Mar8WedMarch 8, 2017
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting with the Director of Student Support Services and a social worker from within our Morton School District. My intention was two-fold. I wanted to hear how our SnackPac and Thanksgiving Basket ministry is being received from district families. I also wanted to learn about how the needs among Morton families is changing. It was a wonderful, and yet overwhelming, meeting. The needs within our community are growing rapidly!
At first glance, Morton is a very successful community. You can observe the affluence which exists by looking at brick homes, school athletic programs, and the variety of well-built church buildings and businesses in our community. Morton also has one of the highest educational systems in the state of Illinois and a very small percentage of students who drop-out of school. However, this does mean that Morton does not have needy families and needy students.
The growing needs in Morton exist among the “working poor.” These are the families who are struggling to pay their bills, even while working multiple jobs. According to a study from 2013, 47.5 million Americans fall into this category. This is the equivalent of 1 out of 3 working families. Often these families entered a cycle of poverty because of divorce, a health-related event, job loss, or inadequate financial training. As a result, the children involved often receive less than adequate emotional or educational support from their parents.
These families may live in a nice enough homes (and are therefore difficult to 'find' by only looking at the exterior facade). Yet, they barely have enough money to purchase groceries, clothing or hygiene items. Parents who carry this burden for long enough, often don’t know where to turn. If they have no church family, they can easily get caught up into unhealthy habits like alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, unhealthy sexual relationships, or even turn to strange spiritual sources (much like King Saul did in 1 Samuel 28). This desperate demographic is living in Morton – right in front of us – and the needs are multiplying. If you have a hard time believing this, I invite you to talk with a teacher, social worker or local food bank volunteer.
Our SnackPac ministry and Thanksgiving Basket ministry, I’m happy to report, is ministering to this growing demographic! Thank you for making these a priority over the years. However, these projects only begin to skim the surface. Food is only one area of need. Currently, our school social workers are scrambling to react to individual situations, and have no time or resources to address the underlying issues before they turn into crises. I’m hoping to learn more about this, and pray about possible solutions in the months to come.
But how does all of this relate to church-wide focus on prayer? When Jesus told his disciples to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), he was challenging them to continue to expand their sphere of relationships to include impoverished people who had great need! This missional challenge exists for us as well!
I invite you to ask the Lord to open your eyes to the needs around you, and lead you into new relationships – beyond our religious comfort zone. In our surrounding community, there are many people who need a caring individual to walk beside them. May the Lord continue to open doors in order for us to be His witnesses among people with the greatest need.