Since coming back from the Race, I’ve had a desire to lead a mission trip and thought that I would eventually squad lead a World Race trip after college. I also knew that I wanted to lead a trip for Gordon before I left, but other priorities have put that off until now. When I decided to lead the New York City mission trip, I came in with a desire to help my peers have a life changing experience. I also wanted to learn about how New York City Relief operates and how that information could help with my future dreams.
I’ve had a desire to work with the homeless community since I was a teenager. Feeling a desire to help alleviate the pain and hardship of living below the poverty line has given me a few different ideas over the years. Yet, over the past few years, and developing during my time on the Race, my dreams have become something greater than I think are possible – at least for myself to accomplish. There are many connections and processes that need to be overcome through many years before I can really see this dream become a reality. I have much learning to do and many policies and theories to understand. Though I still don’t know what my role is supposed to be in bringing the kingdom of God to the lost, I know that God has given me a vision of what can be and I must work toward making that goal a reality.
NYCR has a great vision for their ministry. It’s the details that help to shape their ministry and focus. They put a great emphasis on identity of the people that they serve. The homeless and poverty stricken are not referred to as such, but are referred to as friends. These people are just that – people. Describing someone with a qualifier like “homeless” or “poor” creates an identifier and sets them apart from the rest of society. A homeless person should not be viewed and identified as homeless, but as a person who happens to be homeless – focusing on the person and not their situation. These friends need to be viewed as a vital part of society and reconciled into the family of God.
Their main focus is the mission of fixing people’s broken relationships. They believe that it is a person’s relationship between God and himself that needs to be reconciled before the rest of their life can be shaped back into order. Yet, there are many other relationships that need to reconciled and formed to help encourage a connection with God. Therefore, they focus on other aspects of the person’s life. As their name suggests, the most visible work that they do is relief. By providing soup, bread, and drink, they are helping to relieve hunger. Providing socks and hygiene kits helps to bring a level of comfort that is lost due to poverty. Prayer is always offered and helps to relieve a lack of spiritual connection. Conversation with our new friends helps to relieve those lost and broken relationships that are most hurtful of all.
A secondary and very important focus of NYCR is the rehabilitation and development of our friends on the street. The outreach leaders are constantly trying to get friends connected to the help they need to get out of the situation they are in. With many connections to private shelters, drug rehabilitation centers and programs, and other organizations, NYCR leaders can provide a level of help that goes beyond just the relief of a person’s circumstances. They can help a person overcome addiction, make connections with jobs, and apply for housing.
Despite all the help they can provide, there is a mentality that continues in the minds of those who are stricken by poverty that prevents them from taking advantage of all that is offered. There is no hope for the future and many people simply continue in their current situation with no plans of getting out. One of our outreach leaders, Lauren, noted that one our friends made the comment that they were grateful for all the work that we’re doing and hope they will see us again next year. Lauren’s grief was that this person had no plans for the future of making a better life for himself, but that they planned to be in the same situation, continuing to live a life that relied on the support and relief from others.
This is the heartbreaking reality of many people’s philosophy of life. They don’t think there is any hope and that their lives will remain the same. They are stuck in a mentality that prevents them from overcoming their circumstance and becoming more than what they are now. So my question is: How do we change the mentality of those who are stuck in poverty?
From homelessness, drug addiction, or just being stuck in poverty – there seems to be a commonality with the mentality of people who don’t desire to get out of their situation that makes life difficult and below what we consider normal. How do we change the desires of others to be better than they are now? Or should we? Is it right to force our ideals of “normal” living onto others and expect them to live a certain way? These are the questions I have and I hope to hear from you because it is through intelligent discussion that we become more and better than what we are now.
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