Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Many were shocked to discover through some recently released undercover videos that Planned Parenthood may be involved in harvesting fetal body parts for profit. This has led to an outrage among abortion opponents and congress considering defunding Planned Parenthood.

This should be no surprise to those who are familiar with Scripture. For the Bible teaches us that Satan is “the ruler of this world “. (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4) He is the thief that comes only to steal and kill and destroy. (John 10:10) And those who follow him will do the same.

Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, made the following statement on a video she made defending its practice of harvesting fetal body parts. *Note that Planned Parenthood has denied selling fetal body parts for a profit, which is against federal law, but they DO admit to harvesting those fetal body parts for scientific research.

“In health care, patients sometimes want to donate tissue to scientific research that can help lead to medical breakthroughs, such as treatments and cures for serious diseases. Women at Planned Parenthood who have abortions are no different.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZUjU4e4fUI  (Notice that she refers to unborn babies as “tissue”)

But is that how God views the unborn—As nothing more than “tissue”? 

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139: 13-16 )

Who was in the womb? David! A literal and living person. The Bible never uses anything less than human terms to describe the unborn.

But the Bible isn’t alone in declaring this truth. Science also declares that an unborn child is just as much an independent human being as you. Most organs in the embryo begin to form at about 3 weeks after fertilization. Shortly thereafter, the area that will become the brain and spinal cord begins to develop. The heart and major blood vessels begin to develop earlier—by about day 16. The heart begins to pump fluid through blood vessels by day 20, and the first red blood cells appear the next day. Blood vessels continue to develop in the embryo and placenta. Almost all organs are completely formed by about 10 weeks after fertilization. At twelve weeks, the child will often struggle for life two or three hours when removed from the mother. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/women-s-health-issues/normal-pregnancy/stages-of-development-of-the-fetus

There have been over 50 million abortions performed since 1973, the year the Supreme Court issued the Roe v. Wade decision ushering in legal abortion nationwide. With all of the unrest and disfunction in America today, I find it hard to believe that not one of those 50 million babies would not have grown up to be someone who would lead this country back to its original greatness.

Today, Jesus could say, “America, America, you who kill the prophets and leaders sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (From Matthew 23:37)

Nazi Ethics and Planned Parenthood

The doctors during the Nazi regime, like Planned Parenthood, also felt that they were doing wonderful work for humanity. This raises a critical issue. The doctors in Nazi Germany took the Hippocratic Oath, yet they knowingly violated the Hippocratic principle of “do no harm”.

How were they able to reconcile this glaring contradiction? To begin to address this contradiction, an examination must be made of some of the moral premises utilized. In Nazi Germany, Jews, Gypsies, the mentally and/or physically challenged and others were methodically excluded from society through a series of laws known as the Nuremberg Laws; thus making them non-persons.

These racial policies had a strong grounding in genetics and evolutionary biology. One need only look at some of the many written explanations by the Nazi government to prevent offspring with hereditary illnesses:“In the case of plants and animals cultivated by humans, care is taken to weed out the less valuable. Only the useful and valuable genetic material is preserved. That is also what nature wants through the law of selection. Should not we do the same with people? Or shall the lines of our people with hereditary illnesses overcome the healthy? That would mean the self-dissolution and destruction of the whole people, for a people that suffers from hereditary illnesses is not able to maintain itself in the great battle of selection between the peoples! http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/socialsciences/ppecorino/MEDICAL_ETHICS_TEXT/Chapter_7_Human_Experimentation/Reading-Nazi-experimentation.htm

In line with this thinking, prisoners were not viewed as human individuals, but rather as “living cultures” to be used with no consideration for their wellbeing. (Sound familiar?) 

We may not all be as cruel as the Nazis, but do we view certain human beings as less human than us?

While there is no argument that Hitler abhorred the Jews and caused almost six million to be ruthlessly killed, Eleven million precious human lives were lost during the Holocaust. Five million of these were non-Jewish. Who were they? Whose children, whose mothers and fathers were they? Jehovah Witnesses, Gypsies, homosexuals, Blacks, and Catholic priests were among the forgotten five million. But how could five million human beings have been killed and forgotten?

