant = 2pts.
dress = 1pt.
jackets/sweater = 2pts.
underwear = 1pt.
socks (1 pair) = 1pt.
shoes (1 pair) = 2pts.
accessories = 1pt.
bedding/sleeping bag = 4pts.
Bus (Day) Passes = 4pts. (limit 1 per week, unless class facilitator feels more needed for class attendance)

We are so excited about what is to come with The Lovewell Center.  We understand that it is a unique and uncommon approach to helping the poor, but we believe that God gave us this vision so graciously and we want to be obedient to the call He has placed on us.

Please begin to pray with us as the opening grows closer.  Pray that the concept of earning is accepted among the people we serve and that a revival begins in downtown Shreveport.  God is on the move and we are so excited to see what He alone can do.

Was Jesus Homeless?

22 Apr

Image

“…He became poor, so that you out of His poverty might become rich.” – Paul

There is no denying that Jesus was poor from birth. His mother identified with “the hungry” and those “of low estate” (Luke 1.48, 52). His father was a carpenter in Nazareth, a town that was mocked in its day (1.46), and which recent archaeological excavations have shown to be a poor village of roughly fifty houses. When Jesus was an infant, his family offered a sacrifice of two turtle doves or pigeons (Luke 2.24)–the sacrifice required of those “who cannot afford a lamb” (Lev 12.8).

When Jesus began His ministry around the age of 30, he left Nazareth and “settled” in a fishing village called Capernaum (Matt 4.13). It is not clear if Jesus ever owned a house in Capernaum. It was certainly his base of operations during his ministry, but He may have always stayed in Peter’s house. Jesus famously said, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matt 8.20), and it appears that He said this while in Capernaum, or at least very nearby (see Matt 8.14-20). Most certainly, while Jesus traveled throughout Israel preaching and healing (away from Capernaum), He and His disciples slept wherever they could.

This brings us to sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz’s latest work (pictured), a truly stunning bronze sculpture called “Jesus The Homeless,” which had a tough time, appropriately enough, finding a home before it was finally accepted by a Jesuit seminary at the University of Toronto. A recent article in The Toronto Star tells how two prominent Catholic churches, one in Toronto and one in New York, rejected the sculpture as inappropriate, “too controversial” and “vague.”

What do you think? Even if you believe that Jesus wasn’t truly “homeless,” or since there were no park benches in 1st century Israel, is the sculpture appropriate? Why?

Like a Root Out of Dry Ground

15 Apr

We have written in previous posts (here, here, and especially here) about the importance of stewardship and responsibility to human thriving. We cannot help but notice this biblical emphasis from the very beginning: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it” (Gen 2.15). It may not always be a literal garden that we must tend, but we believe that every person was created to cultivate and keep something. This is a truth that we try to teach to our people, pointing them ultimately to Jesus, the One who gave us hope by fulfilling His responsibilities; as He once prayed: “I have manifested Your Name to the people whom You gave me…They were Yours and You gave them to Me…I kept them in Your Name…I have guarded them and not one of them has been lost…” (John 17.6, 12).

If you know where our Lovewell Center is located–even if you’ve visited us as we prepare to open there–you may be surprised to learn that our building (in downtown Shreveport!) has a back yard! Ever since we first set eyes on the property, we envisioned the possibility of planting a community garden in our own back yard. We hope this will provide at least five things for our people:photo copy 2

1) Our garden (as only a part of our park-like back yard) will be an oasis of natural beauty in a mostly greenless downtown.

2) Our garden will produce healthy food for the poor in the area.  Not only will this food be available at the Lovewell, but it will also be made available in a small “Farmers Market” in Ledbetter Heights.

3) Our garden will be a stewardship which our street friends will tend responsibly.

4) Our garden will be a model which could be reproduced in Ledbetter Heights by the people of that neighborhood.

5) Our garden will be a practical object lesson that can provide a context for our people to understand some of the Bible’s central truths (and many of Jesus’ parables).

The Lovewell’s garden has been on our minds in the last few weeks for a couple of reasons. First, we came across an inspiring video in which Ron Finley, a resident of South Central Los Angeles, discusses the “guerrilla gardening” efforts of his group L.A. Green Grounds. Check out this recent Huffington Post article on Finley’s work.

