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TOUCH: Overcoming Poverty
Written by Ian Arienda-Jose

In the 2009 ACEM Missions Conference, we started our five-year T.O.U.C.H.  journey. Last year the theme was “Tearing Down Injustice”. This year the theme for the 2010 English Missions Conference is “Overcoming Poverty”, which is the second part of the acronym T.O.U.C.H. In this article I would like to share with you a Bible verse, a story, and a question.

Proverbs 14:31 (NKJV) 31. He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, But he who honours Him has mercy on the needy.?
I want to tell you a story.
It was a regular February weekday afternoon in the church, and I was sitting in my office in front of the computer doing some work.  My office window faces the front desk, where our secretary, Ann, does her work diligently.  Ann beckoned for my attention, and said “Pastor Ian, there is a gentleman downstairs asking for help, can you come and talk to him?” I said, “yes”.
As I was walking downstairs from the balcony, I saw him standing by the front doors. He was a tall guy wearing a long jacket and black winter boots.  He had long and strange hair that jets out from his winter hat.  I walked towards him with an out stretched hand ready to greet him, “Hello, I’m Ian.  How may I help you today?” I said.  As I got closer to him, I noticed a distinct smell emanating from his body.  It’s a scent that I have not smelled for a long time.  This is a scent that I am also familiar with when I used to serve at Yonge Street Mission.  It was the scent that most older street people have.  It was the scent of ‘stale urine’ ... He smelled like ‘old pee’.  Surprisingly the smell did not repel me, I was not taken back by the scent, but instead it was more like a welcome to me ... it brought me back to my Yonge Street Mission years.
He asked me if our church is part of the ‘Out of the Cold Program’ (The Out of the Cold program is a volunteer initiative that consists of? congregations from faith groups, community members and advocates who provide safe refuge, hospitality and emergency shelter to the homeless community throughout the City of Toronto) , I told him “Sorry we are not.” I wish I was able to say “Yes we are, now how can I help you?” or even to be able to say, “Not yet but we will be”.
I asked him if there was any other way that I could help him. He pulled out a piece of paper and showed it to me and asked if I could give him some direction.  The paper had information about different churches north of downtown Toronto that was part of the ‘Out of the Cold Program’.  It was a schedule mentioning the different churches and programs they are running.  On the schedule he pointed out a Mennonite Church by the Rouge Valley that ran a program at 4:30 p.m.  Perfect, I thought, I could look at a map and show him where it was then I could drive him or gave him a bus token. As we looked at the map together, I saw that it was by the Zoo.  It seemed like a far distance but by car it should be no problem. 
Motivated to serve as a good Samaritan, I offered him a ride but he declined my offer.  I gave him a bus token and he declined that also.  I told him that it would be a far walk and that it was freezing cold outside.  He said that he has 2 ? hours to spare and he would rather be walking than just waiting for the program to start.  “Walking would keep me warm,” he insisted. He exited our church doors and headed towards Steeles Ave., I was left there standing and thinking ... “This fellow is just walking around from church to church, program to program in order to survive the winter months.”  I never got to ask him why he did not choose to stay downtown where help is just a stone’s throw away.  I shared this story with a friend who works with the homeless people in downtown Toronto, and he said that the poor are being pushed out of downtown, and their only way out is to move UP.  Up to Scarborough, Up to North York, Up to Richmond Hill, Up to Thornhill ... , and yes, up to Markham.
That day I had a realization that the poor are knocking at our door, not just the spiritually poor, but the economically poor.
Question: Now how are we going to respond to poverty?

Proverbs 14:31?(NKJV) 31?He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, But he who honours Him has mercy on the needy.?
This year we shall have a number of wonderful speakers and I am eager to hear their messages, learn from their experiences, and be challenged by the Word of God.

(The author is an English pastor of TCCC.)
Last modified on Friday, 03 July 2020 09:15


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