Worse yet, is that in the post-war years, many of these survivors were never recognized as victims of the Holocaust during their lives and never lived to be repatriated, as many of the Jewish survivors and their families were.

Pro-Life or Anti-Abortion?

There are many now who claim that they are pro-life and stand in front of Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics proudly holding up their signs announcing their disgust of abortion. But are they really pro-life, or just anti-abortion?

Many of the so-called pro-life groups do little or nothing to help young girls deal with their life changing decision after they have talked them out of getting abortions. Many of these young girls who keep their babies later find out that they are unprepared to raise a child on their own. With little education, no job prospects and no understanding of raising a child, many of these poor girls end up raising their child in high poverty, high crime neighborhoods. Statistics show that in this environment, neglecting and abusing their child becomes a real possibility. http://www.nber.org/digest/jan00/w7343.html

Sadly, many of these mothers (and children) are forgotten by those who worked so hard to prevent them from having an abortion.

Fortunately, there are organizations who are truly pro-life who not only help young pregnant girls make wise decisions concerning their unborn babies, but they also advise them on the options of adoption—and if they decide to keep the baby, they counsel them on parenting, help them to get an education, find work,  housing, daycare  and supply them with essentials like baby clothes, bottles, cribs, etc. But those organizations are few and far between.

Abortion is wrong because reduces human life to nothing more than tissue. And harvesting body parts from an unborn murder victim, regardless of the reason, is akin to child sacrifice—innocents who are sacrificed on the altar of choice to be sold to the highest bidder.

But the Bible is also clear on what we as Christians should do when it comes to helping these vulnerable young mothers:

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal. 6:10)

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Phil. 2:4)

“We are confronted today with the essential question of what it means to be human,” Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life says. “How we answer affects us all. This is a moral flashpoint for our country that will define our generation.”

Being pro-life is more than just preventing abortions.

If you are pregnant and don’t know what to do, get help at:

http://www.lifecall.org/cpc.html

If you have had an abortion, know that there is still forgiveness through Jesus.

 

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I first learned of Sam Herron              on Face Book. I was impressed with his talent as a photographer. But I was even more impressed with his empathy for those he photographs—the homeless men and women who live on the streets in Omaha, Nebraska.

People might wonder how Sam gets these up-close-and-personal glimpses of homeless men and women who spend most of their lives invisible to the general public.

Sam will tell you that it’s because he understands them. He understands them because he was once one of them. “Just lose your entire life,” he says. “Live in your car. And you, too, can photograph the street.”

Sam doesn’t take pictures just to be taking pictures. He knows many of the people he photographs personally. They talk sometimes for an hour before Sam takes out his camera and asks them if he can photograph them. They tell Sam about their life on the streets, how their day is going, and Sam can relate to all of them.

Just like so many others, Sam never thought he would be in their situation. “Not me,” he says. “But when I was…it changed me. And I wanted to show it.”

It happened slowly at first. He lost his job. He found another job, but lost that one, too. He was jobless for a month, then two, then four. He struggled with depression and anxiety and he sometimes drank too much. Eventually, after spending his life’s savings and selling most of his possessions, he realized he had nowhere to go. It was the dead of winter, right around Valentine’s Day.

The first night, he parked underneath the 10th Street Bridge and shut off his car. He woke up in the morning shivering uncontrollably. His toes were numb. By the end of the first week, Sam had started to develop a routine. He would wake up in the morning, pull on one of his shirts he had carefully folded in the trunk, and drive to the Blue Line Coffee in north downtown just as it opened. Once inside, he would walk to the bathroom, lock the door, and using the sink and the soap dispenser, he would give himself what passed for a bath.

He would buy a cup of coffee, open his battered laptop computer and apply for jobs online. And then, if he had any change left, he would buy another cup of coffee and write. He wrote about his life; about his homelessness; or whatever popped into his head. In the afternoon, Sam headed to 13th Street Coffee & Tea in the Old Market and continued to apply for jobs and write on his laptop.

