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Poverty: The Relationship Factor by Keith Giles

One thing I’ve had to learn about working with the poor is that it’s not about “fixing them”, instead, it’s more about the relationship.
When I first began working in the motel over in Santa  Ana, my vision was grand. We were going to start regular Bible Studies, share meals, worship together and see powerful conversions, healings, deliverance and eventually convert the entire motel into a satellite service of our own Church.
God had other plans.
Instead, as we began to host monthly carnivals for the children of the motel, God started high-lighting one particular family to me. We were involved with serving several families at this motel, but one in particular stood out in our hearts and minds, as if God had put a spotlight on them for us and said, “Love these above all”.
So, we started to intentionally befriend his family. I took time to drive Mike all around Orange County so he could find an apartment through the Section 8 program for those who need housing assistance. We prayed together, searched the internet together, drove all over the county, looked at apartments together, filled out applications, met with  managers, and the usual stuff, for several weeks. All for nothing.
Mike’s frustration was my own. We kept praying. We had them over for lunch after church. We watched movies together. We befriended them.
Soon I began to realize that this was really the whole point of this Compassion Ministry. It was not about the program, or the activity, or the resources we could offer these families as much as it was about really allowing their lives to intertwine with our own lives.
As this began to occur, I realized that it was I who was being changed, healed, and blessed.
That’s the paradox of this ministry. No matter how much food we give away, no matter how much resource or blessing we give, I always walk away feeling guilty. I used to wonder about that. I used to think it was because we didn’t do enough. Even though I knew in my mind that this wasn’t true, that we had actually brought a significant material blessing, something  still felt “unequal” in the transaction for me.
That’s when I figured out that it was because we were taking away a blessing that was always greater, in the Spirit, than anything we could ever hope to provide out of our own material resources.
We’re the ones who got blessed.
And that’s why I think God said that “..the poor you will always have with you”, because He knew that we needed them. We have so much we can learn from them, and there’s so much we can’t ever get about the Kingdom without interaction with the poor.
So far, what I’ve learned is the true meaning of courage, of sharing, and of love.
Want to know what courage is? It’s a man who suffers the indignity of raising a family in a one-room motel, full of prostitutes, drug dealers and the mentally ill, and who stands by his wife and children with his head held high.
Want to know what sharing is? It’s a seventy year old woman with an infection in her  leg who can’t afford to buy groceries, or insurance, who gives away the food you just gave her to a total stranger who is walking by and asks for help.
Want to know what love is? It’s a family living in a motel room that they can barely afford who allows a friend to sleep on their bed, rent free, while they sleep on the floor, knowing full well that if the manager discovered this guest they’d all be thrown out on the street.
Love is a when a couple who once lived on the streets gets their own apartment after years of struggle, who brings in total strangers off the streets to sleep on their couch, so that they can help them get jobs, get their State ID Card, get into Job Corps, and get off the streets.
Before this, I didn’t really know the fullness of the meaning of these words, and I could never have discovered this in a text book, or in an article like this one. It’s the sort of thing you only really learn as you live it out  firsthand.
This is why I’m so eager to share this with others. There’s a whole world of things that God wants to show us and teach us, if we’ll just obey Him in this one thing; to love and care for the poor around us.
The Holy Spirit is always trying to get us into relationship, because it’s in relationship with others that He can move and teach and transform us into the image of Jesus.


about the author

Keith Giles is the Associate Director of Soul Survivor USA, and has started
a house church in Orange, California called "The Mission". His online blog
is: http://www.keithgiles.com 



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