At HTD we have a ministry called Impact, which promotes our engagement in social justice.  It’s a great ministry and one of the things that it has got our church involved in is a Salvation Army men's shelter called The Anchorage.

On Monday night, Ellisa and I went along.  About once a month (I think) our church goes along to The Anchorage with some nice food and puts on a bit of a supper for the men who live there.  We hang out with them for a couple of hours playing poker, or watching tv, or just chatting while they eat.  It was a very eye opening experience.

I was struck by a few things.  Firstly the men in this shelter are not ‘normal’.  That is, it wasn’t a bunch of guys who had just had a bit of a bad run, it was a bunch of guys who mostly had mental issues from a past history of drug use and abuse.  Most of them had no idea of what reality was, and many of them would change their stories as they were telling them.  The idea that such a person should just toughen up and go get a job, as those on the Right of politics may say, just does not meet the reality of these people.  They are unemployable, they have ended up in the Men’s shelter for a reason.  But then again if it is the Right who propose simplistic go get a job solutions the Left’s typical solutions of education and money would do little as well I think.  No amount of money or education is going to help these men.

I think that this could be part of the reason that our society can’t deal with people like these men of The Anchorage.  Our great gods of progress and success are money and education and the self.  We either spend lots of money to fix our problems or we educate people to fix our problems.  Problem is in some cases people are uneducatable and unable to use money well and they are incapable of caring for themselves.  If all the guys in the Anchorage were made Millionaires tomorrow then I suggest they might actually be worse off than they already are.

So what do we do?  How do we deal with people like this?  When Jesus was on earth he said that there will always be poor people (Mat 26:11; Mark 14:7; John 12:8).  In Deuteronomy 15:11 it says something similar and tells us what to do about it, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward those of your people who are poor and needy in your land.”  I think as Christians then our aim is not to ‘Make Poverty History’, but rather it’s to be generous and open-handed towards the poor and needy in our world.  We are to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8), but I don’t think we need to put our hope in ending world poverty.

Having said that, there will be a time when no one is poor.  When no one has to suffer the effects of drug abuse and where everyone will love justice, kindness and walk humbly in the presences of the living God.  That time will come after judgement day when Jesus judges this world and recreates a new heaven and new earth.  There will be no crying or shame or poverty here.  Our hope is in Jesus’ return and our love for him compels us to care for the poor now; to alleviate their situations somewhat but not to hope in it’s eradication on this earth.  If you’re moved by poverty then you ought to pray that God would give you boldness to share his good news to everyone you encounter and pray hard that Jesus would return soon!  That’s what I’m gonna start doing.