He executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, he lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves those who live justly. The LORD watches over the immigrant and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. -Psalm 146:7-9

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Common Ground Montgomery-Update February 4,2010

As long as I have been a Christian I have longed for one thing and that is too see the LORD. To really see Him work ....in the lives of others around me and in my own as well. I am so thankful for where we are as a family you have no idea. I would not change anything about this calling. The story below will give you just a taste of why....

A Unique Houseguest

A Week With Ms. 'Erma'

As you know it has gotten rather cold outside lately. Some weeks back a lady began to come by our building seeking some food from our pantry. Some of us began getting to know Mrs. ‘Erma’ as she made more and more visits to our facility and eventually our house. One night, I had the opportunity to take her ‘home’, which was a block away from my house. As we carried food into her house I realized she was living like many folks are living in our neighborhood… no electricity…. no running water….no source of heat… and sleeping on the floor of a dilapidated shack that some investor was using to get every dime out of while making no improvements. But this situation was different for another reason.

She clearly was suffering from mental illness. I told her in passing, ‘please don’t freeze out here… you know where I live… please come stay with us if you get too cold’. She assured me she didn’t need to do so, but thanked me. A week later my wife called me and said, “Ms. Erma is here, and she appears to think she is staying with us?’ (I kind of forgot to mention to my wife that I had made that offer! I have an amazing wife!).

The first night she began her stay with us, she would not sleep in our guest bed but on the floor in our guest room, and she would not eat the food my wife prepared or sit at our table, but rather she ate canned food we gave her from our building and sat in a chair beside the table while we ate. She clearly heard multiple voices and carried on various conversations at any given time. My two year-old and she really hit it off. He would put his hand on her leg and just watch her while she ‘conversed’. When she arose in the morning he would be the first to say, “Good mowerning Ms. Erma!” A week went by, and many VERY interesting things happened, but I began to realize that this situation was indefinite.

As we talked, I knew she was tormented by many things: voices, the streets, an unjust landlord, a community that only fed into her drug and alcohol addictions, and the absence of hope. She certainly didn’t need to be living in that shack, and we either needed to decide to ‘keep’ her, or find a better place that she could live with dignity and get help. Through some more conversations, I was finally able to get one of her daughters’ names and learned that she lived about an hour and a half from Montgomery. After some 411 calls, I found a working phone number. I called her daughter, and explained that her mother was staying with us, the condition she was in, and how she had been living. The daughter burst into tears. She, and her sister, had been looking for Mr. Erma for 2 years. They had even hired a private investigator and came up empty. The next morni ng Ms. Erma and I made the drive to reunite her with her daughters. They are now providing for her and getting her the help she needs.

As I have reflected on the significance of our week with Ms. Erma, I have had a few thoughts. First, it’s amazing what happens when you actually take the time to enter into the life of someone and learn their experience and from their perspective. It ‘messed’ me up that I had passed by her many times before and had failed to realize and acknowledge her dignity as one made ‘in the image of God’. I was too busy, had been too overwhelmed with con-men and women on our streets, and had heard too many manipulative lies from ‘junkies’ to be that affected. It’s easy for me to get to the place where I justify feeling nothing and doing nothing because of the complicated landscape of the plight of the ‘poor’. We have all been there. We all know that God requires mercy and justice from us, and yet, we don’t know how to discern when and who to help. We usua lly end up helping nobody. I know that can’t be right. Another thought came to my mind also.

I thought of the previous and current competing ‘voices’ that I hear all day long. The voice within me that tells me that I want the ‘American dream’, that I ‘need’ more stuff, that it’s my right to keep pursuing an upwardly mobile and consumeristic lifestyle, That I will REALLY be happy if I pursue my lusts and greed. The voices outside are screaming at me as well: commercials, TV shows, radio stations, celebrities, artists, politicians and friends are all telling me constantly what I need and want. What is scary is that many in the church are propagating either blatantly or by example that it is o.k. to live like the world, as long as you ‘accept’ Jesus.

I am convinced of one thing though, we REALLY need one another to continually hold up the REAL hope and TRUTH of the GOSPEL and continually remind us to hear the one true Voice that sets us free from all the other voices. Bottom line, I NEED you, and you NEED me and others to ‘encourage one another daily so that we will not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin’ (Hebrews 3:13). May God continue to use us together in word and example to live in ways that transform our lives, the lives of others, and our city!

Bryan Kelly
Founder -Common Ground Montgomery