At night, he would go to the Rose & Crown Pub near 20th and Howard Streets. The regulars there got to know him and would buy him drinks. Everybody thought he was just an eccentric, tattooed writer who liked to drink. (This was partially true) But what they didn’t know was that Sam stayed there until closing every night because it was warm.

After closing time, Sam would steer his car toward the same spot beside a church on Leavenworth Street. He would blast the heater during the drive, and then he would park and shut off the car. Each night, he would sleep with his work boots on. He would wake up at 6:30, get dressed, and start all over again. After a while, he began to wonder, “Am I ever gonna get out of this car?”

It’s hard for Sam to choose his lowest point while he was in this valley, but he says it’s easy to pinpoint the moment when he started climbing back out. It was the moment that he first picked up his old Canon SD 400 camera, (one of the few things he hadn’t sold) and began to shoot photos of his fellow down-and-out fraternity brothers.

Sam had developed a pattern for the men he didn’t know. He would offer them a cigarette and then strike up a conversation. He would tell them his story and eventually he’d ask: “Can I take your picture?”

Last year Sam hosted an exhibit at Creighton University called “Street Life Chronicles,” which featured images of the homeless in Omaha. Sam said it was “soul crushing” having to relive his time on the streets. “I went to my old homeless haunts twice a day to catch the right sunlight.” He recalls. “That was the easy part. Having to endlessly live out my recent past with those who still suffered was the difficult part.”

Sam is doing much better now. He worked as a stand-in for Bruce Dern in Alexander Payne’s movie, “Nebraska.” And he picked up a few photo jobs. Then he picked up a few more. He also started his own freelance photography business.

He soon plans to work on a long-term shoot with a fashion photographer. And if things work out, he will travel to exhibit his photos at a Creighton sister university in China.

Last year Sam was nominated for Best Emerging Visual Artist by Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards of 2014. Some of his photos were showcased during the award ceremonies at the RNG gallery in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Sam has done more than just take great photographs. He has given us a glimpse into the invisible world of the homeless community. If you look closely, you will also get a glimpse of the man behind the camera—and hopefully, see a little of yourself there too.

Sam still thinks of his companions on the street and says, “Many tonight will be in a similar situation without the benefit of an automobile to sleep in, and it’s a sad fact that should give all compassionate people pause.”

Our heart should reach out to all the invisible people in our city. They are someone’s mother, father, brother and sister—and they are created in God’s image. Remember Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

 

“I was and continue to be exceptionally poor by some people’s standards. On the other hand when compared with a large percentage of the planet, I’m suffering from an embarrassment of riches.” – Sam Herron

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© Ipso Facto Photography – by Sam Herron – used by permission

You can contact Sam at— https://www.facebook.com/samuelherron

More stories like this can be found in The Heartland News Street Newspaper. The Heartland News primarily addresses issues related to poverty and homelessness and is distributed by poor or homeless venders. Venders sell the paper for a set price, (usually $1.00) and keep the money they make. For many, this gives them the opportunity for a first small step toward independence and permanent housing.

To donate contact:

The Heartland News 4001 Ames Ave, Omaha, Ne. 68111.

 

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.” (Romans 13:1-3 NIV)

Many in the Church have interpreted these verses to mean that all believers should obey the government because its authority has been ordained of God for our good. This particular view is a gross distortion of the truth. And the most dangerous lie is the one that is the closest to the truth, but is not.

We should learn what Romans 13 really means. I’ve found that when a certain text that doesn’t seem logical, it’s useful to look at the actions of the writer and the context in which it is written to see if it is consistent with your interpretation of his teaching.

Paul writes that “whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” But the book of Acts shows Paul repeatedly doing just that! So there must be something wrong with our understanding of the text.

Some modern translations make Bible verses more clear than the King James Version, while others misinterpret the true meaning. The Greek word used in Romans 13:1 for ‘governing authorities’ is ἐξουσία (exousia) and refers to the authority instituted by God, or what the King James Version refers to as ‘higher powers’. So the obvious question is just who or what are the higher powers?

