make advocates not buildings

make advocates not buildings jpeg

i have been on a bit of a rampage these past few weeks, so i am going to get on my soapbox for a moment (surprise, surprise). you see, in the last couple of months i have been an advocate for a few different friends connected to the refuge who have needed a little help navigating social services & standing up for themselves in various ways.  i wholeheartedly believe in the art of advocacy, a little extra support & strength, someone to help give voice to the voiceless & ensure that the powerless don’t get stomped on.  when it comes to social services, i honestly think that no person should ever, ever, ever have to go do that alone.  it’s just too hard and humiliating and beyond confusing to navigate.  i have a graduate degree & consider myself sorta, kinda, halfway smart, and the whole process, language, letters in the mail, automatic denials, hoops you have to jump through, have made me more and more angry as the weeks have gone by.

and i think where i go with some of my anger is:  where in the #&~)*!@#? is “the church” in this process?  most everyone sitting in the social services waiting room is already in a tough & brutal spot, otherwise they wouldn’t be there.  and they’re there trying to figure out the system on their own with basically no one to stand alongside.   the last time i was there i saw a veteran get so frustrated on the check-in process that he threw up his hands & stormed out the door. i was so sad, i wanted to run him down and say “come back, i’ll do this with you!” but i was tied up holding another single mommy’s hand as she was having an anxiety attack at the thought of losing some of her benefits.   i thought to myself “everyone here should have someone else with them to be a support & strength, an in-the-flesh advocate.”

psalm 82:3-4 includes this cry:

“defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.  rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

although the psalmist is crying out to God, because we are called to be a reflection of God’s image, i believe this verse is a call to advocacy.

and i’ve been wondering, more than ever, what would it look like if christians continually cultivated the art of advocacy so that our “neighbors” would have voice, support, and encouragement when they needed it most?  (ps: i need to add that i am very mad that anyone who is part of our faith community even has to access social services because we, as christian brothers & sisters, should be helping meet those needs together. but the harsh reality is that a lot of people with money & resource seem to be looking for programs for their kids & inspiring sermons & just don’t see themselves as equals with honest vulnerable strugglers so the resource ends up staying in systems that self-perpetuate instead of directly to care for the hurting. i always want to cry out: “i have a single mommy who needs that money so she can change her life, but instead you’re going to let it pay for printing costs & building overhead & salaries to keep your cool church’s worlds spinning ’round!“).  i really believe the resources are out there, they are just allocated in the wrong places.  sorry, i digress.

but i’m not afraid to say, i think churches should be cultivating advocates instead of building buildings.

so what would that look like?

it always, always, always starts with relationship.  friends don’t let their friends do hard things alone.  period.  without relationship, advocacy just can’t happen.  this is why i am so passionate about incarnational relationships–in the flesh, face to face, heart to heart.  this means we have to invest deeply in the lives of each other so that we know when someone actually needs help, someone to stick up for them a little extra for a season.

a willingness to step into the mess even when we don’t have any answers. – advocates don’t have to have answers (this is what we always think). we don’t have to know the ins and outs of the system or what programs or resources are available.  the only thing we need to be willing to do is say “i’ll figure this out with you, you will not have to do it alone. you need to try to use your voice but if you can’t, i will be there to help you.” 

we need to get mad on others’ behalfs.  we must get in touch with injustice, what it looks like, smells like, tastes.  there’s nothing more healing for another person than to have someone say “this is not right!”  social justice advocate john perkins says, “when a person stands on the side of the oppressed, he decides to trade comfort for concern, apathy for action, violence for nonviolence, hate for love.” 

we can’t keep “leaving it to the professionals.” – we make assumptions all the time–“oh, i am not a professional, they need to figure it out with their caseworker, therapist, doctor, lawyer, you name it.” okay, that’s my point:  sometimes people need help navigating things with the “professionals”!   this crosses all socioeconomics.  “voiceless” takes many forms & has nothing to do with education or pay.  sometimes, because of shame & abuse & insecurities, people lose their voice and a 50 minute session once a week isn’t going to get it back.  we need people to help us practice standing up for ourselves, to be good coaches.

