Acceptance Without Restriction - The Pueblo Chieftain
MARNIE LEINBERGER FAITH
Published: October 9, 2015; Last modified: October 9, 2015 11:30PM
One of the great things about being in seminary is that I get to do things in the community that I wouldn’t ordinarily get to do or have time to do.
During my spring 2014 semester, I spent one day a week with Raven Smith, the Director of Homeless Youth Outreach at Posada.
The youth outreach program has really grown in the last 18 months. When I was there, Raven had recently assumed control of the program and many of the services that Posada now offers were merely in the dream stage.
I’ve had time to reflect on my experiences at Posada, and I think churches could learn a lot from the nonprofit that serves the homeless community.
Posada accepts people where they are, for how they are. The overriding concern is making sure people who want services have a safe way to access those services. Posada does not ask people to change, does not strive to make them “better,” does not try to convince people that they need to live a certain way before they can be helped.
If one is homeless “by choice,” they are still able to find clean, dry clothes, a backpack with hygiene supplies, and a meal. Although they would not use this language, Posada sees the imago dei (“image of God”) in each person. As much as it can within its scope, Posada takes a holistic approach by assisting with food, clothing and shelter, overcoming barriers to access to care, mental health and drug counseling, and GED preparations.
One of the first things Raven told me when I started to spend time at the youth center was, “We don’t correct, we don’t chastise and we don’t judge. Some of the kids might do their dishes after they eat. Others might not. Some might put their towels in the hamper when they are done with their shower; others won’t. Some might put their dirty clothes in the laundry bin; others won’t.
“We don’t judge them. We want them to know this is a safe place because we might be the only meal they get today.”
That is how church should be. Acceptance without restriction. Accepting people as they are. Jesus didn’t say, “Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and give shelter only if you deem them deserving or if you know they’ll say ‘thank you’ and clean up their dishes.”
The first step to healing is to offer acceptance, nurturing and caring. This will make room for people to change and grow at their own pace.
Posada’s values and goals are at one time challenging and congruent with the way I see ministry. Most church people want to “help,” and it is hard for us not to. I, myself, have been in some sort of nonprofit, helping profession most of my adult life.
Posada, especially with youths, starts off by just “being with” people. This “being with” is a great way for people to slow down. Rather than having a predetermined idea of how and where growth should happened, this slowing down allows things to unfold as they will (which likely turns out to be better than anyone could force).
Posada is congruent with church ministry in that it affirms the dignity of every human being and is about service. I can appreciate the metaphor of “pastor as servant,” but being a part of a church is just as much about management as service. I enjoy being worship leader, but the connection to God feels stronger when I am being of service.
Marnie Leinberger is pastor at Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.