Obviously, in the spiritual realm, there are good and bad powers. On one side we have the Lord and his great angelic host. In the other group, we find Lucifer and the fallen angels, who most certainly qualify as a ‘higher power’ for Satan is referred to as the “prince of the power of the air.” (Ephesians 2:2) Later in that same book, Paul tells us, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Common sense should tell us that Paul is not telling us to be subject to the satanic higher powers in the spiritual realm, so why do we assume he is telling us to be subject to evil earthly powers? How could it be scriptural for us to cooperate with the earthly agents of spiritual wickedness?

The next verse says “Whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” If we resist the evil in the spiritual realm, it’s clear that we won’t bring judgment on ourselves as a result. How then, could this verse mean that if we resist evil in the earthly realm we receive judgment from God? In other words, in cases where the evil is vested in government, the idea that we are to no longer resist this evil is ludicrous!

When Paul had been beaten illegally by evil men within the Roman government, he refused their command to come out of the jail and defiantly says, “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” (Acts 16:37) Isn’t that resisting the earthly governing authorities?

And after Peter and the apostles were released from jail they were brought before the Sanhedrin and were given strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name. (Act 5:12-29) Peter told them, “We ought to obey God rather than men. “ The NLT is translated as, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

The second time that Peter is assisted in a jail-break by an angel, (Acts 12:7) did he bring judgment on himself because he left his jail cell without permission? How is breaking out of jail obeying the government?

Paul is telling us we must not resist the righteous power of God when it is manifested in the various earthly sectors of government. But as far as I can see, God’s righteous power is rarely manifested in government. While corruption can exist in any human organization, it seems that corruption in government is the worst. The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, published by Transparency International, reported that people worldwide have the perception that the five most corrupt institutions are: political parties, the police, public officials, the legislature, and the judiciary.

King David gives us definitive instructions when he tells us to “Defend the poor and fatherless.” (Psalms 82:3) Wouldn’t that include a baby that is murdered as he is trying to be born? Under the current law, a doctor can legally murder a baby while still in its mother’s womb. Yet it’s against the government’s law to even protest this hideous crime within so many yards of the murderer’s so called, medical facility! Where do we draw the line?

We are expected to obey God rather than the government – regardless of what the government tells us is legal or illegal.

For example, a 90 year old Florida man, Arnold Abbott, was arrested for feeding homeless people. Abbott and two pastors in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were charged for feeding the homeless in public, a new ordinance banning public food sharing. Now they face possible jail time and a $500 fine! But they chose to “obey God rather than men.” Abbott said the threat of charges won’t stop him from doing it again. “I’m not afraid of jail. I’m not looking to go, but if I have to, I will,” he said. On Dec. 2 a judge ordered the city to temporarily stop enforcing the law. Judge Thomas Lynch told all sides to enter into mediation during a 30-day period. That mediation has not yet begun.

We must always remember that God’s Kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) And if we become conformed to the ways of this world, how can we then be “counted worthy of the kingdom of God” for which so many are suffering? (2 Thessalonians 1:5)

“Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—a throne that brings on misery by its decrees? The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the LORD our God will destroy them.” (Psalm 20-23)

The question you need to ask yourself is, are you committed to obeying God rather than man, or are you committing spiritual fornication by obeying the corrupt government of man rather than God?

The Columbine High School massacre, the Sandy Hook shooting, and the mass shooting at the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado, were all perpetrated by white males, who obviously suffered from mental illness—Stark reminders that crazy people live among us. Many have debated whether we should create more institutions for the mentally ill in order to protect us from these dangerous individuals.

But what should we do about the typical gang violence in major cities that we see broadcasted on the local news? Every night it seems that a similar story is told: “Police have responded to the scene of a shooting; Police believe the shooting was gang-related; No suspects have been arrested.”

People living in neighborhoods with known gang populations where these types of shootings frequently happen represent a legitimate fear of private citizens, parents, children and business owners who live, work, and go to school in these neighborhoods.

Five year old Payton Benson was killed when three callous gunmen peppered her street with a barrage of bullets and one of the bullets shot and killed the little girl as she sat eating her breakfast.

Stephen Arps and Johnnesha Brown were shot just outside Brown’s parents’ home near 45th Street and Grand Avenue in Omaha, Ne.

