Friday, April 07, 2006

What To Do

The church I work for keeps food vouchers on hand for those in need. From time to time, people will come into the office and tell me of their hard luck or how they need some milk for their kids before payday and I give them a $10 or $20 certificate for the local grocery store. I think it's important for those in the community to know that if they need a helping hand, we're here to support them, even if it's something as small or simple as enabling them to buy some bread and meat for their family.
However, sometimes I wonder if I am actually helping some of the people, or just perpetuating a negative cycle. Some people come in on a monthly basis, reeking of cigarette smoke, asking for their handout. It's as if they budget the $20 from the good ol' church into their monthly income so they can spend that $20 of their own on a few extra packs of smokes or some six-packs. I know that sounds like a harsh judgement, but I have witnessed it firsthand. I know the history of the people and it saddens me that they are so desperate, but also that they can't seem to dislodge themselves from their ruts.
How can we really help?
I feel pretty arrogant sitting here at my desk telling someone that I'm not going to let them feed their family this week, so I usually hand out a voucher. Sometimes it seems like I'm helping, but other times it seems like I'm being taken advantage of.
Thoughts?

Amanda Brown at 10:34 AM

19comments

19 Comments

at 10:49 AM Blogger Lisa said...

I feel the same way as you do. When I give to the food bank, I always buy baby food so I KNOW someone who really needs it will get it.

 
at 10:55 AM Blogger Elizabeth said...

That is a tough situation. I hadn't thought of it that way, with Food Bank and church donations, I mean. I usually think of that when someone is pan-handling... outside the liquor store or a smoke shop. Is it terrible of me? I really should just love them, shouldn't I?

 
at 10:55 AM Blogger Amanda Franks said...

Jesus gave to everyone regardless of why the asked and it's what we're called to do as well judgement free. You may not help them break a cycle but you may give them the hope that keeps them from jumping off a cliff.

 
at 12:22 PM Blogger Angella said...

Maybe in order to get the voucher, they should meet with one of the pastors, who could counsel them?

 
at 12:54 PM Blogger KehlerGirl said...

First...I think that you should pray about it. If giving these people vouchers every month is God's tool to speak to their hearts then you don't want to stop. If you really feel like God's telling you that they're using them for all the wrong reasons then would it be possible to buy some non-perishable items and have them on hand? Then if they come in asking for their "food" voucher hand out. You can kindly give them food. That way you know that they're getting what they really NEED.
As to Amanda's comment. I wonder if Jesus really did give to everyone regardless. I don't think that he would have been taken advantage of. Thank-you though, you've encouraged me to search the bible about that one. I just can't see him supporting someones bad addictions.

 
at 1:14 PM Blogger Kaili said...

That's a tough one, what do the staff at the church say?

 
at 1:24 PM Blogger Amanda Franks said...

In Matthew 25:31-46 It talks about giving to strangers and those who ask for food or clothes and Jesus is teaching that whatever you give to the least of these you give to Him and no where does he say "first make sure he meets your criteria and that you believe him and that you feel he's a righteous person". He just says give what people come to you to ask for. True that no where in there is anyone asking for money to go and buy things, but my point is that we're not called to judge.

 
at 1:38 PM Blogger christy said...

It's so hard when a person feels taken advantage of. It's blessing though that a church has a system to be able to help those in need. Thankfully we all answer to God in the end for our actions and not to man.

 
at 1:57 PM Blogger Amanda Franks said...

And,I don't mean to be on a soap box I'm just the kind of person who obsesses over things not said, so I have to get it out! I can't find the verse right now and my daughter is crying, but when Jesus has dinner with the prostitute. He doesn't feed her and try to talk her out of being a prostitute he just gives her attention and conversation. He can give exactly what a person needs cuz he can see into their heart, we can only give what they ask becuase we don't have God-ray vision.

(My apologies Amanda if I abused your comment box! Just let me know, I wont do it again.)

 
at 2:12 PM Blogger Adele said...

It's hard because I deal with the same people who come in with their hard luck stories and then go next door to the liquor store. All you can do is show them love and if they don't help themselves then there isn't much else you can do. You just have to believe that the food vouchers are actually helping them

 
at 2:16 PM Blogger Amanda Brown said...

