Read: Deuteronomy 15:11
Camden, New Jersey. When you see the name of that city, what goes through your mind? I know for me, prior to working there I always would think of Camden as a city to fear, because violence, drugs, and poverty cover those streets. But little did I know my image of the city was not entirely correct.
I am a Division of Child Protection and Permanency case worker in Camden City. As I tell most people though my office is across from the police station, my job is on the streets of Camden, serving those who are violent, drug addicts and poor. And at the end of the day I may leave grateful I survived, but I mostly leave with a broken heart for the people of that city. And knowing that my God’s heart must break so much more for his people, only makes me desire to return the next day.
In my experience I have come to see the way some people live, in tent city, abandoned houses or under bridges, and had to remind myself I am still in America, and I am only a few miles down the road from my own home. My first case in my job was a family of five children and a single mother. And to be honest this mother made an accidental mistake, and did not abuse or neglect her children in any way. In fact, in my opinion she did everything possible to keep her kids thriving. Her home was on one of the worst alley’s in the city. Honestly, most people would hear this story and think, she must of made some bad decision that landed her there. But the truth is poverty is often not a choice. This woman was actually in a severely abusive relationship with her husband, and knew she had no other choice but to leave for the sake of her and her children’s lives. However she had absolutely nothing. She found out that she could go to school to become a nurse for free if she was a Camden resident, so with all of her children she had no choice but to live in a rundown home where she could afford rent. This family was by far one of the most respectful and positive families I have ever met. The second I stepped foot into their home, I knew God was calling me to utilize my position to shed some light into a dark situation. Through my job, we were able to provide uniforms for the kids for school, and beds so that each child had their own.
God doesn’t call us to ask the questions, or judge the circumstances that lead people to be poor. He only commands us to love the poor and give to them. As the verse indicates there will always be poor people in the land, and so we must be open handed toward them. Our job is not to think that we are better or more deserving than them. Because when it comes down to it we have what we have only because God has provided.
God is calling us all to stop judging the poor, or to not be fearful of them, and realize that they too are people who need to be cared for. And though I would not advise giving money to beggars, I would encourage offering to buy them a sandwich. Continuing to open handedly give generously will not just help another it will leave you feeling wealthier than ever.
Prayer and Worship: Listen to Leeland’s “Follow You”. And reflect on the words, and pray for God to show you where He wants you to follow Him.
Written by Sarah Johnson