Even those trying to change the gang environment in their neighborhood are not immune to it. An anti-gang activist’s 16-year-old son, Charles Trotter, who has acknowledged ties to the 37th Street Crips in Omaha, has been charged in the shooting deaths of two men at a party.

Can we just pray it away?
An Omaha group called ‘First Responders’ have been meeting together at places where community members have been violently murdered. They meet to pray for the victims’ families and believe they will help reduce violence in Omaha by mobilizing people from churches and neighborhoods all over Omaha to pray together. Two prayer walks were already held in Omaha soon after the New Year began in response to two shootings that left three people dead.

Unfortunately, prayer alone won’t deter gang violence. It hasn’t worked in Chicago, It hasn’t worked in Detroit, and it won’t work in cities where the minority black population works overtime to fight against violent crime in their neighborhoods.

Don’t misunderstand, I believe in prayer. And I believe that we should rally around the friends and families of victims of gang violence and support them in prayer. I also believe that many of God’s miracles are wrought in the bowels of the prayers of godly men and women. But if prayer alone would stop violence, then we should be holding prayer-walks along the Mexican/ US border and in every country where violence is destroying lives.

We need to understand that gang violence grows out of a distorted mind-set. When David Wilkerson went to New York to minister to the gangs there, he didn’t hold prayer-walks at the scene of murders. Instead, led by God’s spirit, he reached out to the gang members in order to change their mind-set of violence.

Sometimes, one of the biggest hindrances to reducing gang violence is the news media sensationalizing every gun-related crime that happens. These stories get played over and over again with the pictures of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes plastered across the TV screen until they’re burned into peoples’ memory. They give these criminals their 5-minutes of fame while the victims are barely mentioned!

Most people recognize the names of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, but how many would recognize the names Kelly Fleming, Matthew Kechter, or William Sanders? Many in the Omaha area will recognize Nikko Jenkins’ name, but do they know who Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena were?

During the time of Noah, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) There it is—the people of Noah’s day had a mind-set of violence! All the bloodshed, murders, etc. that take place are the fruit of a mind-set of violence. And God blames all violence on a mind-set. (Thoughts and intents of the heart) “In your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.” (Psalm 58:2)

It starts with the children.
Changing a mind-set has to start with the children. If a child grows up with love, attention, compassion and understanding, then he will not pull out a gun and kill others when he is older.
Being a parent is the most important job in this world. And we need to take seriously the responsibility of teaching them love, respect and everything else that will assist them in growing up to be moral and loving adults.

How can we expect a teen or a young adult to be an asset to society if he is brought up in an environment where there is no love or respect in the home? Many of those that kill are hurting—and they’re angry. They hate their life, and because they cannot stand it, they lash out in violence.

As Christians and as fellow human beings, we should look out for those who are hurting, sad and angry, and let them know that they are not alone. Usually, we ignore the signs because it’s so much easier to walk away.

Robert Wildeboer, a criminal and legal affairs reporter, discovered that the city of Toronto has about one seventh the number of murders than Chicago, even though the two cities are of equal size. He observed that a key difference is that the public in Toronto demands a crime-free society, and that this expectation filters through the neighborhoods, the news media, politicians, lawmakers, and law enforcement. http://www.wbez.org/series/under-gun-murder-chicago-and-toronto
To me, this observation suggests a striking possibility: that by refusing to accept criminal behavior as acceptable, we can actually reduce it.

David Wilkerson saw firsthand the advantages of using the weight of his thoughts on the side of respect, love and forgiveness. Rather than thinking of individuals as irredeemably corrupt, or concluding that violence will always be a part of their life, he believed that God’s constant influence of calm, clarity, integrity, and goodness would have a better and lasting effect. http://www.historymakers.info/inspirational-christians/david-wilkerson.html

Separating the crime from the individual is difficult, but without addressing the underlying cause, the crime will continue—and there will be a thousand others to carry it out. The prisons are already filled with them.

Instead, each of us must think properly and prayerfully about the issue of violent crime. Rather than responding with fear, we can insist that violence in our cities and our lives is not an unavoidable fact of life.