commitment to the long haul – if every person with margin was a tangible life-long advocate for a person without margin, i believe the world would be a radically different place. i know that’s overwhelming for some people, that thought, but i do believe that we need to take a much longer view of relationship.  we are called to be people’s mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters for different seasons & our adopted “family” means we are in it for the long haul no matter what.  one of the reasons it is so hard for hurting people to trust other people is that they continually get ditched & it becomes so difficult to trust.

the truth is, we probably all need an advocate now and then. when i was going through an extra hard time a few years ago exiting an unhealthy church staff, jose stuck up for me in a powerful way i will never forget it.   i had become voiceless, beaten down, and he stepped in and said a few things that needed to be said on my behalf.  in that moment, i got a picture of God’s heart for me.

whether we are young or old, educated or uneducated, shy or loud, there’s always someone out there who needs us to stick up for them now and then, to be a voice when they have none, to restore a little dignity & offer a little hope for the journey.  that’s advocacy.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

47 Comments

  • Kathy, You say so many things in this post that have long been swimming in my own brain. The problem with governmental programs is they are hard to navigate and full of administrators who could give a damn. The problem with church programs is that so many people have been hurt by the church and do not feel able to trust that institution. Churches are more about who’s the latest success instead of “I have a problem, could someone help”. Then there’s the family unit. I guess I got lucky. I had family to help. Lots of people don’t, and that’s how they end up defeated, homeless, or just losing their sanity and their life. I can totally relate to what this individual is going through and how frustrating it must be for them. Thanks for being there for this person and helping them swim through the deep end of the ocean. Let me know what I can do to help.

    And thanks for letting me know that what I went through last summer, I’ll never have to worry about experiencing alone again. That meant so much to me, and I glossed over it at the time, ‘cuz I didn’t know what to do with it. I’m still used to protecting myself and being the only person I think I can count on.

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  • You keep on speaking for the poor, my friend. It reminded me of a video clip my friend Claudio Oliver sent (which I can’t find just now, but here’s his email: claudio@docaminho.com.br) where he suggested that the greatest service we could give to the poor would be to become their friend. He said he asked a room full of pastors how long it would take to get a meal, a place to stay, a job if they lost everything tomorrow. They replied it would only take a few minutes to find a meal, a day to find a place to stay, and maybe a few weeks to find a job. Claudio said to them, “Then you would not be poor. It would not take you long to have your needs met because you have friends who would not let you go for long without what you need. The poor have nobody.” He said if we befriended the poor, they would have us as “advocates”, and they would never really be “poor” again. They would have friends, and anyone with a friend is not really poor.

    Powerful stuff.

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  • kathy, i followed a link here from Subversive Influence…and just wanted to say, preach it. know that there are hundreds of Christians being the church instead of doing church…and we are here with you… 🙂

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  • Commitment to the long haul – there’s the hard one, for me!!! Great points, great post and I shall use your 5 points here and use them as a start off at homegroup next week –

    Hey by the way, we do have an Advocate, He’s called the Holy Spirit.

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  • Kathy~

    From one who is ‘navigating’ the system right now trying to finally stand on my own and get away from the abuse… Tears, what a powerful strength it would be to have that advocate – someone willing to go to appointments, interviews… My first interview with Vocational Rehab I cried, I couldn’t stop, and I shook, and the ‘counselor’ was less than sympathetic. I am waiting right now to hear if I have been approved for an apartment – I have to be moved out of where I am in 2 weeks… Hmm… and in all the years of growing up in church and being in church, I have never seen what you describe – I have seen those ‘needing government help’ being looked on with pity, but not sympathy. And help? Never heard it mentioned… Of course, some of the abuse I am coming out of was at the hands of churches, so….

