A Morning Call report, on a 5-year study from a Washington think tank, revealed that in our zip code, 18102:
- over half of our neighbors, age 16 and above, have not been employed for at least the past 5 years.
- the percentage of our neighbors without a high school degree was 31% during this same five years.
- the poverty rate was 37%, or 23% higher than the state average.
- as a community, we earned a 97.6 distress score on the report’s 0-100 scale.
This means that over half of the adults in our neighborhood live in great poverty and close to half failed to graduate from high school. Being only under educated and not blind, they see this harsh reality daily in 6 out of every 10 of their neighbors. Hopelessness is therefore pervasive, successful role models are scarce, and to survive far too many believe that they must become involved in marginal activities and dangerous relationships. Physical & mental illness, drug & alcohol addiction, criminal records, and sexual immorality are all accepted as the norm here and the few that can escape this reality do so, and never look back.
Over 200 of these children and their families attended our back to school cook-out and received a new book bag and school supplies; new school uniform shirts, blouses, sweaters and shoes for those we had sizes for; groceries for their families; and pampers for their siblings, grandparents and incontinent relatives. Everything was provided and distributed by churches, businesses, families and others who support us. Few sights can compare with that of seeing joy and gratitude take hold of a child whose life is firmly in the grips of poverty. Most of these children have been forged in the heat of generations of the poorest of the poor. Their non-future has been firmly burnt into their hearts and minds repeatedly. The limited provisions we give them only allows us a limited window to initiate change in their lives, which to many seems an impossible task. We are waging battles requiring David like faith against Goliath like enemies, and often the victory is only a momentary hope, a temporary solution. In Seminary, when I was going through my ordination process, I was sent to Princeton University for several days of intensive, comprehensive testing to evaluate my fitness to be ordained a pastor. The professionals who tested me were amazed that I consistently tested in an above average range. Based on their expertise someone coming from such a background as I did should have essentially stopped developing in these areas in my “lost years”. No way should I be achieving the results they were witnessing or functioning at such a high social level. Such a David meets Goliath result is a vision we have for everyone we minister to at Jerusalem House Ministries.
As you know, 2000 years ago God gave the foolish, weak and despised ones of the world the ability to change their lives through faith in His son, Jesus Christ. Baptized by His Spirit into newness of life, they were added to the body of Christ, and in faith began a continuous devotion to a set of daily spiritual practices.
Acts 2:41–45 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
Continuous devotion to God’s Word, church fellowship, Christ centered worship, prayer, giving & sharing with the needy, and good works, were initiated by God as divine measures to impact the lives of the marginal of that day. Today, people caught in poverty often fail to see merit in such disciplines. That is unfortunate because God used these disciplines to change my own and other lives from impoverished and marginal backgrounds. It took me many years to come to God and embrace His Way and during that time He used others to provide for my daily needs just as He uses Jerusalem House now to provide for others’ daily needs. When I was ready for change, He used a local Church to take me to the next level of practicing these disciplines and today He uses the Church at Jerusalem House to take our neighbors to that next level.
The coming “holiday season” is a strategic time to make sure steps are taken and that necessities for life and dignity are met. Feeling that you have nothing to give thanks for at Thanksgiving or being unable to “give your children Christmas” in the way society heavily promotes it can make this season very depressing. No one wants to hear much about a constant devotion to spiritual disciplines now, they want the joy and blessings of the season. Even more so when you’ve struggled with the burdens of poverty all year long. It’s very hard to resist the holiday hype even when you know that this is not what the season is all about; except for the children. So, we simply gather food, gifts and anything we can think of that will help us share Thanksgiving and celebrate Jesus’ birth with those who can’t without us. We hope to give away turkeys with the sides to at least 200 families at our Thanksgiving service on November 23, between 1:00 and 3:00. On December 22, between 1:00 and 3:00, we want to celebrate Christ’s birth by giving hams, side dishes and gifts to these same families, especially the children. While toys and holidays are a necessity for children:-) so are seasonal necessities such as heavy clothing, bedding, space heaters, winter coats, hats, gloves, and thermal underwear. If you’d rather we do the shopping, we welcome gift cards, checks, or cash.
We can do none of these things if we can’t continue to pay our bills, so please pray about your best end of year financial gift as well as your 2017 pledge. Beyond that, we’d like to more effectively share our ministry with you next year by hosting a banquet where you can meet some of our neighbors this ministry benefits, meet other supporters, ask questions, share ideas, break bread, hear a quest speaker, introduce a friend or family member to the ministry, and praise God together for all He does for and through us. It’s still just a thought but if you have some ideas let us know. You’re at the center of our joy and thanksgiving, throughout the year, and as always we’re praying that you and your loved ones have a blessed and merry holiday season. It’s such a blessing knowing that together with you, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
Dan, Peaches, Michal
And the Jerusalem House Family