Grace for the Journey
As our staff and I walk the streets and build relationships within our community each day, we see the impacts and challenges of poverty. When we refer to “poverty,” we do not mean the lack of material goods. To us, poverty is so much deeper and more complex. Poverty is holistic in nature. There are societal issues of poverty… the mental strains and daily challenges that many of us will never face first-hand. To see poverty as a lack of something, whether it is food, clothing, water, etc., is just touching the surface of the issue. If not, we would only need to offer the “something lacking” to solve poverty, right?
For years, well-meaning people have tried to solve the “issues of poverty” by adding to what is missing. But yet poverty persists here in our own community and around the world. We believe, as do community development researchers and practitioners worldwide, that there are multiple causes of poverty. One highly regarded practitioner is Bryant Myers, author of “Walking with the Poor.” In his book, Myers explains that “Marred Identity” and “Lack of Purpose” are two important causes of poverty. Let me share the reality of “Marred Identity” and “Lack of Purpose” from the perspective of my friend and neighbor, Tim in a letter he wrote me recently. While you’re reading, let his words really sink in. Once you see how “Marred Identity” and “Lack of Purpose” defined Tim’s past, you will clearly see the transformational work taking place in his life today!
“My family was past dysfunctional. I lived on the streets, in old houses, hotel rooms, under bridges, and so many other unimaginable places. From the ages of 11 to 40, this is what I believed and felt - Lost, tortured, lonely, afraid, ashamed, hurt, depressed, unloved. I was lost and afraid to ask for help. I didn’t know who to ask help from. I thought the “street people” (gangs) loved me, so my path of actions became dark and selfish. I felt like I was owed something, that the whole world had done me wrong. I was a liar, a cheat and a crook (Marred Identity). I trusted no one and no one could trust me. I turned to criminal activities. I was ignorant and thought that crime was the only way I could survive (Lack of Purpose). Foster homes, group homes, shelters, detention centers… I’ve seen them all. Three times someone actually tried to steer me right, but I was gone mentally. I was defeated. In 1992, I committed a felony and received 35 years in prison. My first 18 years in prison, I was institutionalized. Prison slowed me down, allowed me to think, learn and mature. About nine years ago, I went to a meeting and when I left I prayed to God! I began to work at changing, worked to forgive others, and make amends where I hurt others. The ‘dark cloud’ opened and finally I was granted parole. I was SHOCKED!” I knew it was the Lord! It took me 27 years, and now the words that describe me are Motivated, Blessed, Thankful, Loved, Driven!
“I’m little rough around the edges. I’ve still got things to get right. Every day I am free I can work, help, and love. I have a lot to offer. I will show GRATITUDE to those who have assisted me…this is what drives me. I AM NOT WHO I WAS FROM the age of 11 to 40” (this is PURPOSE!!!). I’ll be forever grateful and loyal. Know this, I take pride in working at GUM. Thanks for having faith in me”!
While you were reading, did you see the change in Tim? This is the life change and transformation that GUM seeks to encourage every single day. To quote Tim, “I am not who I once was.”
When Tim’s parole was granted in November 2018, he had nowhere to go so one of our staff welcomed him into their home. Every day, around the nation, women and men like Tim are released from prisons and detention centers. They are free, yet live with restriction. Their identity is marked by their past.
Tim is now a member of the GUM staff; he’s working towards getting his driver’s license and is actively saving for a car. We are so proud to stand with him during this transformational journey.
I love this ministry! Josh