Hey church! This past Sunday we lifted up an urgent need from The Nehemiah Mission of Greater Cleveland for blankets, pillows, and other personal items as well as the big ask for a new dryer. All of this is needed because Nehemiah is one of the locations where the Afghan refugees are being placed. Presently 21 families are staying at the mission, one of which is an expected mother, and many who have young children. Additionally, African refugee's whom are all high school and younger come to the mission every week for food, fellowship, and life skills training with their Girls on the Run and Corner 65 program. I'm pleased to say that just like how you all showed up for the last collection we did for Nehemiah - you all have come through in a big way so far. Six people have volunteered funds to help pay for the dryer and almost a dozen of you have come forward offering to buy sheets, pillows, and "anything else that is needed." I am so deeply moved by your kindness and warm hearts.
That got me thinking about how stewardship is dignity and how one of the best gifts we can give someone is the power of dignity. I'll share a little more on that below but for now let's set the stage with some scripture.
Scripture to Read
This reading from 1 John echoes much of what is said in the Hebrew laws of the Old Testament regarding the stranger and those in need as well as teachings of Jesus in the Gospel account of Matthew and throughout the epistles. It goes without saying that the caretaking of the poor is one of the critical commandments of not just the Christian experience but of the legacy of God through all monotheistic faith groups.
One of the things I've learned from Jonathon Gray, CEO of Trials for Hope, a homeless relief ministry based out of Cleveland, is the importance of dignity items for those most in need. Jonathon explains that many homeless would prefer to go hungry for a day than to miss the chance to bath or put on deodorant. There is a lot of shame in recognizing that people see you as dirty, or your hair is greasy, or they don't want to sit near you because you smell. This is especially important as current welfare options mostly only cover the cost of food items while certain dignity (and health items, such as feminine products) must be skipped.
I share this because the work we've contributed to Nehemiah thus far has given children and adults dignity. They have their own shoes now. They have their own blankets. Their own pillows. They can say that they own something here in this foreign place. I like to imagine that in a decade from now when these individuals are planting their roots in this great country that they will still keep those shoes or blankets or pillows in a closet as a reminder of the first thing that was officially there's during a scary time. They came to discover God's love for them not through a sermon but through the actions of a church that they may never even see. I'm so proud of the work you have done so far, church, and look forward to walking with you in the ways you will provide dignity and life to individuals in 2022.
Questions to Consider
What is the very first thing that you ever "owned" by purchasing or earning?
How effective do you rate our current systems of welfare for our most vulnerable? Who do you think is left behind? Where could we improve?
What does dignity mean to you? Why would you define that?
Praying through Praise
This may not be a traditional praise song but I do find it fitting within the Christian experience. This video asks people "why they would define dignity" and mixes a hip hop song with it. It premiered at the 2011 Dignity Day Forum in Helsinki, Finland. I think it's perfect for today and I hope you enjoy :)