Love, Inc.

Help the poor. Feed the hungry. Care for the sick. Visit those in prison. We all know Jesus commands us to do these things. But when we hear it preached from the pulpit, we tend to look down, fidget with the bulletin, and feel a vague sense of guilt. Somehow we don't seem to be able to translate what we know we ought to do into action. But how would we respond if we were told that 80-year-old Mary Smith needs a ride to her doctor every Tuesday morning? Now, that's concrete, specific, practical. Suddenly, the words "care for the sick" are no longer a vague abstraction. What if we learned that 10-year-old Manuel needs someone to teach him English? Suddenly, "the poor" takes shape as a particular little boy, with a face and a name. And what if someone told us Joanne and her children need a ride once a month to visit her husband in prison? That's something I could do. Couldn't you? We respond more readily when "the needy" is not an abstract concept but real flesh-and-blood individuals. There's an organization that puts faces on the poor and needy. It's called Love Inc.--where Inc. is short for "in Christ." Love Inc. sets up networks between charity organizations and churches. When a needy person walks into a charity organization, they call Love Inc. Love Inc. assesses the kind of help needed and then calls a church in the person's neighborhood. Church members are linked up with a specific person in their area who needs help. Love Inc. was founded to provide an alternative to welfare programs. What poor people need most is not material assistance??food to eat and clothes to wear. Material gifts may meet an immediate need, but what happens next month when the recipient needs more food and new clothes? The long-term solution is training and education to enable the poor to buy their own food and clothes. But many poor people need something even more basic. They haven't mastered the basic life skills most of us take for granted--how to cook, keep a budget, stick to a schedule, and raise their children. And no one learns skills like these by getting food stamps or a monthly welfare check. The only way to learn the basics of life is through a personal relationship with someone who cares. And that's something government simply can't provide. To a welfare worker, a needy individual is often just a case--a problem to be solved, a project to be completed. But a Christian sees the needy person as his neighbor--a person to be loved and helped in the name of Christ. I know what a difference that makes. We see it all the time in Prison Fellowship's ministries to inmates and their families. We have mentor programs that link up inmates with strong Christians who can teach them the basic life skills they need to re-enter society. Without those skills, many inmates fall back into a life of crime. We work with inmates and their wives to teach them biblical principles of marriage and family life, so they can build a support base of love and commitment with the people closest to them. This kind of ministry is much more demanding than just dropping a check in the offering plate. But it's the only way to really obey Christ's commands to feed the hungry and help the poor: to turn those commands from abstract principles into needy people.


Chuck Colson


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