I had a boss back in my first career in the insurance business whose favorite saying was, “I love it when a plan comes together.” It’s a good saying, and one I can relate to these days. In the column I wrote addressing the homeless issue that appeared here on May 9, I challenged the faith community in the Tooele Valley to get involved and help. The response was positive, and a plan is coming together. This grassroots plan to help those in need reflects how Jesus taught.
When the time came to minister to the needy crowd around him, Jesus told his followers, “You give them something to eat.” It is significant that Jesus did not petition the Roman government to get involved. Nor did he demand that the crowd “buck up” and help themselves. By the way, nowhere in the Bible will you find it said, “God helps those who help themselves.” That proverb goes back to ancient Greece and has been restated numerous times by the likes of the English political theorist, Algernon Sydney and Benjamin Franklin.
The actual biblical principle we see over and over is how Jesus and his followers minister to the spiritual and physical needs of those around them. Jesus was very clear on this. He even goes so far as to say in Matthew 25:40 that when we help the least of his brothers and sisters, we’re actually helping him. So, in the Kingdom of God, the people of God help one another. They help even those who hold to a different faith or no faith at all.
If the parable of the Good Samaritan tells us anything, it tells us that we are to help even strangers and those who may not believe the same way we do. If you don’t know this story, look it up. It’s in Luke 10:30-37. Traditionally, Jews and Samaritans did not get along. But here, a “Good Samaritan” comes to the rescue of a waylaid Jewish traveler in desperate need. This is a good example of how biblical love is not just a feeling, it’s an action.
We’re beginning to see this same kind of love in action as concerned citizens are coming together to address the homelessness issue in Tooele County. Early last week, I met with Tooele City Mayor Debbie Winn and she voiced her approval and support of like-minded folks at the grassroots level taking the initiative to tackle the challenge of homelessness. Later that week, leaders from four different faith communities and other interested individuals got together at Mountain of Faith to explore how we might begin to help. We have started to form a grassroots task force on homelessness.
There was a lot of good energy at this first meeting. We made good progress and recognized that our local group, especially as we continue to add to its ranks, has the potential to bring about positive change. At the task force’s first meeting, there was unanimous agreement that as Tooele Valley continues to grow, there will be an increasing need for homeless resources. We also recognized that at this point, we don’t really know exactly how large the homeless population is in the valley.
We noted how each person in attendance had a heart for helping, and how each of us had at least some connection to others who were involved in assisting the homeless. It became very clear, very fast how complex this issue is. It was decided one of our first tasks will be to identify which governmental agencies and non-profits are already involved and to what extent. We don’t want to duplicate what someone else is already up to. But, when a gap is identified, we want to be in a position to fill it.
To that end, we have determined we need to interact with entities and agencies involved in helping the homeless and begin to learn what does and does not work — what makes things better and what makes things worse. Good intentions are not enough. We want to be sure our efforts have the best possible chance to bring about positive change.
While we have made a good beginning, I want to take this opportunity to again invite those in the community who have a heart for helping to join us in this effort. To be truly effective, the task force needs more participants. We scheduled our next meeting for Aug. 20, 2019, at 7 p.m. at Mountain of Faith Lutheran Church, 560 S. Main Street in Tooele.
The words “You give them something to eat,” have meaning for us as followers of Christ. We trust that he will multiply what we might consider meager gifts and talents to benefit many. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will be happy to give you details of our next task force meeting. All who have a heart for helping our brothers and sisters in Christ are welcome.
Rick Ehrheart is pastor of Mountain of Faith Lutheran Church in Tooele.