A couple stuck their heads in my office and made the frequent request: Can you help us with our house payment? Another one, I thought, what's their problem?
You can see I was full of Christian charity that day, eager to hear their story. But I found out how wrong I was.
I listened to the Florens. He was laid off after 23 years on the job. A local doctor recently helped him by performing knee surgery. She is legally blind and receives a monthly disability check of $354. They have three children — 2, 4 and 12. They are Habitat for Humanity homeowners, now three months behind in their payments. Foreclosure loomed.
"What about your children — food and school supplies?" I asked. They looked down, embarrassed. "Call me back tomorrow," I said. "I think we can help."
So I made calls, and the next day several churches helped with the house payment. Soon members of First Lutheran, Greensboro, N.C., responded with four months of payments, school supplies and clothes, as I'd seen my church respond before to hundreds of other needs.
You see, it's not "just" a house payment, food or school supplies that churches provide. It's hope. Hope that life can be better, richer, more possible.
We say confidently: Yes! We can help. Yes! We can reduce the awful burden of uncertainty. Yes! Poverty and bad luck can be overcome by compassion and love.
Are all the needs legitimate? Nope. But on a recent Monday afternoon, a man who had nothing when he entered the church left with hope — a lighter step, a smile for his wife and a heartfelt "God bless you" to a staff person stunned by the grace that suddenly flooded the place.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers