The Context for Hopelessness (Sharing Our Story with CBC — Part 1)
A couple of months ago, I was asked to share part of our story at Community Bible Church (in Savannah, GA). As you may remember, this church has been a part of our ministry in Allendale, helping with summer activities in 2012 and 2013. I was glad (but nervous) to have this opportunity, but I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was, since I was the one who asked for opportunities to speak to others.
I had 12-15 minutes to talk, and here is the core of what I shared. (I know it’s a lot. Good thing I talk quickly.)
Context of This Community
We moved to Allendale (SC) three years ago. There’s a bunch to that story, but let’s just say that God forced our hand, since moving here was not what we ever imagined ourselves ever doing. But we are so thankful that He did.
I don’t want to talk about all the negative stats about Allendale (although my scientist and pessimistic natures want me to do just that). But here is an overview, so you understand the context of what we are doing:
- In 2010, Allendale was listed as the 10th most impoverished county in the US.
- About 75% of the population is African-American, so my family is in the minority.
- Most white families, and some black, don’t have their children in the local schools.
- Over 70% of children are growing up in single parent households. (For more about this, see my posts about the Fatherless Generation, with respect to boys and girls.)
- About 12% of the population of Allendale is incarcerated.
- There are over 100 churches, but there is mostly a famine of God’s word.
Again, I’m not focusing on the negative aspects, because the rest of this talk will be on the great things that we’ve seen. I just wanted to set the context for how we have worked with children in this community, in our after school programs, day camps, coaching, and more.
Three years ago, we barely understood poverty. We (like most of you) saw poverty as a lack of money. Now, we see it more as broken relationships – broken relationships with God, others, the world, and ourselves. In that context, we are all experiencing poverty.
We can talk a lot about poverty and all the effects of it, but I want to focus on one word: HOPE. Poverty involves a lack or imbalance of opportunity, and even a lack of awareness that there are opportunities.
The Bible tells us that the Hebrew people were in Egypt for over 400 years, most of the time as slaves. I find it hard to understand how they (especially when their population reached into the millions) never rose up and rebelled.
I think that they kept believing that they couldn’t rebel. They slowly sunk further and further into slavery, and gave up hope that things would ever change.
That’s a key component about generational poverty – that generation after generation loses hope that thing can and will change. Sometimes we lose hope because of our own sin, and sometimes it’s due to the sins of others against us. But eventually you think, “This is life. There’s no changing it.”
If you hear this, and you can’t understand how someone doesn’t believe that life can change, you need to understand that you were taught and/or modeled the fact that change can be achieved. What if you never had that teaching and example?
In the midst of hopelessness, what’s needed? Two things:
- The body of Christ must be present to give hope. They must show that there is a hope for a changed life. They must teach and model that there is a hope for a better life through character-building and education.
- Most of all, we must show that there is hope through the good news of Jesus Christ, who died for us, and who is redeeming this broken world.
Now many of you already know that this is what’s needed, but this has been new for us over the past three years. And if you have a white, middle-class, conservative background, it may be new to you, too.
I’ll continue these thoughts next time, with more about the body of Christ. Most specifically, I’m going to show you why you DO NOT have the spiritual gift of hospitality.
Say what?! Yeah, you heard me.
I look forward to continuing this conversation. For now, you can check out these related posts:
- 4 Shocking Facts About Allendale Demographics
- A Slave of Circumstance [Book Review]
- Pouring in Good, Clear Water
- Poverty Poll
- Real Poverty