Section Eight

I’m going to die in the projects.  No, I don’t live in housing, never have and am not on a waiting list.  But I’ve spent a lot of time in the communities of those living with government assistance.  While I can’t speak to everyone’s experience, the years have earned me the right to speak for mine.

A lot of my high school friends lived in the projects.  A lot.  To tell the truth, I didn’t think much on it in those days because I knew little of the home circumstances of most of my friends.  But I knew what housing units and neighborhoods looked like.  I would learn more in years to come.

Having spent the majority of my life in church work, I’ve been involved in quite a bit of benevolent ministry.  Such efforts will lead to those living in meager circumstances.  This is often, though not always, true of those in the cramped quarters of government housing and sponsored domiciles.  The work I’ve done outside full-time ministry has, also, been related to human services and flavored my experience.  You will never know people until you spend time with them in daily environs.  I have been enriched by my life in the projects.

My early, in-depth experiences centered on the church bus ministry.  Those involved were charged with recruiting church attenders (mostly children) to ride buses to weekly services.  If you want to find a lot of kids, the projects are the place to go.  Those of us attempting to “fill up” our buses tried to locate areas of dense population.  I didn’t know I would develop friendships that were meaningful to me as I went about my weekly visitation duties.  It didn’t take long for me to find kindred souls or to become comfortable in the projects.  More than once, I have been warned by law enforcement to be careful in my areas of deployment, and more than once I have said, “It’s OK.  They know me here.”

The message of Christ is for everyone, no matter their locale, but where are the places of greatest need?  An older preacher once told me, “I’d like to live in the country, but the city is where the people are.”  That’s why much of my ministry has been in the projects.  People are there.  People for who Christ died.

I like life near the bone.  Name brands don’t impress me, and I am less impressed by the buyers thereof.  I’m not imputing undeserved qualities to the needy (They can be violent and rude.), but I find people in the projects against the wall.  It makes me grateful.  And everyone is not of the same stripe.  You don’t have to be poor to live in housing, but it’ll cost you more.

Knocking on thousands of doors to inquire about church affiliation and need has increased my desire to knock on thousands more.  In many neighborhoods, lights will be switched off when I ring the bell.  In the projects, at my knock, a voice will call out, “Come in!”  Many times, I’ve responded, “Are you sure?”  If you think I’m saying that people on the fringe are more accommodating, you’re right.  Don’t understand me to say the people are superior.  I’m saying they are more accessible.  I like that.  No, I love it.       

Many hide their needs and true selves behind oaken doors and manicured lawns.  People admitting they need help to live do so to a lesser degree.  It must be admitted that some have “entitlement mentalities,” and there’s no virtue there, but that is not the case for all.  It’s harder to be pretentious when you’ve got nothing to lose.  I’ve seen the Lord Jesus enter many humble homes.

I expect to spend years in housing.  Truthfully, I am becoming less able to do the footwork of the past, but I’m going to keep going to places of need until they are places where everybody knows my name.  I am at home there, and I like to go where doors are opened wide.  When John the Baptist sent word to Jesus from his prison cell inquiring as to whether He were really the Chosen of God,  Jesus responded, “The poor have the gospel preached to them.”

Sterl

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