What could united efforts accomplish?

Published 9:26 am Friday, January 20, 2012

Across the Pastor’s Desk

By the Rev. Tom Biatek, United Methodist Church

I hear the outside door of our church open and the shuffle of feet as someone comes in. At my office door stands a man who shyly peeks in. I invite him in and offer him a seat.

“What can I do to help you?” I ask.

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“Well pastor,” he starts. “It is like this… I need to get to Texas and I have no way to pay for the bus.”

If you hang around a church office long enough, you will discover that churches are often asked to help people in need. Some people come in looking for a little help like gas for the car or help with food for a meal. Some people need a little more help like a room for the night or a bus ticket back home.

Others need quite a bit of help like money to pay the heating bill or rent for the month. Still others have needs that far exceed what most churches can afford for aid. It is an overwhelming problem.

I cannot help but think that there is something that our Christian communities can do to address these small and great needs. Each of our community churches does what it can and we all do quite a bit but I wonder — what could we do if we worked together?

I know that Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists and Presbyterians have our differences in theology and polity, but we all have a common enemy in the suffering caused by poverty. While we may interpret the scriptures through the lenses of our separate traditions, I think that we all understand the words of Jesus in similar fashion when he says, “Even as you do to the least of these, you do for me.” Jesus spoke clear and often to his followers about the need to address suffering in our world.

What would the unified efforts of our local churches look like if we set aside our differences and adopted, as a common goal, the ending of poverty in our community? How much more could we accomplish if we combined our efforts and worked side by side?

What can our good local congregations do to find gainful employment for the unemployed and under-employed? What could we do together to find shelter for those that are homeless? How can we transition from providing the support that might get someone through one more day and instead strive to create a caring support that will change lives for the long term.

I know that we each do our part, and I do not underestimate the good efforts of each of our congregations, but something inside of me says that if we united to end poverty in Albert Lea and shared our resources toward our common goal we could go far.