Pouring in Good, Clear Water
Here are some statistics for Allendale:
- Approximately 11,000 people live in the entire county (the population density is one-fifth that of the entire state).
- Over 2500 people (ages 5 and older) have a disability.
- 40% of the population lives below the poverty line.
- The median household income is under $26,000 (the median for the entire state of South Carolina is $45,000).
- One in four workers are unemployed.
- One in four households has no automobile; only 35% have 2 or more vehicles, (especially troubling when you consider that Allendale is in The Middle of Nowhere).
- Over 90% of children are eligible for free school lunch.
- One-third of children are born to mothers with less than a high school education.
- 79% of high school students have had sexual intercourse.
- About 30% of adults are unable to read.
I see these same statistics played out as I scan through the applications for the after school program that I work for. About 80% of them marked that their household incomes are under $24,000, and over half are under $18,000. Probably about the same number of children live with their mother, their grandparents, or both; in other words, only about 20-25% have a dad or step-dad living at home with them.
Part of me wants to dwell on these negative statistics. But then God reminds me that there is a lot of good things going on here. There are a lot of good people, doing the best they can.
God is at work in Allendale.
|image courtesy of gfrphoto via flickr|
When we see and hear about these “bad” things, what should we do? We could work really hard to reduce or eliminate the bad things. Or, we could go to the opposite end of the spectrum and ignore them and just try to maintain things as they are, with no hope for change. My friend (and mentor) Pastor Joe Mole has an analogy that I think meets in the middle:
Imagine having a cup full of black shoe polish. How do you get it all out? The best way is to keep pouring good, clear, fresh water into it. Keep it under the faucet, and let the good stuff purge out the bad over time. Don’t worry about the polish; focus on pouring in the positive. It takes a long time, but we need to let patience have its perfect work (James 1:4).
Why do I like this analogy? Even though we know this method takes time and endurance, it is encouraging and hopeful to think like this. You see, every good thing you do to bring refreshment to someone else makes a difference. We are not here with a goal of improving any statistic. We are here to bring refreshment and hope to others’ lives in all the small ways.
Just by providing a place for 100+ kids to go, we are providing refreshment. By building relationships, we are providing refreshment. By exchanging smiles with parents and children, we can provide refreshment.
This perspective is good for me personally, since I like to accomplish tasks and measure success concretely. But I know that is out of my hands. God, through the Holy Spirit of power, must work in this community for change to happen. In our mission to Allendale, we just have the privilege of being His hands and feet, even in a small way. We know that Jesus Can Redeem the Past.
And not just us, but others have done big and little things.
Who has refreshed you this week? Who can you refresh over the next week?