What’s Your Response to Suffering? – Wilmington Outreach Update 1.29.12
What do you do when you are face to face with suffering? We felt God calling us to this kind of ministry – to go on the streets of Wilmington and minister to people in need. And yes, many times, our paths are directly crossed with people who are going through immeasurable suffering.
This past Sunday as our group of 5 went downtown, we encountered a few of these stories. One of the first people we met was a man who appeared to be in his fifties sitting down on a ledge. He seemed to be shivering with a coat wrapped around his arms. After talking to him for a few minutes, he told us how he had been beaten badly with a metal pipe and just got out of the hospital. He had a broken arm and significant wounds to his head and side. He was certainly in no condition to be on the streets. He wasn’t really shivering from the cold; it seemed like it was from the pain. I thought of times when I’m sick or sore and all I want is my warm bed where I can escape from the rest of the world and recover. But this man spends his days outside in the cold and nights in a homeless shelter with no personal space.
Another man, who we have become friends with over the past few months, had just gotten out of prison. He told us stories of the injustices he faced over the past month or so. But it became clear that the worst was when he found out his girlfriend had been cheating on him while he was locked up. He was frustrated with where he is in life – homeless, jobless, criminal record, but his long-time girlfriend’s infidelity wrecked him the most.
When we face people in these kinds of situations, we aren’t naive (at least we try not to be). We hear a lot of “victim” stories. No one seems to take responsibility for why they ended up there. It’s always someone else fault. We know that, more realistically, it was probably a combination of bad circumstances and bad decisions. But we don’t feel the need to judge or critique the person for why they are in their current state. We feel called to love them as best we can, exactly where they are. The beauty of the cross of Christ is that He saves us in spite of our bad decisions, not because we make good ones.
We all have people in our lives who are suffering. Poverty isn’t just financial. It’s relational; it’s spiritual. So the next time you come face to face with suffering, I encourage you to engage it rather than avoid it. Ask questions. Listen. Pray for direction and that you’d know your role. Be ambassadors of Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5). And join us in prayer for Wilmington and the people who are suffering in it.