An Encouraging Letter from the North Country
Henry Lingley shares the positive beginnings of collaboration
March is here, that means it's almost Spring! We pray monthly but this next prayer meeting we have plenty to pray about because of what transpired last time.
I apologize that this is a lengthy communication. I know everyone's time is valuable and demands on it are many, but a great deal took place at the last meeting. I would encourage you to resist the temptation to skim (I assume I'm not the only one to wrestle with that temptation!) and to carefully consider what follows.
We had talked in previous meetings about how we might support our first responder community and decided to extend some invitations, which Jerry Blanchard and Jeff Winn did.
We were joined by Littleton Police Chief, Bethlehem Police Chief, Littleton Fire Chief, Littleton Police Administrative Assistant, and the Community Health Worker/Recovery Coach Lead with the North Country Health Consortium (NCHC).
We had an excellent, productive, and substantive discussion of some ways that our churches can come alongside local health and emergency workers to support and encourage them while helping to meet some critical human needs in our communities. At the same time, we have a continuing commission from the Lord to provide resources that only the body of Christ can offer, such as access to the gospel, accompanied by the unconditional love and grace of God expressed through His people.
We asked these people to come and tell us if there were any ways that our churches can help and the answer was a resounding "YES!" Now the ball is in our court, and it is incumbent upon us to diligently seek the Lord for practical ways to respond and be personally involved in demonstrating the compassion of Christ. As always, the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
A lot of the discussion centered around the multi-faceted consequences of something we have already acknowledged: the systemic breakdown of our culture. A great deal of that breakdown revolves around the drug crisis and the collateral damage it spawns that is tearing apart our communities. The major topics we touched on were:
· Transitional housing for people making their way back from all kinds of difficult life situations. This is an overwhelming acute and chronic need and all efforts we can make to help meet it will be invaluable to those in crisis.
· The need for increased awareness of all available resources that can assist people in crisis. Many churches are lacking this information, a correctable problem, which I am currently tasked with addressing in my position with the Good Samaritan Network. I'll keep you posted! Jennifer Goulet from the NCHC emailed me a very comprehensive resource list that they have compiled.
· Ways that Christians can be more directly involved in assisting people coming out of addictions, including availability of some training options. One thing often overlooked is that many need help developing basic life skills: managing finances, applying for (and keeping) a job, building healthy relationships, etc. Many ordinary people can pass on life skills that they take for granted but that are a mystery to lots of others in the North Country; the church can help here!
· The fact that the problems being faced are greater than all available resources, so everyone involved is overwhelmed, doing their very best, and receptive to the offer for help. However, uninformed "help", though well-intended, can do more harm than good. There is a need for instruction and training here.
· The simple (but hugely important) things that can be done to love our neighbors in need, such as driving people to doctor's appointments, court appearances, shoveling a walk, etc. Our fire and police personnel often end up taking care of some of these everyday tasks as Chief Mercieri pointed out, and are happy to do so. However, he also noted that these same people live in the neighborhoods of our church people, rightly implying (whether intentionally or not) that we can do better at living out the 2nd greatest commandment. As Tim Carignan made us aware recently, Caleb Caregivers is one avenue of this kind of support through which people can volunteer their time: http://www.calebcaregivers.org/
Jesus announced in Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." Lk. 4:18-19
In light of the fact that we have the same anointing and mandate as Jesus did, and given that there are such desperate needs all around us, some of which were voiced in the meeting, I think it's appropriate to ask, "What would Jesus do?" We can explore that more as we move forward.
Following the meeting, I sent a thank you on behalf of the NCELF to each of our guests who joined in the discussion. Jennifer Goulet, from the NCHC responded to my thank you; one of the things she said was:
"It was one of the best meetings that I have attended in a long time, it was a room filled with people that want to make a difference in the lives of others and in the community. Thank you for allowing me to participate, I gained a lot from being there!"
I believe the Lord is giving us an unusual window of opportunity to demonstrate the care and compassion of Christ that Jennifer sensed among the Christians in the meeting. Now we need God's wisdom to discern the way forward in walking that out together.
Thanks for reading,