    I think I’ll stop now. This could get too angry……

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  • Another terrific post Kathy. You really earth what social holiness looks like with your emphasis on advocacy. This excites me as a Methodist! Thank you for your insightful and powerful writing.
    Love and peace from Lincolnshire

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  • hey all, i will just say first of all that i really, really love our little blog community. your comments & interaction make it all worth it…

    lisa – yeah, i agree, there are so many messed up things about these different systems in different ways & i think that’s why we have to really fight to create safe & healthy ways to pull off being with and for each other!

    jonathan – you are always so encouraging, thanks

    randy – WOW!! that was amazing stuff, these thoughts here from claudio (was he the one who was at off the map last year from brazil?) i love love love the thoughts of friendship being where it’s at. real, true, deep & rich friendship. can’t wait to hang out in october in denver!

    phyllis – yeah, i knew you’d like this one 🙂

    nick – thanks for stopping by, welcome. yes, it has been encouraging to know there are so many really in the trenches all over the place living it out in real and tangible ways. it helps so much! would love to hear more about what you all are doing up in portland.

    mark – yeah, the long haul is the most difficult for sure. read tracy simmons’ post, wow, that was powerful! i have added you to my blog reader. i really like the cool variety you have on your blog!! glad that some of these thoughts will travel down under. lmk how the conversation goes, would love to hear.

    katherine – oh thank you for your honesty. it makes me so mad on your behalf in all kinds of ways. i have no idea where you live? so many reasons not to trust & feel so alone, i am glad that out here in blogland somehow someway you know you aren’t all by yourself.

    tracy – whoa, that thing moved me to tears. please, everyone, check out the link here: http://thebestparts.blogspot.com/2008/07/no-catch-and-relase-friendships.html. i will comment on your blog directly but i just want you to remember to not be too hard on yourself, we are all on a journey, learning all kinds of hard & beautiful & painful things & i am just privileged to know you and get to be part of the ride!

    dave – thanks! i always have resonated with social justice heart of the methodists…glad that we are all connected across the sea…

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  • Kathy, I’m really not being hard on myself at all. I have so entered into the life of Grace that He is finally able to transform me where I see no life within myself, and to do so with no condemnation or guilt. I’m hoping to post on this very thing tomorrow–it’s been such a revelation in my life. But thanks for the reminder just in case I was beating myself up :).

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  • tracy – oh good, the last thing i want to do is be part of helping people feel like they are not measuring up to something…i am so with you on the spiritual transformation piece & how God stirs up this crazy stuff in us so we can get radically in touch with his heart…

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  • Kathy — you’ve got me really geared up now 🙂

    I absolutely love your vision of “cultivating the art of advocacy” — part of what makes it so compelling is your passion and the way you’re fleshing this out in your own experience. Tracy’s “catch and release” story really drives home the need for us to forge real, genuine friendships as well, where we’re willing to step into the mess, commit to the long haul, and fight for them the way Christ fights for us…

    As a mega-church member (and one who works with churches from a lot of different backgrounds/perspectives), I’m also challenged by the “cultivating advocates vs. building buildings” dichotomy — I think I really hear your heart on this (and am no fan of the country club mentality many churches can devolve into), but I see this as a both/and rather than an either/or.

    I’ve seen many churches use facilities in a powerful and strategic way to connect with and impact their communities. And what may seem like an unnecessary extravagance for some, is to others a tangible, God-inspired expression of extravagant grace –like the Father bringing out the best robe for his undeserving prodigal son…

    I guess my point is that our Father’s methods for reaching his children are varied, dynamic, and infinitely unique…and that, unlike our government, our Father’s resources are not finite and limited.

