by Lorraine Rothenburg, Pastor of Community Care
Years ago, I was in San Francisco for a conference with a friend. The highlight of our conference was what I was looking most forward to – where we would go for dinner. So many choices! We ended up at Max’s Opera Café, and I settled on a Rueben Sandwich. Let me tell you, this was not a just good sandwich. It was bliss. The meat was piled so high I could barely open my mouth wide enough to take a bite. I luxuriated in every little bit, and determined to extend the feast by setting half of it aside to be enjoyed the next day. As we left there that evening, Styrofoam container of leftovers in hand, we passed a man begging from his seat on an old milk crate on the sidewalk. With a quick glimpse I sized him up – it was clear by his appearance that he was in bad shape. Destitute. I quickly averted my eyes, remembering a piece of advice I had been given by a Denver resident while walking downtown there – “whatever you do, don’t look at the homeless people or beggars in the eye – just walk by.”
I wasn’t really sure why they told me that or what would happen if I looked, so in Denver, I didn’t look. And in lots of other places, I didn’t look. This time, though, I did. But I kept walking. About 20 feet. Then something inside me stirred, and much to my friend’s puzzlement and concern (and some of my own), I turned around and walked right up to this man. I didn’t offer him money, but asked if he was hungry. He was indeed. I offered him my prized Rueben, and he gladly took it and thanked me through his missing and dirty toothed smile. It was a beautiful smile. I was happy to bless him and to meet his need. It felt good. But I’ve learned something about myself and giving. The desire to do something for someone else simply because it makes me feel good can’t be the most compelling reason for doing it, tempting as that might be. Rather, the better reason is because each person I lock eyes with matters to God, and He means for me to be generous, to care for those in need and invest what I have into His Kingdom by being willing to give it away. He means for me to become the kind of person who can do this easily and with joy. I have a ways to go…
At Oak Hills, we wholeheartedly believe in the scriptural mandate to help those in need; those with homes and those without. One of the ways we do that is through our Benevolence Fund. This is a special fund dedicated to providing emergency assistance to those in dire need, both in our church and in our surrounding community. Emergencies such as housing, fresh food (the Food Bank provides non-perishables), gas and utilities. Perhaps it’s surprising to you that, while we live in such an affluent area, so many people would walk through our office doors, often (not always) with great humility and sometimes even embarrassment to have to ask for help. When you give to the Benevolence Fund, you bless all kinds of people. And thank you to those who have been faithfully giving to this small fund. It’s a fund we are meant to spend, and spend with great discernment and love.
I thought it would be good to tell you about some of the people in extreme need that we are helping:
The mother of two whose husband left her for another, “better” life. The family of four who found themselves without electricity thanks to an unexpected job lay-off and mountains of unpaid bills. The family who is facing foreclosure of their home and desperately need gas for their car so the father can go on job interviews. The woman on the brink of homelessness thanks to an injury that leaves her unable to work. These are people in our community. In fact, some are part of our church. You would never know they are in dire straits by looking at them. They may have been sitting next to you last Sunday. They have often been the one to help others and are horrified to now find themselves in the place of desperate need. They are teachers, social workers, contractors, salespeople.
With your help, we’re impacting our little corner of the world here in Folsom, California in good ways – meeting practical needs and providing emotional support and spiritual care. And I’m so thankful. Thankful that because of your generosity, when appropriate, I can say “yes” to those in walk into my office without hope and watch them leave more hopeful, even if it’s just a bit.
What else would we do? The Bible is clear about this. Acts 2:45 says the early church “selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”
Please consider touching these lives with your generosity when we receive a special offering (during our regular offering) on Sunday, October 10th in our services. This offering, intended to be “over and above” your regular giving, will hopefully enable us to help folks through the more difficult winter months. Simply write the check to Oak Hills Church and note “Benevolence” on the memo line.
As we share with others, we recognize in practical ways the sacredness of each person as one of God’s creatures. In so many ways, we’re all the same. Let us live with open eyes to see beauty in everyone and open hands to respond to their need.
Thank you for blessing others, and may you also be blessed.