Dear Church Family,
Today’s scripture is from Psalm 82:

“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?’ Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.” (verses 1-3)

The number of people I meet at our church’s Garden Door are too many to count. I don’t mean Sundays when you and I might see one another heading to or from worship. I mean on the weekdays: morning, noon and night folks arrive, press the buzzer, and ask to speak with a pastor. These exchanges have included everything from the gentleman who needed a bus ticket to Louisiana to the young woman (really just a girl) who needed diapers and formula for her newborn. Sometimes we can meet the need. Many times we cannot. Whether we meet the need or not one thing holds true for each and every experience: I turn from that Garden Door knowing all the church provided was a band aid.

We want to change that. Your Session has been reading the book Toxic Charity which looks at the pitfalls in how we currently do mission and charity work at home and in the world. For example, the author Robert Lupton reminds his readers that “almost 90 percent of American adults are involved personally or financially in the charity industry” and yet, “for all our efforts to eliminate poverty—our entitlements, our programs, our charities—we have succeeded only in creating a permanent underclass, dismantling their family structures, and eroding their ethic of work (pages 2, 3). Your Session has set itself the goal of doing mission work differently. We want to find local folks who are already leaders in their neighborhoods and find out what they need to build themselves up. We want to take the psalm’s words seriously that we will “give justice to the weak and…maintain the right of the lowly.” But not with hand outs, with systemic change for their neighborhood.

This will take time and it probably won’t be flashy but we want our church to be a place where lives are changed, not just covered with a band aid. I hope you got to read about Keley Simpson in this week’s First Focus. In our efforts toward this new way of mission we are blessed to be able to hire Keley who will be able to focus solely on developing relationships within and between communities. Her salary is being paid by a generous donation from an anonymous member.

I hope you are as thrilled as we are as we look toward a day when we will know our service and mission in Christ’s name has helped to build up our community; a time when our Garden Door will offer true blessing and not just a band aid.

Prayer: Lord, you tell me to be your hands and feet but the work often feels overwhelming and I don’t know if I am helping or hurting. Give me wisdom to know what you would wish to be done in your name. Give my church the knowledge it needs to serve the community of Fort Smith. In your name I pray. Amen.

Peace be with you,
Tasha