I believe that if we join hands in prayer with our neighbors facing violent crime we can succeed in separating crime from our humanity and realize that violence is not a “necessary evil.” There is no criminal legitimacy. Crime is opportunistic, cowardly and non-intelligence. Our responsibility to our neighbors around us is to reject the idea that crime has any legitimacy, and separate it entirely from our humanity.

This prayerful approach will not only enable us to support our neighbors, but will also lead to appropriate law enforcement measures to curb violence and give us safer cities and neighborhoods. It is only then that our communities will begin to be filled with good citizens and neighbors and bring us all closer to our rightful inheritance.

A wind-chill advisory was in effect today until noon for the Omaha area and parts to the south toward Nebraska City, Falls City and Beatrice and sections west that included Lincoln, Grand Island, Kearney and Hastings. The advisory was also issued for extreme northwest Iowa and most of southwest Iowa.

As a bitter cold front is making its way into the Metro area in Omaha this week, furnaces will be set on high, and people will be bundled up trying to keep warm as they venture outdoors. Wind chill will set record temperatures as low as 30 below zero. With temperatures forecast to be below zero for highs, being outside can be deadly.

The cold ripped through my body in just the few minutes it took me to take out the trash today—so how can someone survive for long periods of time outdoors in this? Where do the homeless go when temperatures get dangerous?

Local shelters have been preparing to absorb more people because of the cold.
Mike Saklar, Executive Director of the Siena/Francis House in Omaha said, “This is very dangerous weather.” Mike has seen this before. He sees the homeless every day and knows that when the weather gets dangerously cold like it means that some will show up suffering from the cold. Although Mike and the staff at the Sienna/Francis House always expect an increase in visitors in cold weather, it’s an overwhelming challenge now because of the already extreme overcrowding.

The Sienna/Francis House has a policy of never turning anyone away who shows up. Rather than referring to visitors as clients, Mike and his staff refer to the homeless as guests. Mike considers himself as a kind of Shepard; and like any good shepherd, he knows that he’ll have to try and look for some of the lost sheep on the cold streets of Omaha. “We’ll send out patrols every hour looking for people.” He said. “And we’ll do it all night.”

Teens are especially vulnerable when the weather turns cold. Because of young people aging out of foster care system or an abusive family situation, many youth end up on the streets to fend for themselves. Shawn Miller of Youth Emergency Services said he would locate shelter for any teenager who needed it. He expected 60 or more teens to show up for Tuesday’s pantry night near 26th and Harney Streets. “We’ll do whatever we can to make them safe for the night,” said Miller, outreach coordinator for YES. That includes transportation to a shelter, a friend’s home or anywhere else they’ve found to stay.

It only takes a moment.
It can only take a matter of minutes for someone to suffer from frostbite in bitter cold. Dr. Mindy Lacey, of UNMC, said, “The most common areas that we see that get frost bite are the ears, nose, fingers and toes.” The worst effect of frostbite is with the onset of tingling or numbness and not understanding what’s happening. For the vulnerable or those who simply don’t know better, waiting too long after being exposed to the cold, could cause them to suffer irreparable damage.

Places like the Open Door Mission in Omaha are seeing a lot more people who need a place to keep warm too. “All of our beds on campus are filled, but we can always drag out another mat, we can get more blankets, linens and pillows,” said Candace Gregory, CEO of the Open Door Mission. “The Open Door Mission is already overflowing.” She said. “All of the shelter’s 860 beds are full, and on Monday night there were nearly 200 men, women and children sleeping on mats.” The Lydia House, a shelter for women and children at the Open Door Mission, has also seen an increase of 37 percent. They are maxed out at that facility.

Del Bomberger, executive director of the Stephen Center, said his shelter has plenty of mats and floor space in the gym at its temporary location in the old St. Mary Catholic School, at 5310 S. 36th St.

There are approximately 2000 homeless men, women and children in the Omaha Metro Area each night. Brutal weather has left workers scrambling to provide enough space, blankets, coats and gloves for those seeking refuge from the cold.

How you can help
Below is a list of critical needs for homeless shelters. You can drop these off at any of the local shelters in your area.