Second, and more significantly, at our most recent staff bible study we looked at Isaiah’s prophecy about Jesus as the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53). In verse 2 the Servant is described as growing “up before Him like a tender plant, and like a root out of dry ground.” It is a remarkable thing to think of Jesus as a young, tender plant, struggling to thrive in dry, unhealthy soil…soil much like the kind in our back yard (pictured below). photoThe most beautiful thing in the history of creation, our Lord Jesus, was conceived in the soil of all our sin (Rom 1.3), directly descended from incestuous unions, murderers, adulterers, and prostitutes (see here). He was literally born in a barn (Luke 2.7). From His earliest days His poor family was on the run from those who sought to kill their firstborn, forced even to flee the country for a time (Matt 2.13-15). But through all of that suffering and injustice, and through the far worse suffering and injustice that was still to come, God perfected a masterpiece of a human being and the author of our salvation (Heb 2.10). “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” they wondered (John 1.46). Yes, and more than just “good,” the very best.

This gives us hope for the people to whom we minister. Our people come from the worst situations. Violence, sex trafficking, drugs, alcohol, abusive parents, neglectful parents, no parents. And it gives us hope for own lives. We may not have come from settings as horrible as many of those to whom we minister, but each of has sin as our heritage, and many of us live with the fear that we are bound to repeat the mistakes of our parents or our past.

But we are not. The One who knows what it is like to be “a root out of dry ground” is able to bring life where it appears impossible.”Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth. Will you be aware of it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43.19).

So we will strive on to “give ourselves to the hungry, to satisfy the desire of the poor,” trusting that the Lord will keep His promise to “satisfy our souls in scorched places,” and we “will be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail” (58.10-11)

Post-Easter Breakfast

1 Apr

After Jesus was raised from the dead, He occasionally visited His disciples “over a period of forty days” (Acts 1.3).

One morning He finds them fishing on the Sea of Galilee (John 21). They had been at it all night but hadn’t caught a thing. So, Jesus yells some advice from the beach which immediately results in a huge catch–so many fish, in fact, they have trouble hauling the nets back into the boat.

Eventually, they get the fish to shore (no thanks to Peter, who had jumped overboard to swim in as soon as he realized the identity of the Man on the beach). Jesus has breakfast waiting on them: fresh fish of his own simmering over a fire.**

“Bring some of the fish you just caught,” He says. “Come eat.”

After breakfast Jesus asks Peter a tough question: “Do you love me more than these?” What does that mean? Do you love me more than what? More than the fish? More than the disciples? No, Jesus most likely means, “Do you love me more than these disciples do?”

Remember, Peter was always the one to proclaim ultimate loyalty toward Jesus. He loved Jesus more than anybody did! He had just left the others with the boat and swam to Jesus. Days earlier he had run to the empty tomb and was the first one brave enough to actually go inside (20.3-7). A few days before that he had promised, “I will lay down my life for you,” (John 13.37), and when the moment came, he drew his sword in defense of his Master (18.10).

But, after Jesus told him to put the sword away, he had, in his bewilderment, denied even knowing Jesus…three times (18.15-17, 25-27). So now, three times, Jesus asks him, “Do you love me?”

So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep. (John 21.15-17).

Each time, in one way or another, Peter says he loves Jesus. And each time, Jesus replies by telling him to love others. Tend my lambs. Shepherd my sheep. Tend my sheep.

We at The Hub often say that Jesus takes our love of others (or lack thereof) personally, and we quote the “you have done it unto me” passage in Matthew 25.31-46 in support of that belief. But, John 21 shows us something grander. Jesus takes our treatment of others even more personally than our treatment of Him. And coming from the supremely selfless One, that sounds about right, doesn’t it?

Peter had denied Jesus. Jesus knows it, and Peter knows Jesus knows it. But Jesus isn’t interested in making Peter wallow in the guilt. He doesn’t even force Peter to say it out loud. What He does force Peter to say out loud is something more important, another thing they both know to be true: he really does loves Jesus. And He wants to remind Peter that for the rest of his life, even after Jesus has gone away, he can love Jesus by taking care of those whom He has given Peter to love.

We’ve all denied Jesus. But Jesus is the risen Lord anyway. And today He’s glad to cook us breakfast and give us the opportunity to love Him by loving others. More than any worship song we could sing or prayer we could pray, He appreciates it when we shepherd his sheep. And more than any direct denial we wish we could forget, He hurts when we fail to love those whom He has given us to love.

“To the extent that you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto Me.”