There has been no comment abuse here today! Thanks everyone for your input. :)

 
at 2:21 PM Blogger christy said...

At Missions Fest in Vancouver once a guy off the strret asked me for money. I was afraid he might go buy drugs as he reeked of marijuana so instead I took him to MacDonalds. But, I made him promise me he'd read this tract I had of the Gospel of John. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and promised me he would. He ate two supersized value meals. Who am I to judge? I hope I see hinm again in heaven someday. And you know...we are entertaining angels as well...

 
at 2:36 PM Blogger Will said...

Amanda, I've been on both ends of this situation and when I give I don't ask where it's going. I do say "don't spend this on booze" but if they do, they do. The thing is, if they are humbled enough to come for help they may be close to seeking the kind of help that can change lives. I worry that if I turn them away they will have no where else to turn.

 
at 4:07 PM Blogger KehlerGirl said...

I think what I said might be taken wrong. I didn't mean that he shouldn't be given anything if he's using it for smokes or booze. I said that God may be using those vouchers as a way to speak to his heart. I DON'T think that we should judge. We don't know where this mans heart is, and maybe he really IS using the vouchers for food.
I don't really know how to turn my thoughts into words. Just do what you feel is right Amanda. Maybe start attaching a bible verse to the vouchers. It's just another way to plant a seed in his heart.

 
at 5:40 PM Blogger Danica said...

We're responsible for what we do...they're responsible with what they do with what you give them.

 
at 8:08 PM Blogger Tara said...

I would have to say that is a tough one...I just left a job which required me to work with people who were always looking for handouts and more closely with their children.....the grocery vouchers are an easy way of giving them what they need because they are maybe not what that man needs but what his family or crying baby or grand child or whatever needs!!!
I really don't give money to people on the street I will take them for a coffee or give them a bus ticket or a meal voucher but I struggle with the money thing..because so often have I watched them turn around and use it on booze or something..one of my parents used to pan handle on the streets and every dollar earned he would go in a buy himself a drink..while we were dressing his daughter and feeding her extra meals to make sure she was eating!!! I dunno....
The thought that what you are doing is giving it to God and that I need to get the judgements out of my head...is huge for me and an area which God has been working in for a while!!!! I know it and have been very slowly changing...and I mean slowly it is hard to get rid of the judgements and look passed what has happened in the past!!!

 
at 9:10 PM Blogger wandi said...

What a predicament to be in. Sister Peggy knows exactly how you feel being a church secretary. She has had all sorts every month coming to the office asking for hand outs same as you. Just today I was approached by some people that were digging in the dumpster looking for bottles. They politely asked for only 50 cents. I told them I did not have it but I did have several bottles to give them that they could return for money. They were so happy. It totaled more than 50 cents. I'm sure they were going to spend it on booze and maybe something to eat. But I felt really good helping them. They were so appreciative. It's hard though. I wish I had bbe more prepared. If I had some food to give them that would have been maybe more helpful. Or maybe more of an insult. With the bottles they turn them in and get their own money to pay for things them self. I just know that I helped them in some way. Don't know how yet. At least I hope I did.

 
at 1:08 AM Blogger Jules said...

Arg, I know what you mean! People who expect that someone else will look after them, so they dont have to take responsibility themselves. It's not easy to have compassion.

I like Angella's train of thought.....maybe if there was some type of consultation involved- to see if guidance or emotional support would benefit in addition to the food voucher.... it might help weed out those who are just abusing the system, while offering more support and teaching to those who need it.

 
at 5:33 PM Blogger geeksters said...

That's a hard call to make. If it were me, I would probably get annoyed but keep handing out the vouchers.

Even if people are spending the rest of their money on beer or drugs, at least you're helping them get some nutrition they wouldn't otherwise have access to.

I hate feeling taken advantage of too, but it must be humbling to walk into a church and tell the secretary that you're incapable of providing for yourself. If a person is in that position, regardless of whether it's her fault, I don't think I'd be able to turn her away.

 

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