Summary: Christ's call to serve is unique for each and every believer. He will give us the situation, the words and the ability to do what He wants us to do. He is the one who makes a difference. We are tools to be used by Him.
“I was shivering, and you gave me clothes…”
Martin of Tours was a Roman soldier and a Christian. One cold winter day, as he was entering a city, a beggar stopped him and asked for money. Martin had no money, but the beggar was blue and shivering with cold and Martin gave him what he had. He took off his soldier’s cloak, worn and frayed as it was; he cut it in two and gave half of it to the beggar.
That night Martin had a dream. In it he saw the heavenly places and all the angels and Jesus in the midst of them; and Jesus was wearing half a Roman soldier’s cloak. One of the angels said to him, “Master, why are you wearing that battered old cloak? Who gave it to you?” Jesus answered softly, “My servant Martin gave it to me.”
We do not have to do big things to help the poor. There is a saying-“big things come in small packages”. Even the smallest things we do can make a big difference in the lives of the poor. For example, any time my mother and I have extra clothes that we want to get rid of, we donate them to the Canadian Diabetes Association. In return, the Association sells these clothes to Value Village stores. These stores, which are similar to the local Salvation Army Thrift Store, sell clothing and other household items to low income people at affordable prices.
There are other things we can do as Christians. For example, our Mother’s Union group gathers items for needy families. Last year the group sponsored a local family by providing them with clothing, useful personal items and household items at Christmas time. Trinity Church’s ACW group sponsors a foster child. Our parish supplies boxes of clothing for our Rector to use in his role as the Honorary Chaplain of the Mission to Seafarers in the Port of Liverpool and Brooklyn. In our wider community, the Salvation Army’s Thrift Store provides clothing and other assistance to the needy. Every fall the local Kinette Club offers a Warm Winter Clothing Exchange where people can donate winter clothing that they no longer need and the poor can get winter clothing at no charge.
Speaking of the Mission to Seafarers, this worldwide organization, which started as a mission of the Church of England in the 1850s, also serves the poor by providing support, emergency assistance and a friendly welcome to ships crews in over 250 ports worldwide. This support ranges from caring for the victims of piracy to caring for seafarers who are stranded in foreign ports to providing warm clothing, personal care and sundry items to the crews of ships to providing Internet access so seafarers can keep in touch with loved ones at home. Our Rector has mentioned that whenever he takes warm clothing to seafarers who arrive at the local port, they are extremely grateful-so grateful that they often take every item of clothing he has brought on board.
There are things government can do to ease poverty, especially since government decisions sometimes cause poverty. A recent report criticized the Nova Scotia government for not dealing with high taxes and its inability to control energy prices. Double-digit hikes in electricity rates and high heating oil prices are taking a bite out of household budgets, and this has led to an increase in the number of people seeking social assistance. Earlier this year, the Salvation Army’s Good Neighbour Energy Fund was fully depleted for the first time ever, largely because the provincial government reduced its annual contribution, but because the fund was depleted, the government had to contribute extra money.
In January 2011 the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and the National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada sent a letter to the Canadian government urging it to adopt the recommendations of a House of Commons committee for reducing poverty in Canada. It urged the federal government to support broad measures to improve living standards for impoverished Canadians. Across Canada, committed Anglicans are dealing with the poverty issue at many levels and in many ways. They are asking for sweeping forward-looking measures that will address the root causes of poverty in the years to come. Others are continuing with traditional charitable work---soup kitchens, shelters, drop-in centres, food banks and clothing giveaways---to help the needy now.
When we serve the poor, sometimes we serve angels in disguise, and sometimes we can be rewarded by them. For example, last fall the Missions to Seafarers centre in Halifax received a donation from an ex-seafarer who had stopped at the centre in the 1960s. During that visit he lost his shoes. The chaplain at that time bought him a new pair of shoes. The ex-seafarer never forgot the chaplain’s kindness.