——————————————————————————————————-

meal**Jesus knew very well what the Pevensie children learned in Narnia at Mr. and Mrs. Beaver’s house: “…there’s nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago” (Lewis, C. S., The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, 74).

Incidentally, other resurrection appearances in the gospels make it a point to show Jesus eating (Luke 24.30; 41-42). The writers wanted us to know that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead. Ghosts don’t eat. Consider Nearly Headless Nick’s (Nicholas de-Mimsy-Porpington) 500th deathday party in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets (Rowling, J. K. 131ff). Yes, there was a buffet of rotten fish, burned cakes, maggoty haggis, and moldy cheese, but the ghosts couldn’t eat it.  “Harry watched, amazed, as a portly ghost approached the table, crouched low, and walked through it, his mouth held wide so that it passed through one of the stinking salmon. ‘Can you taste it if you walk through it?’ Harry asked him. ‘Almost,’ said the ghost sadly, and he drifted away.”   

Is The Hub “Faith-Based”?

26 Mar

From time to time we at The Hub hear our ministry referred to as a “faith-based organization” or a “faith-based initiative.” At first glance the terms seem appropriate. After all, our identity and work are unashamedly based in our faith toward Jesus. We make no attempt to hide that. So, I guess we are a “faith-based organization,” aren’t we?

Umm…

A quick glance at wikipedia will help to explain why the term “faith-based organization” is not at all appropriate to The Hub. The term, coined in the 1970′s and made popular by President George W. Bush, refers to government-funded organizations whose efforts are based in their (usually Christian) religion. The Hub is in no way funded by the government. It is important to us that you, our supporters, know that.  Bear with us as we try to explain why.

You may remember that President Bush’s “faith-based initiative” raised questions about “the separation of church and state” because, while it provided government funding for explicitly religious organizations, it did so only for the “non-religious” or “non-spiritual” aspects of those organizations (whatever that means). We don’t even want to think about trying to determine which aspects of our ministry are “spiritual” and which aren’t.

Consider the testimony of Brian Fikkert (founder and director of The Chalmers Center for Economic Development):

“…I once served on the board of an inner-city ministry… We applied for federal funds to pay for part of our job-preparedness training for unemployed people… [O]ur ministry was very committed to using a curriculum that communicated a biblical worldview concerning work, including the need for Jesus Christ to restore us to being productive workers. 

The government’s grant administrator, who happened to be a Christian, informed us that the law prohibited us from using the government’s money to cover the costs of such an explicitly gospel-focused curriculum. He was doing his job in informing us of this law. No problem with that. However, he then said, ‘Brian, just remove the explicitly Christian material from the lessons. You can teach the same values that you want to teach–responsibility, punctuality, respect, hard work, discipline, etc.–without articulating their biblical basis. These values work whether people see them as coming from God or not.’ In essence, the grant administrator was encouraging us to apply evangelical gnosticism, separating Christ from His world, encouraging us to use Christ’s techniques without recognizing Him as the Creator of the techniques and without calling on Him to give people the power to employ those techniques.

We decided not to use the federal funds to pay for the curriculum” (When Helping Hurts, 91).

The Hub so wholeheartedly agrees with Brian Fikkert’s reasoning in this instance that we simply avoid the question altogether.

But, more than this, The Hub refuses to rely on government funding because we have no desire to be accountable to our government.  In order to continue receiving government money, we would have to continually report to them, providing data about, for instance, the amount of people we “service” over a given time period.  We do not care to allow the hassle and pressure of this “paperwork” to distract us from our real work. In any case, we intentionally avoid fiscal accountability to any organization whose structure and goals are not derived and centered in the New Testament.

We are accountable to God, but our stewardship from Him is overseen by His churches. The Hub is not a church, but we are accountable directly to the churches in our area and are completely funded by them.

The Apostle Paul described his relationship with the Philippian church as a “partnership in the gospel” (Phil 1.5). And, this is exactly the kind of relationship that The Hub has with our churches. Like Paul and his team, The Hub is engaged in an intense conflict with the enemy—both seen and unseen. We are in the darkest parts of our city, loving the most broken individuals. And like Paul’s team, we have faithful churches who are “engaged in the same conflict” alongside us (1.30).

