Hope Begins with You

HOPE South FloridaDo you ever find yourself wanting to help the homeless, but wrestling with the best way to do so? You ask yourself if the handful of change or crumpled bills you extend from your car window will be helpful or harmful. You fight feelings of fear and uncertainty when contemplating a conversation with the unkempt man on the street corner. And, with so many homeless in our community, you ask yourself if your efforts will even make a dent in helping to solve the problem. If you’ve ever found yourself asking similar questions, the good news is that hope begins with you!

The role of the city
The scriptures remind us that God’s first city, Eden, as well as all cities, are designed to provide safety and refuge for people. The weak, the oppressed and the outcast can all be better cared for in cities. Cities are places where resources of healing are the strongest.

However, looking around our city of Fort Lauderdale, we quickly see that things are not the way they were created to be. God’s good design for cities has been twisted – the weak are weakened further, the oppressed are further marginalized and the outcasts are forgotten.

As Christians, we were divinely designed to bring healing, compassion, mercy and justice to our surroundings. Looking to the undeserved grace provided to us by the cross, we find the motivation and call to put our faith into action and serve those around us. But how do we serve the homeless without enabling them? How do we avoid having our helping turn into hurting?

Tom Hendrix, Pastor of HOPE South Florida partner Rio Vista Community Church puts it this way: “It’s time that each one of us [Christians] reach into our storehouses and release some generosity; that we might take that generosity and build hope for those in need. It’s a time thing, it’s a treasure thing, and it’s a talent thing. Everyday church members need to survey their lives, their resources, their experiences, their talents and lay them before the Lord, recognizing that he owns all of it; asking him: ‘How do you want to deploy me into this community as a part of the body of Christ to address the homeless issue”?

Part of previewing God’s kingdom on Earth, part of the gospel itself, means being willing to be taken advantage of – often multiple times – as you demonstrate mercy and healing to the homeless community.

Respect
Begin by treating every homeless person you encounter with respect. Remember that no two persons experiencing homelessness are the same and neither are their circumstances. Think of the homeless in your prayers as you seek God’s will and kingdom on Earth as it in Heaven.

Protect
Protect yourself – be cautious when talking to street people. Stay in areas where other people can see you. Remove yourself if there is any sign of hostility.

Give true help
Finally, do not give out cash. Rather, give tangible goods: a sandwich, beverage or article of clothing can be a tremendous blessing to someone who is homeless. Ultimately, encourage them to get help through respected homeless shelters or outreach programs. One of the best ways to help is to give the person a card to call 2-1-1’s Homeless Helpline: 954-563-HELP (4357), connecting them to available community resources.

Trust the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Find your thing, and do it.

As the holiday season rapidly descends upon us, there are a lot of exciting events and meaningful ways to participate in HOPE South Florida’s vision to provide hope to the hopeless and homes for the homeless in our community.

For more information, visit hopesouthflorida.org or call 954-566-2311.

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