Why do you do it? I’ve worked a job that serves those facing crisis for many years, and throughout those years, I have heard this question many times. “Jim, why help those who have made their own poor decisions and who have created their own suffering?”
I’ve been told that I’m enabler, that I’m not making a difference, that I need to let people suffer their own consequences. I have heard all of this from many, and at times, I’ve heard my own voice asking the same questions.
My short answer? There is no hope in abandoning our neighbors. There is nothing gained by turning my back on someone in a desperate situation, even if he or she got there by making poor, selfish or irresponsible decisions. If I turn my back, there is zero chance for change. Hopeless.
In my experience, many factors contribute to the crises our Pickens County neighbors face. Yes, some consequences stem from poor choices, but other consequences are the result of abuse and oppression, physical limitations, generational influence and living without strong guidance.
The cause, or the “how,” is important as we attempt to understand contributing factors and adjust individual and collective behavior to avoid producing negative consequences. But of greater value to me is the “why.” Why do we serve others in their time of need? I believe as individuals and as a community, we are designed to unite as the body of Christ and bear the failings of our neighbors, regardless of how or why they stumbled. We do this as our worship, as one voice singing together and bringing praise to God. How we accept others should reflect how God accepts us in our times of need. We come together as a community to praise God by building our neighbors up.
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we have all experienced crises. We have all walked through the valley of the shadow, separated from truth, love and God. But Jesus did not turn His back on our loss, our stubbornness or our misguided faith in ourselves. He stayed in God’s will and chose to sacrifice Himself for the truth of God’s love and His perfect plan of redemption. His grace bridged us back to God as an unearned, undeserved, freely-given gift.
So, as The Salvation Army of Pickens County, we practice a Cycle of HOPE. We receive our neighbors in crisis. We work to stabilize the immediate crisis and assess proper next steps for a collaborative service plan. We then connect our neighbor with other available resources transitioning into sustainable living. From that point, we begin bridging long-term support through local churches, support groups and other social support systems. Stabilize, Transition, Support: a Cycle of HOPE.
Having developed this strategy over years of experience, we believe this model follows best practices as a community platform. However, our hope is not within the model itself but within our “why.” Our hope is in God's love for us. Hope in the life-changing power found in our relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord. By praising God in one voice serving others, we demonstrate HOPE to our neighbors in the darkest of circumstances. And, as we practice serving others individually and collectively, we are filled with hope, joy and peace ourselves.
This is my testimony. It is not easy or pretty at times, but it is valuable. At The Salvation Army, we believe in the importance of individual choices and the accountability of those choices. We find great value in working together, as the body of Christ, to serve others. We want our “how” to remain within the industry’s best practices, but we also commit to our “why” as we respond to God’s grace given through His son Jesus Christ. In doing so, we endeavor to shine light into dark places and provide hope in hopeless circumstances, pointing others to Christ. Outcome measurements and Kingdom victories.