    In short, I guess I want to be able to celebrate with everyone who follows the dreams God has uniquely placed in their heart. And also to encourage you to follow this dream, without considering the resources spent elsewhere as a limit on what God can accomplish through your community…

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  • steve – thanks for your great thoughts. i liked this line: “and also to encourage you to follow this dream without considering the resources spent elsewhere as a limit on what God can accomplish through your community.” this is a good reminder & sometimes the hardest part, i will be honest. what could be done practically with the money spent on coffee & bagels is really hard on me, i’ll readily admit. i never want to dismiss for a moment that God works through all kinds of systems & places & people in all kinds of wonderful ways, i most definitely think that many systems (certainly not all) need to re-think where time & energy & resource is really spent & how some of what gets done is absolutely not “good news for the poor” in any way, shape or form, no matter how we try to spruce it up. i am so with you, though, i must look at what is before me & focus on that, otherwise, honestly sometimes i can go a little crazy, ha! thanks so much for your heart & the work that you do to help churches & leaders make important shifts…

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  • You make me smile…for the last 5 or 6 months I’ve been trying to learn what makes God tick…at least to understand better the heart of my Creator. I can’t get away from the concern for the poor and oppressed. It seems so obvious to me and I just want to scream at the more traditional churches…why can’t they see it? I really have to fight having a bad attitude as I watch mega churches here in PDX spend there resources on larger buildings and overseas missions while our friends here without homes go without and struggle from week to week. It does make me literally sick somedays. You make me smile knowing we aren’t alone! I love you!!

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  • Kathy, thanks for sharing your heart for the poor and resourceless with me! I am so isolated from the kind of need you are discussing here in Evergreen. I will say, however, that our body of believers is excellent and meeting the needs of those among us who are “the least of these.” Of course, we can always do better and people do occasionally fall through the cracks but I am thankful for a body who is on the lookout for the needs of others. Your blog makes me consider my life anew every time I look at it and think through what I am doing and how I am living out my faith in real ways. Thanks so much!

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  • i ran across a verse this morning and thought about you and all the things you said in this blog.

    leadership gains authority and respect
    when the voiceless poor are treated fairly.
    it’s in proverbs 29 (not sure of the verse since it’s the message)

    i know you often don’t feel you get the respect that the “power” people do. but, the people that “get it” respect so much what you do as a friend and advocate for the poor and the hurting. really…who gives a shit if you don’t get respect from those in power or those who are drawn to the power people? i know jesus respects you and has given you the authority to be his hands and feet…that’s all that should truly matter.

    you’re doing it girl and i’m so proud of you.

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  • Steve B- I appreciate you bringing your perspective to the conversation. It is worth considering and re-considering these things (how churches use their monetary and property assets) in service of one another as we follow Jesus. I am glad that some churches use their buildings as assets to the community (most don’t, but I know a few that do. The level of change and making a difference with a church building commensurate with Kathy’s example would probably look a little different than most churches would be willing to do. Imagine not only opening up the basement for AA meetings on Wed. night, but turning all of the classrooms into transitional housing appartments during the 98% time that they otherwise sit empty- using that commercial kitchen as a community kitchen, Installing a laundry room, building relationships with the 2% time attendees and those who live there, on site advocacy, fellowship, and fun. IMHO That would be using a church building.

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  • Kathy — thanks for you kind words — and your own great thoughts 🙂

    When I say you got me geared up, I meant that in a really positive way. I’m sort of a vision junkie — I love to see how God is working in the hearts an lives of his people — it never ceases to amaze, humble, and inspire me. Your vision of advocacy sparked off a number of things in my brain and heart, like:

    A couple of lines from Michael Card’s song, Jubilee:

    “To be so completely guilty, and given over to despair
    To look into your judge’s face, and see a Savior there”

    That’s awesome stuff isn’t it?! Christ has every right to be our judge, jury, and executor — yet he’s our Savior — and continues to be our advocate, mediating for us every moment at the right hand of the Father.

    Your phrase, “it always, always, always starts with relationships.” What I really like about your thinking here is that you’re pushing beyond the simple notion that poverty relates solely to one’s bank account. Poverty is a heart condition — a state where you feel lost, alone, abandoned, and oppressed by a weight of circumstances or a system you have no hope of getting out from under. It’s a universal part of the human condition — a relationship problem, in that we’re all lost, and cut off from the only source of true wealth, our Heavenly Father.

