The king said to Daniel, ‘May your God, whom you faithfully serve, deliver you!’

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Govn't still resting on the 7th day: A call to prayer

The Hebrew creation poem states that on the 7th day God rested; and it was good. 

But our government is not working after 7 days of nothing, and for millions of Americans that's bad. If you aren't concerned about that for yourself, you should be for the millions of people who can't eat, sleep, or work because of it.
My wife Ashley works for the WIC Clinic, a government program that gives vouchers to Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to purchase HEALTHY foods in the grocery store. Next trip to the grocery store, keep your eye out for little tabs like this one- they will be where you find bread, fruit, milk, and beans.
The purpose of WIC is to ensure that the most vulnerable people in our society (the children) get the nutrition they need. It works like gangbusters for the people who need it. The women, babies, and children get the food they need to function and stay happy and healthy members of society. Whenever I talk to someone about what my wife does, I almost always get push-back from the person I talk to about how government programs get abused.
In speaking with a church member today on the subject (let's call him Jim), he told me a story of when he saw a woman over-flowing her cart with more milk than she can possibly drink. The story struck Jim as odd so he told it to someone else who told him that the WIC Clinic gives out vouchers to buy milk. He and I assumed that she took the milk and sold it for cash. Now we can assume all kinds of things about what she did with the cash, but more often than not she went to great lengths to sell the milk at a discount because she really needed the money to keep the lights on, or pay the rent, or pay for child care so she could work.

Whenever we talk about government aid agencies, it seems like the conversation always turns to abuse of the system. I think this is for two reasons: (1) many of us have few encounters with government assistance, so our limited ones stand out to us. This is the one that Jim fits in- someone else explained to him what he saw. And (2) we stand to benefit from assuming that abuse is pervasive. The more abuse, the more we can justify defunding. The more abuse, the more we can otherize those receiving aid.

 Look- I work at a church- I've been scammed plenty of times. But by pregnant women? Not mostly. By babies and children? I wish.                

I've got a saying that I hope you can remember-

The Plural of Anecdote is Not Data

A story of abuse does not mean most people are abusing, just the opposite. It wouldn't be a good story if it was normative. Social programs being shut down is the story.

Most of us reading this will never know poverty. We will never get our power shut off or our children taken away for negligence. We will never consider using the services of WIC, or food-stamps, or government assistance because we can do better.

These aren't posh services- they are bare-bones care.

And right now, they are not there. Since I started writing until now, I received a phone call from my wife saying that there are only enough vouchers until the end of the day. She told me this to say that she will be home late in order to fill as many orders as they can, and that now her job is in jeopardy. But this isn't about her job- that is a secondary concern. You should be concerned, as they are, because they know what will happen if their mothers can't get food and formula: the children will go hungry. Maybe more moms will try to breastfeed. But, please, for the ones who can't- pray for them. For them, formula is impossibly expensive. For them as of 5pm today, their support in the WIC program is offline...

Two days ago our church participated in a Poverty Simulation. I played the role of a 21 year old who should be thinking about college. But my character had to drop out and beg for a job to keep the family afloat.
 It sounds ridiculous, but even me, a Pastor, finally learned that poverty doesn't end with the homeless and the jobless. The working poor represents millions in our society, and they need our help. 
They work through the Sabbath just to make ends meet. They work the jobs we would never, and they live lives that we can't imagine. Pray for them.
My church is full of prayer warriors. One woman I visit, Martha, despite her own health issues, always asks me to pray for the children in the world. This time I'm taking Martha's advice. Prayer is free. Prayer is powerful.  We are called to pray. Pray for the babies. Pray for moms and moms-to-be. Pray for health and safety of those most oppressed. Pray for compassion. Pray for school children. Pray for leadership. Pray that God looks down on creation and says, "It is good."

 The sad truth is, millions of people are suffering needlessly. I find it ironic, however, that if the government shuts down for more than a month and my wife gets furloughed, even we would qualify for government assistance. Not that there would be anyone there to grant it...

Join me in prayer this day.