Friday, February 10, 2012

Mission Summit 2: Big Tent, When Helping Hurts, Family Promise

Last Saturday, Marilyn and I, attended my presbytery's Mission Summit 2. Thanks to Pam who shared the information. Besides Pam and Biff, Jon from my church missions team was also there. (Full disclosure: Pam and Jon co-chair Missions. I'm a member of the team. I took a leave of absence last couple of years to serve as a deacon. This year, I'm yet to attend Missions meetings even though my deacon term has officially ended.)

The first session, and Jon was with me at this, led by Tom Dykhuizen, introduced a social network tool for volunteers and groups: Big Tent. I could immediately see the potential for our care and connection ministry, although Tom was introducing it for missions groups in churches. I thought, our deacon ministry could use this tool to empower the deacons. So many deacons love their Ipads, Iphones, social networks, and we don't have a tool that facilitates deacon sharing of information. I created a group for our church deacons and later that same day, I invited our Senior Pastor, the Volunteer Community Care Coordinator and the Deacon Moderator to check it out for themselves. The Senior Pastor at my church has a truly pastoral heart; even as I sent him the invite I was thinking, I shouldn't have to do this top-down, the senior pastor cannot, should not be involved at this level of detail, when he has so much more meaningful work to do.  It would be lovely to have this percolate bottom-up from deacons, with the deacon leadership supporting, encouraging, facilitating. Most encouragingly, my pastor responded to the invite to test Big Tent and had joined the group early Sunday morning, even before I had woken up! I have yet to get a response to the other two invites.

The second session, led by Tom Cramer, was a discussion group based on a book, When Helping Hurts: How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...And Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  Tom had a handout with fantastic questions and reflections to guide our discussion. It was outstanding. I highly recommend deacons and missions teams spend some time on this handout and have Tom facilitate, if at all possible, and also read the book. Marilyn, who was with me at this session, bought the book for us to share. I am reading it first, now, and have already had two fabulous conversations about the book. The first conversation was with my dentist. A long but also totally unexpected chat. I've promised to give him a copy of the book to read. It was absolutely unexpected because one minute we were talking about taking care of the poor without hurting them or ourselves. The next minute we were talking about our faith. He was asking me questions about my faith and I was sharing intimate answers that I normally find difficult to articulate even to my best friend! My dentist, whom I've had for a long time, was equally frank: "I don't share your faith's belief in what happens after we die," but the problems of poverty in this life bug him. Especially the illegal immigration problem. As he put it, we need their labor but we've got to find a way to treat them right, we must be just. WOW!!!!  If you haven't yet read the book, check it out: When Helping Hurts. Want to know more about the book? Call or ask me next time we meet. We'll talk irt or f2f.

The third session was on Family Promise led by Bernie Jeltema who is stepping off, and Melody Moseley, who is taking his place as the leader. Pam, Biff, and I were at the same session, Marilyn having attended it earlier. Already an established nation-wide organization, Family Promise, is "not so much a shelter as it is a housing program" for families who've lost their homes. They were just getting ready to open their doors, on Monday, Feb. 6, in Orange County. We learned that Family Promise OC has a day care center, a First United Methodist Church donated facility. Using the model that has worked nationally, they have lined up a number of host churches. Host churches will provide shelter during the night; each church hosts families for a week. Supporting churches help with other details. I can't remember if the host or the supporting church bring in the meals (dinner and breakfast). Somebody from the church has to stay overnight with the families. Family Promise has a van in which they will bring the families each day to the church and take them back to the day care center (6 pm and 7 am). The size of the van currently determines the number of people they can house - 14. If I remember right, the families will shower in the day care center. Family Promise is selective. They will only accept families who have no history of substance abuse. They do a criminal background check before accepting a family to ensure there is no criminal record. Also, they work with other social service agencies to get the family back into a home of their own. Families have to declare their income and 80% is held back by FP and given back at move-out so they have first and last month rent. Each family gets a case worker assigned to them and the case worker usually only has 4 families. Counseling is provided daily. The big advantage of  the Family Promise program is that they keep families together during this crisis. The daycare is open for us to visit. Family Promise's old name was Interfaith Hospitality Network. I wonder if our church can become a host church for Family Promise OC. What do you think?

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