    Worst part of it all is that our impoverished circumstances can cause us to doubt our Father’s love for us — or his ability to rescue us. So often then, they drive us even further away from the only source of hope and help, a restored relationship with our Father.

    That’s why an advocate is so powerful — someone who comes along and fights for us, and stays with us for the long haul, despite our brokenness. This incarnates the very Spirit of Immanuel, God with us — reminding us that we’re not alone, we’ve not been abandoned, and we’re not a lost cause.

    What’s really amazing is that God not only redeems us, he also transforms us into agents of redemption. Rescued rescuers. Reconciled reconcilers. Co-laborers and heirs with him in his redemptive enterprise — giving us both refuge in our own time of need, as well as equipping, transforming, and resourcing us to be advocates for others in need.

    I could go on, but I’ll stop clogging up your blog now 🙂

    Needless to say, you’ve inspired/challenged me on a lot of levels — let me just encourage you to continue on in your thinking and fleshing this out.

    If you had 30 seconds with someone on an elevator, how would you describe this mission of advocacy? What compels/motivates you to be an advocate? What does an advocate do in your community? If I wanted to become one, how would I do that? What would the results of successful advocacy look like?

    I think there are more people than you realize who would sign up for this sort of mission, if they thought they could really make a difference…

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  • Great stuff Kathy!

    Steve said: “I think there are more people than you realize who would sign up for this sort of mission, if they thought they could really make a difference…”

    Is it not more of a problem in that people do not know WHERE to sign up for this sort of thing?
    A lot of people want to do something, but they do not know where to go to get involved.

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  • hey girl you’re right on about not needing to be a professional or being trained. all you need is a heart and the willingness to jump into the messiness of life and walk along side. i used the excuse that i would not be helpful in situations like this, until one day God challenged me to TRY and see if i might be of some help. i got out of my nice cozy comfort zone (i was fighting and screaming the whole way) and tried it begrudgingly. something clicked in my mind. i found it was even harder than i had imagined. more time invested. more trying to live in the world of the poor. more frustration. but oh what a joy when i look into the eyes of a new friend who has been able to navigate the system, because i got off my lazy butt and tried.it’s still not easy. still hard. and always a blessing.thanks for leading by example and gently nudging me when i want to retreat to that nice, easy old way of life.

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  • Hey Kathy,

    Hope you are doing well. Have you experienced the “system” anymore this week in an effort to help the single mommy? If so, I feel for you and for her. I think before I take on “advocacy”, I need to learn to control my temper a little bit more:)

    Last night, I experienced some of the “system” in a parking situation at my condo complex. I feel like I had a glimpse into why people who normally do not have a voice can get into trouble for refusing to be silent about their percevied injustice. I felt the situation was completely unfair, and voiced that opinion for someone else (maybe a bit too strongly at times). I must admit that I felt so angry when the “establishment” turned a deaf ear, when in reality they could have “done something about it”, taken a more communal approach and especially when they have chosen to implement the “rules” so half-hazardly in the past.

    It definitely gave me perspective on how someone who feels like they are never heard or who does not feel empowered as a person could really lose it verbally or physically with someone else. I think there’s something within all of us that wants to be heard and wants to be treated fairly.

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  • donna – you always make me smile, too. yeah, all the money tossed around out there on things that don’t seem to really help people is really hard. of all people, you and ken and deborah & all the home pdx & bridge folks understand life in the trenches & the scarcity of resources. i am glad we are all friends from afar. you all are the real deal and i feel so blessed to know you. hey did you know todd & angie are coming down here for a little colorado tour in august? they’ll be staying with us for a few days & ending at the refuge on the 24th! so a piece of you will be here!

    patty – it is so good to know you have been reading! (that is one of the hardest parts of blogging, you never know unless there are comments who is getting stirred up about what and how!) and i do want to add that margin isn’t always money. there are lots and lots of hurting people in need of Christ’s care & support in tangible ways. it sometimes just looks really really different. hope to see you soon!

    marty – thanks for the love & for being you. both you and john’s encouragement means more than you will ever know.

