15 October 2008

blog action day: poverty

today is apparently blog action day.. all over the net people are blogging about the topic: poverty. so maybe on some of the blogs this will seem a bit out of character and maybe cause a few raised eyebrows. hopefully, people who are not usually confronted with the topic will begin to think about it. if you are reading my blog, i would think it is a topic you are familiar with.

Poverty is not only a pressing issue, it is a complex one. It's easy to think that there isn’t much an individual can do. Fortunately this isn’t the case at all. With activities ranging from advocacy and professional contribution to charity and financing, there is in fact many ways that we can act.

-official site for blog action day

i thought i would take a look into some of the aspects of poverty as they affect my ministry. (which, of course, is working with the homeless and drug addicts here in germany..) i know it isn't the type of poverty we often think of in connection with that word.. i mean, this is europe, right? still, it is an ever-increasing problem.

even here, a socialist country (please do not assume i mean communist), people can fall out or opt out of the system that promises to help support everyone. i was going to tell some stories as examples, but i deleted them. somehow, i feel like today i should be writing more about the solutions.

my first concern is to get people out of whatever situation is causing the rest of their problems. usually, with my clientel, this means drugs and/or a psychological problem. i think that these are the roots for most of the homelessness in germany. you don't find very many well-rounded, healthy and happy people living year for year on the streets. i have known a few vagabonds who chose to live this way.. but they are usually only around for a little while, traveling from place to place, working more than begging, and usually not using drugs or at least not abusing them to the extent of the others i work with. and yeah, i find them compelling..

my people are the ones who get stuck in their problems and cannot get out alone. so the first step is building trust. that is why i spend a lot of time around them, just hearing their normal concerns and what is going on. letting them in a little on who i am and what i wish for them. once the trust is established, i am able to have more in-depth and personal conversations (the kind that under different surrounding would easily be recognized as counseling). i try to help them get to a place where they desire a change in their lifestyle. if they don't start to want it, i can't force help on them. they are the ones who will spend the rest of their lives fighting.

the next part is to meet their physical needs. this starts a little earlier with blankets and shoes and clothes, food and coffee. but it gets more concrete when they start to change the standards they want to live by. the first thing (and most difficult) that needs help is the physical body. that means getting them into a detox program (easier said than done, even if they want it) and afterwards into a long-term therepy. (thats the very hard part- finding the sponsors, getting a spot in a therepy that also is designed in a way to meet this persons needs and personality, getting them through the detox without quitting..) detox is between 3 and 8 weeks, depending on who is paying and what drugs they were taking. the therepy centers usually have waiting lists, and the sponsors sometimes refuse taking over the expences for up to three months. this whole time it is important to support the person in need, encourage them, remind them of their own goals and how far they have come. sometimes, this is the part where they would otherwise be back on the street- between the detox and therepy. that's why i started the hope house. we take these people in and help the transition.

i have nothing to do with the people while they are in therepy. i do not call, write or visit. and if things go well, i hope to never see them again. that is because ideally, they will settle in a fresh city when they get out, and start a new life. the down side is then i never know what happened to them, if they made it.

after therepy, some people come back to bremen or come to bremen for their new start. these people have almost broken out of the cycle, but what happens next is key. it is here that i try to help them find an apartment away from the scene and a part-time job. i introduce them to others that are clean and encourage them to make friends from that group. to come to church. to be connected and accountable. there is a lot less of this work, unfortunatly.

if you are wondering where the "missions work" is in all that, then reread it. and then look at your new testament. i don't believe that i need to stand on a corner to preach to reach people in europe..

speaking of work, my next appointment is here, so i stop


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