Hope in a Sea of Despair
I sat at the Lakefront in our community Sunday morning and looked out and thought to myself how overwhelmingly large Lake Michigan is. Have you ever been in a large body of water, looked around and could not see any land? Our earth is big, and it is in moments like this that you realize just how big the world is and how small you are.
Some days at the Center as I watch the women, men and children come into the Center I think to myself just how overwhelming the worlds problems are. See these days we have 50 to 60 people on average coming to eat a hot meal and get necessary clothing items and toiletries because they do not have a home of their own. These people have traveled more than 5,000 miles to arrive in Chicago and the journey has taken them through some treacherous terrain, corrupt cities, and near-death experiences to arrive here. They have walked through jungles, they have jumped on railroad cars, they have hitched rides with people, and they have done that with only the clothes on their backs, a few bags, and just enough rations to eat one meal a day.
It makes you wonder why someone would make such a journey.
The only answer I can come up with is that the living conditions of the location they are leaving are so overwhelmingly oppressive and difficult that they would be willing to endure such a journey with the hope that at the other end of the journey they would be better off, and their children would be better off.
We are celebrating 20 years of creating hope through our charitable purposes and it would seem interesting that in a world so great that we would be paramedics, so to speak, to receiving some of the 13,000 migrants that have landed in Chicago. Of all the cities, and people in our nation, of all the people, churches, and organizations in our city, we have become a beacon of hope at what seems to them to be the end of their journey. Unfortunately, it is not. In our city we are so unprepared for the influx that one police station photo (attached) shows some of the 120 migrants sleeping on the police station lobby floor. A recent report shared that only about 250 migrants have found permanent housing through Catholic Charities (the primary vendor to find housing and provide subsidies). These new neighbors (as our city is calling them) have no paperwork to work, no money to pay for essentials, are sleeping in temporary shelters when they finally get placed, and often these shelters are overcrowded, unclean, and they only eat 2 prepackaged meals a day at best. I just heard a woman share how she has rats getting into her belongings at one such shelter.
Similar to one who might find themselves drifting at sea with no land in site and wondering if there is any hope, I sometimes am challenged to ask the same question, but in a different way. Is what we are doing making a difference, while we are feeding 60 people a day a hot breakfast currently, there are thousands more who are not eating a hot meal today. When the flow of toiletries is being exhausted from our supply and more and more people show up at our door needing soap and deodorant, I wonder how we will ever be able to keep up with the demand. Like wise when we buy $300 worth of underwear in a week, ration it out to people and by the end of the week it is gone, we wonder how God might provide for the next week.
Then we have the moment when I walk into the room and see a few of the New Neighbors cleaning up after the meal, or helping to set up and prepare the meal, and I think yes this is good.
We have moments like this past Sunday when 3 people wanted to get baptized because of their God experience along the way. One couple shared how terrified they were as they crossed through the jungle and how one night in the dark and not being able to see where they were going, they almost lost their lives. The husband began to slip off a ledge and grabbed his wife’s arm. As he did so she too fell to her knees hoping to hang onto their children as well when they cried out to God and experienced God sustaining them. It is in moments like this as people reflect on how God sustained them that I realize yes what we do is good and necessary.
People need rest, they need hope, they need to receive love and acceptance, they need a place that feels like home, or at the very least a place that is not so unsafe to breathe.
Then there is the story of the man who showed up this past week with the stress and anxiety of having a special needs boy (about 11 years of age) who is acting out regularly. As he shared his pain, we listened, we prayed for him, and he witnessed a change in his son’s behavior this week which he credits to God helping him and his son. You can see the love of a father all over his facial expressions as he talks about his son and their needs.
Jesus said these words as captured in Matthew 25:35, 36a, 40b “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me… to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”
I think about this often when challenged with internal thoughts of doubt, discouragement, and despair and then I am reminded that it matters, that I am simply being asked to care for those right in front of me with whatever resources the Lord seems to provide us with in the moment. I am called to love. We are called to love.
And so, if you have made it this far in the blog post or E-blast I need to ask you to be involved as well. There are many parts of the Untied States where this crisis is not felt or even known about, but that is not the case for us and the thousands of people at our doorstep who are “New Neighbors.”
We need heroes who will come alongside us with financial support so that we can continue to meet the needs of this humanitarian crisis. We need to add staff, we need to buy underwear and bras, we need to purchase eggs, we also need to keep the lights on at the facility, propane gas for our grill and griddle, and toilet paper in our bathrooms.
We have our Over the Edge event in just over 3 weeks and we are asking people to join us in rappelling 27 stories down the Wit hotel in Chicago as a way to raise $1000 each from friends and family.
We are also asking people who do not want to rappel to support a rappeler so that all our rappelers can reach their financial goals whereby we will meet our financial goals. We have set up a Migrant Relief Rappeler on our peer-to-peer fundraising page and for every $1500 we raise through that rappeler profile we will ask one of our New Neighbors if they would like to have the adventure of rappelling down the Wit hotel.
Finally, we have our regular giving page that has a selection for a migrant relief donation. Click the donate button on the top right of the screen to give.
Again, we are both excited and overwhelmed by the opportunity before us and would love to have you join with us to make a difference in a sea of despair.