    sage – honestly, i am so thankful to have you as a friend & brother…yeah, i heard of a few people experimenting with what you are describing, i am trying to remember where it was??

    steve – thanks for all the great comments & questions, too. i actually commmented on your blog & then blogger did something weird and i lost it before it published, argh. i will try to repost my thoughts again later but i love that you are all riled up and wrestling with these thoughts publicly. i can’t take the time in this moment to to answer a few of your questions but will sometime tomorrow for sure. this post has stirred up quite a lot and i am so glad. i know there are many natural advocates out there in all kinds of ways but i agree with you there are many that would like to be able to stand alongside and just don’t know how or what or ?

    pops – hey, that was exactly what you just said, wasn’t it? that people want to but don’t know where. i agree. i will add some thoughts later but i think the big disconnect is we are not in tangible close relationship with the marginalized, oppressed, outcast as a rule of thumb in churches. shame, exclusion, judgement, oh all kinds of things have tended to keep people in true “need” out so the “where” is trickier than it should be.

    mike – yeah, we overrate “training and knowledge” and think it can replace heart and willingness. i have seen you be an advocate for so many in so many amazing ways over the past few years, including me, so i am glad you stepped out of your comfort zone. we couldn’t do this without you. thanks my friend.

    minnowspeaks – thanks!

    lisa – i think you hit it on the head – how disempowering it feels when we’re not heard or valued or validated. it sucks. this particular single mommy is now just “waiting” but after it all kicks in, it’s going to mess up all kinds of other benefits she was getting and so we’ll have to navigate through that. “one day at a time.” that’s the only way to take this. honestly, i have volumes on the ridiculous-ness of the system. thanks for caring. we’ll miss you tonight at the house concert!

    next reformation – that is quite a story. i read it. these are the things we forget about and have no idea are happening all around us in all kinds of crazy ways.

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  • man,first Pam and now Todd and Angie…I’m jealous!!! ha Sure glad they are getting to come your way, it will be a good trip for them!!
    I’ve been thinking more about your post, and how much we would love to have a building here for the Bridge…a place to call home..all the things we could do different…I do pray that that day comes and I also pray that when it does we’ll be ready to use the resource wisely. Love you much and am thankful for you!!

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  • Kathy, I know you have given me some insight and helped with a thought process and other stuff. I just want to put a little note out there.
    As mentioned above there are church buildings that benefit the community. They are out there and I serve as pastor to one. There is money to help and it has no strings. Building is available to about any use any one has come up with. I am never sure if there will be funds for my pay but it always seems to arrive.
    More importantly I work closely with government agencies in my area and they are staffed by very concerned Chiristians. There are ways that the hands of the helpers are tied and they struggle with it as much as those they are attempting to help. I get calls from them that they are unable because of some red tape or other thing and wonder if I can find help for them. I do what I can find and usually we get things taken care of.
    Remember when you are frustated trying to help that the person on the other side of the desk may be just as frustrated.
    My friend I sent to the barbeque is back in ministry and seems to be functioning. Not sure if she made the it to your gathering.
    Keep on doin stuff out there WaynO

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  • donna – yeah, you need to come one of these days, too!! we are in the same boat in terms of “what could be” with a space that could be used in really powerful ways. that’s how rose & rich’s community in shoreline use their facility. i am definitely not “anti-building”, either, just against the underutilization, hoarding & the need to “keep it up” so then decisions get made based on that. i am always thinking of you guys.

    wayne – thanks for your thoughts and it is always important for all of us to hear things like what is going on in your community, where you have an open hand with no strings attached, you are the one community agencies call, etc. i know some others in your situation, too, and in my ranting & raving i never want to dismiss the good work that is being done and the ways that christians everywhere are tangibly journeying with others and partnering with their communities. it is a beautiful thing! i wish you were nearer because we’d be using your building!!!! that is our dream, a community like your that said “come, share, be with us, that’s what it is here for….” and yes, i know case workers & social workers & therapists who are so dedicated to people and their hands are so tied. that is why they need us, on the outside of the system, with some flexibility to connect with people, to help the people they are just as concerned with pull off what they need. i never heard from your friend but hope our paths cross. let her know about off the map! blessings to you as you continue spreading God’s love and hope in your town…