• Blankets, sheets, and pillows
• Gloves, hats, and coats of all sizes
• Men’s and women’s wool socks
• Thermal underwear – size small, medium, large and X-large
• Winter boots of all sizes

Living on the streets is dangerous any time of year, but that’s especially dangerous when temperatures dip below freezing. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, approximately 700 homeless people die from hypothermia every year. But unless someone is underage, you can’t force them to come inside. If you know someone is living outside and you can’t get them to seek shelter, call the police and let them know, so they can take them to one of the shelters, because…

No one should die just because they’re homeless.

Their stories are as varied as their circumstances. Some of the homeless have graduate degrees; others served with honor in the military; still others once held high-paying jobs. What causes homelessness? A serious illness or disability, a lost job, and domestic violence are among many reasons. But even so, there are some important lessons we can learn from the homeless:

1. Be content with what you have
You might be surprised to know that there are a lot of homeless people who are quite content with their lot in life. Many are happy to be out of the rat race and free of the trappings that the rest of us have in our lives. Not only that, many homeless people remain upbeat and positive despite what life has thrown their way.

2. Be Thrifty
Homeless people know the value of a dollar in a way few of us can understand. And they know how to make it last. Every quarter, dime, nickel or penny that comes their way is used in the most efficient way possible. You won’t ever see a homeless person paying for a $5 coffee at Starbucks when they can get it for free at any day shelter across the city. We could learn a thing or two from them about spending wisely.

3. Be Resourceful
We’re conditioned from a pretty early age to get a good education, work hard, earn a good paycheck and then buy what we want. But many homeless people don’t have the benefit of a good education—or a good paycheck. But they do know where every food pantry and soup kitchen is; when every bakery disposes of their day-old products; and where the best thrift stores are. They feed and clothe themselves on their own initiative and savvy. We should all try to cultivate this kind of resourcefulness.

4. Help others
Being homeless is no picnic for those unfortunate enough to find themselves on the street. However, if you were to watch them closely you would discover that many of them share what they have with other homeless people. This should challenge us to share what we have with those around us as well. There are a thousand daily comforts we take for granted that homeless people never get to enjoy. We have these luxuries that we keep to ourselves while others go without. We should share with others out of the abundance that we have, because in the end, we’re no different than anyone else, and tragedy could befall us as well.

5. Persevere
A homeless person will stand at a corner all day begging for change or for any kind of work. I know there are stories of some people begging on street corners who are not really homeless, but they are the exception rather than the norm. Most of those you see on street corners really are homeless. They tough it out for as long as it takes, every day, to get enough money to eat and maybe a bed for the night. They don’t get sick days or vacations and many of them refuse welfare handouts, choosing instead to work for every penny they get.

Many of them look at their homelessness as a ministry. They persevere because they know that they are homeless for God’s greater purpose—the same purpose that God put us in our homes, at our jobs, and with our families. No matter what our economic status is, we should all be willing to learn from the homeless.

The Bible speaks plainly about homelessness:

“If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.” (Leviticus 25:35-36)

“Then the King will say to those on the right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Many people ignore the homeless, I think because they believe there is little they can do to “fix them”. But it seems to me that we’re the ones who need to be fixed. Anyway, it’s not God’s intention that we “fix” the homeless any more than it is His intention that the homeless fix us.

The apostle Paul wrote that we are one body in Christ. (Romans 12:5) Everyone—rich, poor, every race, every age—has a legitimate role to play in that body. We may go to a homeless shelter, or an orphanage, or a nursing home with the intention of helping someone else, but ultimately, we will be helping each other become the body God envisioned from before creation.

Mother Teresa, who worked with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta for most of her life said, “God makes no distinctions between rich and poor. In fact, the rich are often poor in spirit, while the poor may have many qualities the financially wealthy lack.”

Think about this: Every one of us is spiritually homeless. We live in temporary bodies, in a temporary house, on a temporary planet. No matter how modest or grand our living situation is now, we are all waiting to take our permanent places in God’s kingdom.

