This week, thanks to the quick responsiveness of our Mitch Phipps (who I’m convinced has a connection with nearly everyone in this town!), I and a few others of you had a meaningful meeting with John Railey and Chanel Nestor. John is the new Executive Director and Chanel the Community Engagement Associate of the newly-formed Partnership for Prosperity, an initiative of the city of Winston-Salem guided by the 2017 work on the Poverty Thought Force report and its 56 recommendations for how to alleviate poverty in our community. The first of many I’m sure, this meeting was a wonderful step in our church’s desire to ‘mitigate poverty in our community.’
In our time together, John and Chanel outlined for us their future work — beginning first with two months of listening sessions around the community, then finding solutions that are feasible and impactful across the five major areas of concentration identified in the Poverty Thought Force report of education, health, housing/homelessness, hunger/food insecurity, and jobs/workforce development. They also asked us about First Baptist’s various ministries to those with “low resources” (a better way, they shared with us, to describe people or neighborhoods experiencing poverty). They noted that they could use volunteers in their upcoming listening sessions, folks to take notes or provide snacks for the gathering. It was a joy to dream together about how we can continue to be a voice shaping the conversation and the hands and feet rising to do our part.
The next day, those of us gathered on Wednesday night heard from our fellow members Linda Lewis, Lynn Rhoades, and Gary Stiffler about their individual work to mitigate poverty in our community. As each work with people of low resources and limited access, Linda gave us a window into older adults, Lynn to youth and young adults at risk, and Gary to those with physical limitations. Together, we were reminded of the gift that is our neighboring John 3:16 Building housing the Winston-Salem Center for Education and the Arts, and all the transformation unfolding just across the street.
Combine these two conversations with others I have had with a number of you — some who are those of limited resources, some with local agencies and social workers who meet a variety of challenges head on, others with you who are taking the task seriously to be prayerfully discerning your own response to this churchwide priority throughout this season of Lent, and my mind and heart are yearning to learn and listen more deeply, intentionally, and proactively.
John Railey shared with us the quote from author Mauricio Miller in his book The Alternative, who says the adage about “teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” is inaccurate. “The startling assumption is that the man is not capable and therefore needs to be taught. Most don’t consider the real possibility that the man might already know how to fish, or can learn on his own, but only needs money for the equipment, or space, or time to make the choice for himself.”
May these conversations spur us to deeper love for the God who meets us as fisher and food alike!
Together in the work of Love,
Ps – Should you be interested in reading more about the Partnership for Prosperity, check out their website and schedule for listening sessions at http://www.povertythoughtforce.com.