Is hope tangible?
I’m encouraged that area churches now are planning to make it so, as preparations get underway for a Convoy of Hope outreach to needy families in Kootenai County.
Church and community leaders met this week in Coeur d’Alene to begin laying the groundwork for a “poverty-free day” in Coeur d’Alene next summer.
It’s hoped that thousands of “guests” will be encouraged in practical ways by receiving meals, groceries, haircuts, health services, family portraits and employment leads via a job fair – free of charge. All of that will happen on one day, in one location, both yet to be announced.
What encourages me about this effort is that it necessitates tearing down parochial walls that often keep Christians from serving their communities together. Yes, doctrinal differences matter, but they need not always keep us from partnering to more broadly express the grace and love of Jesus Christ to our neighbors.
Jesus said “the poor you will have with you always” (New King James Version, John 12:8). That means there always will be opportunity to serve those in need with our time, money, skills and personal presence. Helping the poor is not merely an opportunity for certain churches with a social justice bent, nor is it primarily the task of government.
To the contrary, human need is something Christ puts in front of every one of His followers, so that we might learn to hold on loosely to the time, treasure and talent he has blessed us with. We are not so much owners of these things but stewards of God-given resources.
Our challenge is to be ready – and cheerful – when God wants to move his stuff around.
God also uses our own seasons of need to humble us so that we depend on him and gratefully receive help from those he sends our way. Such help is not an entitlement but something to accept with thanksgiving.
The idea pitched at Coeur d’Alene’s Kroc Center this week is simple but big: rally the county’s churches, social and health service providers, and businesses to fight poverty together. Similar one-day outreaches in cities throughout the U.S. have helped create bonds among such groups so they can better help the needy long term.
“This is not a hit-and-run, one-day compassion exercise so we can feel good about ourselves,” said Darwin Boston, Convoy of Hope’s outreach director. “This is a catalyst to … lock arms and come together and make a lasting impact in the community.”
I’m praying that part of the lasting impact will relate to the deeper hope that comes to people by knowing Jesus Christ as savior. The certainty of forgiven sin, right standing with God, and adoption into his family is an eternal hope. It is also free.
Happily, volunteers who serve at next year’s outreach will be able to share the good news about Jesus Christ with the guests who come for help. A connections center will be at the site, staffed with volunteers who will pray with and minister to anyone open to discussing spiritual needs.
“Eighty percent of our guests will say ‘yes’ to prayer,” Boston said. “We’re very casual about that. We just want God to do his work.”
The poverty-free day planned in Coeur d’Alene is part of a multiyear tour by Convoy of Hope to all 50 states. At stops in each state, an average of $1 million worth of goods and services are provided in a single day. Each outreach includes live entertainment and activities for children in a carnival-like atmosphere.
Based in Springfield, Mo., Convoy of Hope was founded in 1994 and has become a global movement where Christian churches, businesses, government agencies and other organizations join forces to carry out feeding initiatives, community outreaches and disaster response.
For more information, go to Day of Hope North Idaho on Facebook or northidaho.convoyofhope.org, or call Deb Ayers at (208) 676-0632 to volunteer to help.