Our churches–YOU!–do this, first of all, “through your prayers” (1.19). We can do nothing without that. Secondly, we have “fellow workers” and “fellow soldiers” (2.25)—volunteers who plug in to help build God’s Kingdom in the inner city. Finally, we serve the needs of the poor through our churches’ material donations and financial commitments. These gifts are “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God;” and as we take and use these gifts, we believe that our “God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in Christ Jesus” (4.18-19).

The Hub has over 30 “network churches” who faithfully provide us with resources and volunteers.  Several churches in our area directly fund the salaries of our staffers, some of them in full!  Most importantly, we have 10 “partner churches” who provide us with monthly and yearly funding. We have close relationships with the pastors and elders in these churches, and we are directly accountable to them:

So, all that to say this…

No, The Hub is not a “faith-based organization.”  We rely entirely on God through the financial gifts of His wise stewards in our churches.  Our “official” relationship with the government is a blessed exemption for which we are thankful: we are a “non-profit;” we pay no taxes.  But, we are infinitely more thankful for the church of God, through whom we are “amply supplied” (Phil 4.18), and because of whom we can live in the freedom of ultimate accountability to King Jesus alone.

Loving Our Neighbors As Ourselves

18 Mar

Two weeks ago we defined “poverty” as “having a relatively small amount of those things that, in God’s design, are essential to life.”  But, we went on to define life’s “essentials” as more than just food, shelter, and clothing.  We wrote that all people need 1) a relationship with their Creator, 2) fellowship or community with other people, 3) a healthy view of themselves as God’s image-bearers, and 4) a stewardship over some aspect of God’s creation.

Last week we shared how our expanded view of poverty is due in large measure to the work of The Chalmers Center and their book When Helping Hurts.  We explained how material poverty (the lack of things like food, shelter, and clothing) is only a symptom of sin–either one’s own sin, the sin of others, or (most likely) a combination of the two.  Finally, we traced the global presence of sin to the Garden of Eden, and showed how all four of life’s deepest essentials were immediately corrupted by Adam and Eve’s disobedience.

Paul wrote, “There is no partiality with God” (Rom 2.11).  This is one of the most important truths that can ever be known about our Creator.  It literally means that He does not make judgements based upon appearances.

You and I do. (See 1 Sam 16.7). We see a homeless man or a prostitute and we automatically assume their inferiority. We may not say so out loud. We may not even overhear ourselves making the distinction in our own heads. But, the ungodly assumption is there and it manifests itself in the way we minister. Consider one simple example: what are we saying when we consistently feed the homeless, but never offer them the opportunity to plan, prepare, or serve meals with us or for us?  We are saying that they are not capable of the responsibility. We are saying they are not capable of shouldering the responsibility that we think God has given us.

You cannot “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12.31) if you view those to whom you minister as unworthy of ministering similarly to you.  This is the often overlooked lesson of Jesus’ story about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.30-37). A 3-year-old can recognize that it was the Samaritan, not the priest or the Levite, who had compassion on the victim. But that’s not Jesus’ main point. When we remember that Jews despised Samaritans, then we realize the power of Jesus’s story as an answer to the Jewish lawyer’s question: “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10.29). Jesus’ story of a Samaritan ministering to a Jew attacks the presumptive bigotry in all of us.

As you know, we are very nearly done with the renovations in The Lovewell Center.  Last week, our plumbers cut a 22″ wide trench in the concrete floor of our main room in order to install new sewer and water lines.  The trench was about 130 feet long.  After the new pipes were installed, several of our street friends helped to refill the trench with dirt in preparation for the concrete to be repoured. During the refilling process we learned that Donnie, one of our homeless friends, had plumbing experience and seemed very knowledgable about the concrete job. In the end we made the decision to let Donnie oversee the pouring of the concrete. Our contractor, Clarke Is Here, with the help of R&G Construction, scheduled the delivery of the concrete through Builders Supply (who gave us the concrete at no charge!).  The rest was left to Donnie.  He, his team of homeless men, and our own John Robinson, set the rebar and poured the concrete beautifully. Below they are pictured putting their handprints and signatures in a portion of the concrete. We wish you could sense the joy that they expressed upon completion of their work. We could see it on their faces, hear it in their voices, and recognize it in their strides. And so long as The Lovewell Center is open, these men will see it, not merely as something for them, but as part of a stewardship that God has given them.