    STEVE – sorry for the late response. not sure that i can do a 30 second on this but i think that the mission of advocacy is just to journey alongside those who are in spots where they do not have margin or voice & help them walk through that season whatever it looks like. it is to ensure that someone without margin doesn’t get lost, give up, or throw in the towel too soon. i think advocacy happens all of the time naturally. what compels an advocate is a sense of justice & mercy. in our refuge community we have an informal network of advocates. we don’t label anyone that way, they are just people who aren’t afraid to journey in really hard places with people and are passionate about change. we check in with each other to brainstorm ideas & resources sometimes and get a little strength & encouragement because some situations are just harder & take more energy and heart than others. the attitude is not be a “i will do this FOR YOU” it is a “i will journey WITH you…” our culture is that we have to be radically intouch with our own brokenness & weakness and live out of that place instead of coming in with a “i am together & i have the answers for you.” we did run a mercy boot camp (4 week workshop) for those interested in living this out a little bit more intentionally. that was pretty cool and i think helped all of us get a sense of what it meant to be more safe & merciful. anyone from our community was welcome to participate. when i was on a mega-church staff we cultivated the same spirit in an intentional way with a team of people who weren’t afraid to be in the trenches. the ultimate result of advocacy is that someone who gets into a little better spot is able to then encourage someone else in the same way they were encouraged (2 corinthians 1 is a guiding thought). i am just rambling here, there are so many facets and i am not promoting an advocate “program” i believe in cultivating a spirit of advocacy and that takes definitely takes intention. well, there’s 30 seconds?????

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  • FYI, I’ve posted a response to comments made by Kathy and Sage on my related post — can see those here: http://blog.visionnavigator.com/2008/07/building-advocacy.html

    Created a new similar post as well, because I just can’t help myself 🙂 — http://blog.visionnavigator.com/2008/07/building-advocacy.html

    Kathy — I love your ramblings — they reflect to me a passion God has placed in your heart, and something you’re obviously working out practically as well. Love “the refuge” concept as well — creating a place where you can “radically be in touch with your own brokenness and weakness and live out of that place.” The necessary culture of transparency, mercy, and safety you guys are creating is all too easily ignored…

    Makes me wonder — does the “refuge” concept ever work against the call to missional engagement for you guys? Put another way, how do y’all address the tension all Christians have of acknowledging and operating out of our brokenness, yet accepting the call to take our place of restored dignity as co-heirs in Christ’s mission of redemption?

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  • Steve B, I’m not sure how Kathy or other folks who attend The Refuge would answer your question, but this is my take on it:

    I have come face-to-face with issues in my life that remind me every day that I am broken. There’s no way I could not operate out of my broken-ness even if I wanted to. I can keep quiet about it if I want to, but inside of me…it’s always there. Perhaps this is a season and as I process what I have been through, the brokenness will not be such a stinging reminder.

    That said, part of healing from the issues that have left me broken means to me that I will look at myself as something valuable to myself and God. I often hear people say that “Jesus (God…whichever) loves me even though I don’t deserve it”. I disagree with that. Jesus loves me because he wanted to. Period. Putting myself down by saying, “I don’t deserve it”, I believe defeats the whole purpose of what he did. If I don’t love myself as he loved me (he apparently thought we were all worth it) then I’m still entrapped by what he came to defeat.

    I guess I can’t wrap my head around your “kingdom” analogy, so for me it’s a matter of personal experience. I could be wrong, but I think a lot of people at The Refuge are very familiar with their brokenness. It’s the community that The Refuge attempts to create that restores our dignity. Others walking with you and accepting your brokeness as Christ does. Encouraging you to grow through their stories of brokenness. I can almost guarantee that even if I never spoke a word while I was there, I would still grow…just from realizing all the crazy real life stories that people have gone through or are going through and what they have learned and shared through that process. I’m sure when I make it past this current life experience, they’ll be another lesson of brokenness in my future. I think it’s just the way life works. My experience in the traditional church is that people just don’t say what their brokeness is or even actively deny it (as I did), because the environment isn’t programmed for that.

