Saturday, April 25, 2009

Poverty vs. Culture

For a while now, I have been struggling with the cause(s) of various dilemmas that I encounter with the clients that come to our organization for help. Most individuals who end up in our waiting room are quite, if not very, poor. Initally, I blamed everything on poverty. However, recently it has become clear to me that our clients' problems extend far beyond their poverty issues. The other day as I was thinking in the shower (one of the best places to think quietly I have found), it struck me that the real problem out here in the wilderness is not poverty - it is cultural. In my theological framework, I would say that for the most part, the wild west has not been touched by the Holy Spirit. By this I mean that the culture accepts, perhaps promotes, self-motivated, impulsive, and violent behaviors. This type of lifestyle produces isolation, anxiety, and indifference. I am just re-reading the Acts of the Apostles in preparation for a Christian Education class that I will be giving, and in reflecting on this issue of poverty vs. culture I am reminded of the inital work of the apostles and their commitment to the mission that had been given to them by Christ; their understanding and internalized knoweldge of the power of the Holy Spirit. Slowly in that difficult wilderness of ancient times, they converted first a few, then a few hundred, and then a few thousand. They did not change any socioeconomic problems, but they did bring healing and brotherly love - a spirituality of compassion - the presence of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray that we can in some small way do the same.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What a Week!

This has been quite a week. Everything from meeting with Senator Harry Reid to finding out late yesterday afternoon that our organization has received an additional $44,000 for one of our grant requests. The good thing is that the grant is a three-year grant - that means $44,000 x3. The extra funds will allow us to place a staff member way up north where one is desparately needed. However, in the middle of these two "good news" bookends were a lot of difficult situations and challenges for my small staff of eight. It's interesting to note that we are all deeply committed to our various faiths. Our common denominator is a sense of mission to relieve suffering, fear, hunger, and loneliness. There are always unspoken words of faith and prayer as we work together as a team to problem solve. A visitor noted the other day, "there is a real sense of peace in this office." I agree with him. We are all at peace, because we are led by Christ in our mission.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Visit with Senator Reid

My visit with the Senator and some of his staff was awesome. A handful of other community members and I got to introduce ourselves and then hear from the Senator about what's going on in Wahsington. He has found a great staff and a great way to network himself to his constituents. His methods and his words gave me hope, for the first time in a great while, that this country might be turning onto a better path. The visit also reminded me of how important contact with our legislators is. I flashed back to my AIDS activist days and memories of many flights to Washington D.C.; meetings with other activists from throughout the country to strategize; and then several days of meetings with various senators, congressmen etc. It was hard work, but totally effective. We got the inital and continuing Ryan White funding and the critically needed state of the art clinical trials that would identify so many effective medications in treating HIV. I don't know about becoming an activist once again. But, maybe...there are many issues to be addressed.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

On My Way To Senator Reid's Office

I am just about to set off for Las Vegas and a meeting with Senator Harry Reid. One of his Nevada aides called last week to say that he'd like to learn more about our programs. This meeting comes at a time when we, just like everyone else in the non-profit world, are quite worried about funding for next year. Senator Reid could open some important doors for us at the Office of Violence Against Women in Washington, D.C. It's also very windy outside, and I am not fond of driving through the mountain pass that takes me from Pahrump to Las Vegas and back in high winds - it can be scary. So, I would have to say, I have butterflies in my stomach. It is one of those times when I allow my mind to empty and to focus on an image of Christ that I have in my mnd's eye - Christ as he shared the Last Supper with his disciples. This image and my thoughts of his love, comapssion, and courage give me strength and courage of my own. I pray that by the time I reach Senator Reid's office, with Christ's help, I will have laid aside my personal thoughts and concerns, and be an effective spokesperson for those we are attempting to help.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Day in the Desert

We decided to spend a reflective day in the desert. We drove over to Indian Springs to visit Auntie Moe's, a wonderful source for Native American art, crafts, and jewelry. The entire 60+ mile drive was through barren desert ringed by mountains - some with snow, others with none at all. We stopped along the way simply to reflect on the peace and beauty of it all. Standing in the vast open space with the wind buffeting our clothing, it was hard to imagine the turmoil of the populated world - a good place to pray and consider the joy of Easter Sunday. When we arrived at Auntie Moe's, we discovered that her husband had died of cancer last night. Another time for a prayer and a big hug. We plan to return to the desert - this time Death Valley - tomorrow. This is a good weekend to let it all sink in without distractions, and in a place where God's presence is so evident.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Concerns From Pahrump

We are working diligently as a community to establish a more effective and efficient safety network both those living in poverty and for the many children who are abused and/or neglected in our little town. This is work that sometimes tests one's faith. So, throughout Holy Week, I have given great thought to what faith really means and how we can keep it alive when faced with adversity and shockingly sorrowful stories of small children and lost teens. Our hearts are broken by what we see; it is difficult to identify a justifiable explanation for such distressing circumstances - some that are irreparable. We are like Doubting Thomas before Jesus appeared to him. But Jesus did appear. He said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." This commission gives us the task of going forward in our ministries, and of keeping our heart and minds open to the power of the Holy Spirit.