Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Mission Church for the Homeless

First Covenant Church - Spokane, WA
A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

Leviticus 25:35
“‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, 
so he can continue to live among you.
Cover Photo

Those of you who follow my writing regularly know that I am part of an inner city church in down town Spokane that ministers primarily to the poor and homeless. We do a weekly meal and feed between 150 -200 people a hot meal of the quality of what we would feed our own families.

Most churches in America keep the doors open and the staff and pastors paid pretty much through taking offering on Sunday morning. Things don't work like that at my church. Sure we pass the plate but when 3/4th of the people in attendance are homeless or poor there is not much that comes in that way. So we have to do things like charge for parking lot during the week, try to rent our building to other groups. We have the Spokane Youth Symphony that rents our buildings on Monday's and Union Gospel Mission that rents it on Fridays. We sometimes have groups like the Gideon's who will use our gym for a special meeting.  We do things like, I am on staff but I don't get a pay check, I get paid in space. I have a studio that I use to teach guitar lessons out of. We are able to apply for some grants but being a church sometimes puts us in a disadvantage in regards to grant eligibility. We have rented sign space on our building and numerous other things just to keep our doors open.
So here's my question to you - Is our financial struggle a sign that God is not blessing this work to the down and out poor and homeless or is it a sign that the prosperous church doesn't care?

I've had people tell us we need to pray that God would send us financially healthy people. Here's the rub, financially healthy people for the most part don't want to sit next to smelly homeless people. They don't want to bring their children to a church that might be attended by a crazy person or a sex offender. Honestly I think one has to be called to minister in this environment. So this is not a guilt trip to make you feel bad about attending "normal" church. My intention is to raise awareness to the needs of inner city churches like my own. You don't have to go to an inner city church to help support it so that homeless and poor people can have a place to call their church home.

We run in to a lot of groups who will come down and do a once a year or a quarterly outreach under the near by bridges. They rarely check with the local church's to see how their mission of mercy will affect others who are there all the time. Every week we buy food to serve about 150 folks but when these groups come in with no warning our numbers go way down. The other thing they don't realize is that the poor and homeless are terribly jaded. They will say the sinners prayer a thousand times if that's what it takes to get a meal and a warm jacket. It is only in being here that we have been able to build relationship with people and win their trust. It sometimes takes three to six months before some of these folks will open up and really share their story. Most of them have come from generations of poverty, mental illness, and addiction. There are so many of these folks who will come up to us and tell us they feel welcome and wanted at our church.

Many of these people have incredible faith. I have seen great generosity among this community.
We sometimes have blankets or backpacks to give away but not enough for everyone. So we will do games like "minute to win it" that allows them a chance to win something. Quite often the person who wins has enough blankets and will walk over and hand the blanket to someone they know who is camping out rather than staying in the shelters.

So here's my question does God 
want these people to have a church to go to?

If you said yes - the next question is do you care? And will you help?

We are looking for 40 people from outside of our church who will give $40 a month so homeless and poor people can have a church too. Heres a link to our web site If you could only give $10 or $20 a month that would help too. If you can give more or a larger one time gift it all adds up to making it possible for there to be a church for these people.

There are two places on our web site 
where you can give an online donation. 

1. If you want to support a church for the homeless and poor pull down the "About" tab an at the bottom you will find Tithes and Offerings and that will take you to a paypal donation page.

2. If you would like to help pay to feed the homeless a hot meal each week you would use the "Streetwise" tab and donate to Streetwise.

                                               Thanks, Margot 

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