In 2012 a group of churches in the city of Suffolk formed an alliance–a coalition against poverty–to more effectively provide immediate financial assistance to people in our city experiencing a financial crisis. Since that time, through the generous support of this growing number of churches, hundreds of families and individuals have been served after being assessed in a central location by dedicated staff and volunteers. They do this by talking with the individual(s) about long-term solutions, praying with them, and assisting when appropriate.
CAPS also serves as a resource for other agencies networking to make sure that individuals are served in the best way possible. This is the first step in mitigating poverty: relief.
CAPS provides relief from the financial strain of a recent crisis that destabilizes an individual’s or family’s financial situation and threatens a loss of vital housing needs.
While this program of financial assistance has helped families and individuals in crisis situations, and the Night Stay shelter program provides a safe shelter for homeless individuals and families during winter months, it falls way short of alleviating poverty in our community.
As members of the Christian community, we believe that Jesus came to earth to reconcile all things to himself. He came to preach this good news to the poor. He himself was born into a materially poor family. However poverty reaches into more of humanity than the material. There is a poverty of soul and spirit that also needs ministry.
In Isaiah 58:6-12, God sends word to Israel:
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.” (ESV)Isaiah 58:6-12
Oh that our churches would be known as “repairers of the breach and the restorers of streets to dwell in!” Alleviating poverty is accomplished in three phases: relief, rehabilitation, and development (Corbett, Steve and Fikkert, Brian, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself, Ch. 4, “Not All Poverty is Created Equal”).
CAPS is equipped to provide the relief, but the rehabilitation and development are beyond our scope. We have a vision of our churches in Suffolk providing some of these services through their church ministries. We have a number of churches providing food, also of vital importance for life. There are so many other needs that we hope our churches will consider praying about filling.
To be continued…