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  • Lisa — love your comments, especially “Jesus loves me because he wanted to.”

    You paint a beautiful picture here of how you can be presently aware of your brokenness, and yet receive healing and a restored sense of your value in Christ. Ironically then, Christ uses your very brokenness to help you encourage and be an advocate for others (in our weakness, he is made strong).

    That really rocks, doesn’t it?!

    Let me just encourage you and others to keep thinking this stuff through — to give voice to the unique way God is working in and through you guys. Any other stories?

    Also, found a video earlier today that really spoke to me about the power of words — wondering what other’s reactions might be? Link to my post on that is here: http://blog.visionnavigator.com/2008/07/power-of-words.html

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  • steve – the question you are asking is one that many have asked. does the focus on brokenness dismiss our wholeness in Christ? do we get stuck there? absolutely not. i think it is actually living in a place of recognizing the tension between our dignity & depravity and a humble recognition of how much we need Jesus’ continual grace & hope & love. oh, have i got some good stories! sometimes hard to tell for other people on this blog but wish you could hang out with us. this past sunday our dear friend celebrated 3 years sobriety from a 30 year cocaine addiction. we have been friends for 4 1/2 years and i have seen this leg of the journey up-close-and-personal. without advocates, without safe people, without some kind of crazy container for God’s spirit to be more evident, she would clearly say “no way, it would have never happened.” ps: i;ll check out that link.

    lisa – loved what you described here. so glad you just chimed in and shared from your experience. thanks! it is fun to know how in such a short time you have such an amazing read on the refuge culture. that makes me so happy 🙂

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  • I worked for a short time in New Orleans for a women’s resource center called The Refuge. Now I am working with the poor in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Wow! Your comments make me want to jump and holler. (That just means your words resonate within me!) I am very glad I stumbled upon your blog.

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  • laurie – welcome! so great to hear from you here! my husband is from el salvador so i have a special place in my heart for central america. i would love to know more about the work you are doing there.

    ways of resistance – thanks for the link, glad it stirred up some thoughts & best to you as your community develops….

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  • Pingback: Top 10 Emergent/Missional/Post-Evangelical Blog Posts of 2008 | Parables of a Missional World
  • Oh what a great post Kathy, and on my last birthday too!! (though I’m only reading it now:) I wholeheartedly agree with you!

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  • I have found myself on the receiving end of “services” and let me tell you, as a smart, funny, engaging person who is used to navigating situations with relative ease, social services is not set up to be accommodating. Why? I mean, the sole reason that the services exist is to help people who have no other option right?
    There are two motivations I can see to why our social services are the way they are. One: there is this myth that a ton of people game the system. So more systems are set in place to make it harder to “game”, except those systems don’t stop gamers (and there are some, there will always be people who will game any system). Gamers are well able to jump through any hoop you give them. These obfuscating systems stop the most vulnerable from getting the help they so desperately need.
    The second option is that people who set up obstacles are trying to save themselves money. I hate to think that someone could be so callous as to purposely block someone else from getting the help they need, but there it is.

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    • hey mollye, thanks so much for sharing here! yeah, those two motivations probably sum most of it up. the lack of dignity and the expectation of understanding gobs of paperwork is maddening. it’s why we really need each other in this process. i have this dream of setting up a little lucy-booth outside on the sidewalk of social services where people can just come and get some help with paperwork and have someone sit with them while they walk through the process 🙂

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  • Love this post. Thanks for articulating how to be an advocate and respond to the needs of others. You are giving a vision for a healthier and better way to do church. I am grateful and learning from you. Keep it up. You mentor through your posts :0)

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    • thanks, vicki, for reading. i am glad we can be connected out here!

      Reply

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