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Nothing we have ever provided–no meal, no jacket, no shower, no shelter–has ever expressed God’s love to Donnie, and our own desire to be in fellowship with him, quite like putting him in charge of that concrete job.  Donnie is a human, not a pet.  He is as capable as any of us of responsibility and stewardship in God’s creation.  So, we at The Hub must love him in a way that is appropriate to his status as God’s image-bearer, thereby teaching him that he, like us, has a stewardship from God to fulfill.

In closing, we are reminded of something C. S. Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves. He was speaking in the context of a mother and her children, but the words are appropriate to us at The Hub:

“…the maternal instinct…is a Gift-love, but one that needs to give…needs to be needed. But the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching. Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift-love: it must work toward its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous. The hour when we can say “They need me no longer” should be our reward. But the [maternal] instinct, simply in its own nature, has no power to fulfill the law. The instinct desires the good of its object , but not simply; [it may want] only the the good itself can give. A much higher love–a love which desires the good of the object as such, from whatever source that good comes–must step in and help or tame the instinct before it can make the abdication. And of course it often does not. But where it does not, the ravenous need to be needed will gratify itself by keeping its objects needy…” (76-77).

The Hub seeks to love the materially poor in such a way that they will eventually, hopefully, no longer need our help. We labor at making ourselves superfluous. We guard against the kind of “love” that gratifies ourselves by keeping the needy needy. We try to love our neighbors as ourselves.

What is poverty? Part 2

11 Mar

Last week we defined “poverty” as “having a relatively small amount of those things that, in God’s design, are essential to life.”  Then we broadened our view of life’s “essentials” to include, not just food, shelter, and clothing, but also those spiritual essentials that are necessary for human thriving. We said that all human beings need 1) a relationship with their Creator, 2) community or fellowship with other humans, 3) a right view of oneself as God’s image-bearer, and 4) a measure of dominion or stewardship over God’s creation. Our expanded understanding of poverty—being un-reconciled to God, others, oneself, and the rest of creation—is due mainly to the work of Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert in their book When Helping Hurts: How To Alleviate poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself (see especially chapter 2). We highly recommend this book to you.  Corbett is the founder and director of The Chalmers Center for Economic Development, while Fikkert serves as Chalmers’ community development specialist.  We cannot say enough about how much the vision for our ministry has been shaped by the work of The Chalmers Center.  In next week’s installment we will begin to detail the reshaping of our ministry going forward.

Today, let us consider that sin is the ultimate disease of which material poverty is only a symptom.

For some, material poverty is the result of one’s own sin.  It can result from laziness (Prov 6.6-11, 20.13, 24.33-34), a refusal to heed advice or reproof (Prov 13.18), only talking about something rather than doing it (Prov 14.23), hasty or reckless decisions (Prov 21.5), drunkenness or gluttony or pleasure-seeking (Prov 21.17, 23.21), or chasing worthless schemes rather than working (Prov 28.19).

For others, material poverty results from someone else’s sin.  Children are stolen from their mothers (Job 24.9). Children are orphaned; women are widowed (Is 10.2). Wicked and unjust governments oppress and enslave (Prov 28.15, 29.7, Ecc 5.8, Is 3.14-15, Is 10.2, Jer 5.28). People are mistreated, abandoned, and robbed by the wicked (Job 20.19, 24.4). And once having become poor, the impoverished can be trapped by less-than-impartial judges (Job 34.19), unfair lenders (Prov 22.7), and greedy landlords (Amos 5.11).

Of course, material poverty can result from a combination of both these categories of sin.  But, if we trace things back to the beginning, all poverty—both material and spiritual—is the direct result of sin.  If we read Genesis 3, we will notice that Adam and Eve’s four-fold spiritual poverty (as outlined above) began immediately after they ate of what God commanded them not to eat.  Their relationship with God is damaged and they begin to hide from Him (3.8).  Their relationship with one another is damaged and they begin to blame and fight (3.9, 15).  Their view of themselves is damaged and they begin to feel naked and ashamed (3.7, 10).  Their relationship with the rest of creation is damaged and they lose their stewardship over the garden which God originally gave them to tend (3.23-24).  This spiritual poverty is our heritage.

But thank God that He does not leave us in our poverty. He has come looking for us in Jesus.  “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor 5.19).  And to Jesus’ followers, He has given “the ministry of reconciliation” in which we beg people to be reconciled to God.  “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5.20).

This is the hope for all people.  It is the Hub’s hope…our hope and our ministry.

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