Authors - Sarah Wilson & Laura King
We have all heard of those places. People say those are the "bad parts of town." When you live on the other side of the railroad tracks, it is easy to place that population in a pocket and not give it a second thought. Attaching labels such as "criminals," "addicts," or "mentally unstable," to the neighborhood population as a whole keeps that line drawn between those that live there and those that drive by.
However, it's not the truth. Let me tell you who really resides across the railroad tracks. They are families that have chldren where your children go to school. They are United States servicemen who fought for our country's freedom. They are single moms who work at local restaurants. They are seniors who collect $735 a month through SSI.
They are our brothers and sisters, and when we take our blinders off, we stop seeing them for what society may try to convince us they are. Really, they are us, I am thankful that the people who come through the CMC's doors are seen as God's beloved. We believe that all people are God's creation and that they all deserve the same level of dignity, respect, compassion and love. They all deserve a voice....and a seat at our table.
Author - Spring Hunter, Executive Director
Names have been changed to protect the dignity and privacy of our clients.
“Mary” asked me to bring a food package and some blankets and supplies to her new house. She beamed with pride as she explained that she finally had two bedrooms and a running refrigerator to store cold items.
So I left the rest of my team to go find Mary’s new home. I followed her directions down a rough one lane road gouged by deep potholes full of mud. It was the rainy season. I passed by rows of homes barely more than metal shanties. Many had broken windows boarded shut, roofs that looked like they couldn’t possibly keep the weather out, and any number of other dilapidations you can imagine. Finally, I found Mary’s house. I was taken aback for a moment. This couldn’t possibly be the house she was so excited about. It was made of rusted metal, the door hardly hanging onto the front. The rotting steps were barely safe to climb, but I balanced there and knocked on the door. Soon enough, Mary was in the doorway beaming.
I stepped inside to a dark, damp room that smelled of mold and animal urine. She lead me straight into the kitchen to put the food into the “running refrigerator”. The cabinets were sagging off the walls and several doors were missing. When I opened the fridge, there were no shelves, but I complimented her on how cold it seemed to be and put her few cold items in the bottom. She quickly started the tour of her new bedroom and bathroom. The tiny bedroom had dingy carpet and another dangling bulb that barely lit the room. The bathroom was overpowered by mold and mildew and the filthy golden toilet balanced on rotten plywood that looked as if it could give way any second. I left the blankets there on the mattress that lay in the floor.
She asked me to sit with her a minute in one of the two chairs in the family room, and pray over her new home. As I sat in the chair, noticing that the window was broken and replaced by a piece of cardboard and duct tape, I realized that the dark walls seemed to move somehow. As I allowed my eyes to adjust, I had to consciously control my facial expression to mask my repulsion. The walls were moving with roaches. Countless roaches. I was hit with a wave of sadness that this place was the object of Mary’s pride. The “ “Nicest place she’d ever lived.” “Beautiful.”
It was about then that she paused her conversation and asked me to pray blessings over her home. Which I did, awash in my own tears.
I have had the joy and privilege of escorting several teams into Central America to do short term mission work. While I spent seven years weighing the pros and cons of short term foreign missions, there is one thing that has been proven true time and time again. God has faithfully used short term mission work to allow the missionaries to see poverty with new eyes. To recognize that we can make a kingdom impact in little more than a moment if we are bold and obedient. That may be in the form of a food package or a blanket that is desperately needed. It can be a word of encouragement, or a prayer. And my greatest hope in leading those teams was that God would stir their hearts to bring that level of obedience into their daily lives in their own communities. This community.
As I took one final look at Mary’s home, I realized how much it reminded me of my time in Nicaragua. It’d been a few years since I’d been able to do foreign mission work, but how ironic that Mary’s little third world neighborhood sits right in our own backyard in Conway. Yes. I have certainly been on mission these past few years. But I never had to leave my home town.