The most important thing we can learn from the homeless is that God has not forsaken them—and He’ll not forsake us either.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells the story of a man who has two sons. The younger son asks his father to give him his portion of the family estate as an early inheritance. Typically, a son would receive his inheritance at the time of his father’s death. The fact that the younger brother instigated the early division of the family estate showed a rebellious and proud disregard for his father’s authority, not to mention a selfish and immature attitude.

Once the son receives his inheritance, he promptly sets off on a long journey to a distant land and begins to waste his fortune on wild living. But after the money runs out, a severe famine hits the country and the son suddenly finds himself in dire circumstances. Times get so hard that he even takes a job feeding pigs. He is so destitute that he even longs to eat the food assigned to the pigs. Pigs are unclean animals; so when this son took a job feeding pigs, (Even wanting to eat the garbage he was feeding them) it reveals that he had fallen as low as he could possibly go.

The young man finally comes to his senses, remembering his father and all that he had there. In humility, he recognizes his foolishness and decides to return to his father and ask for forgiveness and mercy, hoping to only become his father’s servant. Unknown to this son, his father had been patiently praying, watching and waiting for his son’s return home. The father is overjoyed by the return of his lost son and receives him back with open arms of compassion. Immediately the father turns to his servants and asks them to prepare a grand celebration feast in honor of this son.

Meanwhile, the older son is not one bit happy when he comes in from a hard day of working in the fields to discover a party going on to celebrate his younger brother’s return. The father tries to dissuade the older brother from his jealous anger explaining, “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

To most of us, it’s easy to view ourselves as the prodigal son. We all know enough about loss, about decisions made that led to a trail of ruin and heartache. We know what it’s like to wake up one day and realize that we have wandered far from God, how we’ve wasted our lives and what it’s like to feel lost and unable to be found. Yearning for God’s love, we replayed our life over and over in our heads thinking: “Where did I go wrong?” And like the younger son, we hope beyond hope for another chance to get it right–Another chance to start again.

This is one of Jesus’ longest parables. And because Jesus doesn’t explain the parables’ meaning, the parable lends itself to many lessons. Many sermons have been preached on how the older brother represents legalistic Christians who have lost the love of God and the joy of serving Him. But I must confess that I sometimes relate to the older brother in the story.

In the parable, the older brother is upset because the father has thrown a party to celebrate the return of his younger brother who has taken half of the father’s estate, left home and spent the money on wild living while he remained obedient to the father all these years. He can’t believe what he sees when he returns from working hard in the field. He feels cheated.

I don’t necessarily identify with the younger son in this parable. No, I am the older brother. I have watched other Christians squander what God has blessed them with as they flippantly use God’s name and live and speak as if they belong to the world.

Most of my Christian life I have only wanted to use my talents to serve God. Not to gain favor with God, but because I truly love Him so much that I want to do all I can to serve only Him. But more times than not, I have not been allowed the opportunity to do that. So when I see half-hearted Christians being blessed so much, like the older brother, I sometimes I feel cheated too. But I’m still learning and growing, so try not to be too hard on me.

Most Christians would not admit to relating to the older brother. But I think if the truth were told, our churches are full of older brothers. That’s why we need to get to a new level of repentance, a new level of renewal. We need to repent of trying to get control of God. We need to re-examine the reasons for our wanting to do good. Otherwise there will be no renewal.

The older brother reacted the way many of us react when we feel cheated by God, (Myself included) when the reality is if we have truly repented and been saved by God through Jesus, how can we even think we have been cheated? We have everything we could ever hope for–eternal life with our heavenly Father.

The father in the parable represents our Heavenly Father. God waits patiently, with loving compassion to restore us when we return to him with humble hearts. He offers us everything in his kingdom, restoring a full relationship with joyful celebration. He doesn’t even dwell on our past waywardness. The older brother in the parable should have welcomed his younger brother back with open arms just like his father did–even though it cost him half of his inheritance. That’s the kind of love God desires us to have for others.

It is not up to us to decide who receives God’s blessings because he blesses those he chooses to. (Romans 9:18) So let’s put away our jealousy and remember the way back to the Father’s house and take our seat at his table. May we dive deeply into the intimate relationship that God desires so that we may enjoy with Him everything He has.