Guest post from Dan & Beth McGinley
When we joined a small group Bible study several years ago, we had no idea where it might lead. We were new to Church at Charlotte and thought this would be a good way to get to know some people. We were fortunate to be connected to a group led by Jim and Judy Ryder who felt that a mission connection would be a good complement to our Bible study.
We started out by preparing, serving and sharing meals with the homeless at Room at the Inn housed at Providence United Methodist Church. Over time, some in our group felt the call to do more in the community. Some of us had taken the Bridges Out of Poverty class offered at Church at Charlotte. We discussed the idea of forming a Hope Team together with Charlotte Family Housing.
Charlotte Family Housing works to transition homeless families into a more stable housing environment through financial counseling and assistance. Hope Teams are formed to walk alongside these families, helping to navigate new situations and offering a listening ear. While Charlotte Family Housing provides the financial and social work professionals, the Hope Team can provide support and encouragement to the parents, coordinate needs of the children such as lunch buddies or tutoring, and organize gatherings such as birthday celebrations and holidays. Charlotte Family Housing asks Hope Teams to agree to a minimum of a one year commitment to a specific family.
When we began this journey, we had no idea what we were getting into.
Families in generational poverty are often in “crisis mode” daily where seemingly minor setbacks can trigger a chain reaction of bigger issues. Having a sick child can put a job in jeopardy; school incidents are difficult for a single parent to address; neighbors in similar circumstances may lean on you to help them; learning to navigate tough decisions with a tight budget can seem overwhelming. While our Hope Team wasn’t tasked with addressing the financial issues, we could supply support and encouragement in learning how to think through the consequences of tough choices. It is important to recognize that even with the best intentions on the part of the family, Charlotte Family Housing, and the Hope Team, there are failures as well as successes. Some families are unable to successfully make the transition and navigate the financial responsibilities of the program.
We are now working with a second family, refugees from the civil war in Syria. One never knows where your calling might lead you. Some are called to travel great distances to minister, whereas we were presented with an opportunity to minister to a family that had to travel a great distance to start a new life here in Charlotte. We have had the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and connect with people we wouldn’t have otherwise met.
It has been a wonderful learning experience for both the Hope Team members as well as the Syrian family. We share our different cultures, foods, and life experiences. We admire “our” family for the sacrifices they have made and for the remarkable progress they have shown. We can’t imagine what an incredible challenge it would be to get on a plane leaving family and friends behind, fly to an unfamiliar land, learn a new language, find employment, and immerse oneself in a completely new culture.
This experience has been a gift for all of us as we share the blessings of “presence” for one another.