Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Growth, Sad Growth

We track outcomes and units of service very carefully here at Central Dallas Ministries.

There are a number of reasons why we take the time and the care to do so.

Funders want to know what we are up to and what we are actually accomplishing.

More importantly, we want to know what happens month-by-month. We want to study the community, its responses and its demands. By tracking our activities and efforts we gain valuable community intelligence beyond the specifics of our various endeavors.

As a result of this commitment as an organization, I receive a steady stream of periodic reports on all that we do.

Recently, a report on our Community Health Services crossed my desk.

As I reviewed it, I have to say I was amazed.

A year ago in January 2005, we "hosted" 1085 patient visits, including 555 general medical visits, 61 diabetic patients, and 28 pastoral counseling sessions.

This year in January those numbers had all grown significantly. We provided a welcoming medical home for 1541 patient appointments (up 42% from last year). Of these visits, 970 fell in the general medicine category (up 75%), 91 involved diabetic patients (up 49%)and 45 came for pastoral counseling (up 61%).

Clearly, the need of the community is not declining.

None of our patients enjoy the benefits of medical insurance. Almost all either work or come from working families in the case of our children.

Recently, while providing a group of interested guests a tour of the CDM landscape, we dropped in on the clinic operation. People were everywhere--standing outside, three deep down the hallways, seated on the staircase, crammed into the waiting room.

We need more space.

We are working on plans to relocate the clinic to a larger building, possibly into our headquarters building on Haskell. We will figure it out.

The point here is clear: the need grows and grows.

At the same time, community resources continue to shrink.

Our growth amazes me, but it is sad growth indeed.


Brian Slusser said...

Sad Growth. Indeed. I struggle with this issue myself. In doing Kingdom work, Community Development, Leadership development, or anything really in the name of Jesus...We are constantly confronted with this empty pit of need.

We can try to "work harder, smarter" but no matter what, we as humans never get to the bottom of this endless pit of need. So what's the trick to keep from getting discouraged... If we say that God is sovereign and sit back and relax...we are confronted with need and pain and our own guilt for not doing anything
. If we strive for living authentic and coherent lives as Jesus called us to. We still see the pain..We may be burnt-out and disenfranchised...and we STILL may feel guilty for not doing enough.

How do y'all balance that out?? I know we are signposts for the kingdom. and we can't expect to achieve utopian society this side of heaven. But i'm curious to how veterens of urban ministry...heck even veterns of following Jesus. Find a coherent vision that sustains them in such a broken painful world.

Finally... Deuteronomy 15 where we here more on the year of jubilee and canceling debts ect. vs 4 says "there should be no poor among you"

vs 7 says "if there is a poor man among your brothers.....

vs 11 says "There will ALWAYS be poor people in the land.

What do you make of this. its sad that we have all the resources in the world that we need..and we have all the powerful, savy, innovative creative people that we need to distribute them wisely....if they so choose to...... but that basically we see in the word....that none of this happens..this side of heaven... I guess we rejoice that we have a Great God that we KNOW will make it all happen and then some..when he returns. to wipe every tear away and make all things new.

I guess it makes you pray a little louder... Thy Kingdom Come. When you see the growth in need, Larry. But the tricky part is knowing that Jesus also is using us to give evidence of this kingdom. I guess this is all to say I want to know how others process, and reconcile these issues. while being in the midst of it all

Larry James said...

Brian, thanks for your thoughts.

It is true, of course, that our responses to people trapped in poverty aren't what they should be and will never be all they need to be.

But the point here is that we can do so much better than we are currently doing--we have done better in the past and we can do better going forward if we change our will.

The biblical text you mention in Deuteronomy is a classic and contains part of our answer for today. That passage makes it clear that for ancient Israel there were systemic provisions built into the nation's law and economic policy that protected the poor and checked unbridled materialism.

In a Constitutional democracy such as ours public policy decisions at the macro level have direct and enormous impact on life in communities and families.

Our approach as people of faith needs to be two-fold:

1) We need to reach out to and engage the poor as friends, partners and peers.

2) We must exercise our political power to change the way the system is oppressing the poor today.

We must not give in to despair.