Last Day Reflections from Abbey

Today is my last day working at KCB, so of course I’m in reflection mode, and I can’t help but think back to my very first day.

I started at KCB as an Americorps volunteer, fresh out of college and knowing absolutely nothing about community development or nonprofit work. I thought I had come to KCB to run a teen drop-in center. As it turned out, God had other plans.

On my first day our Executive Director, Ryan, told me about a family who was living in the park. A young mother and her two toddler boys had been seen sleeping overnight at Simms Park, and the park staff had called Kingdom Causes to see what we could do. This started my “baptism by fire” into the world of social services and broken systems.

So as a young, privileged, and out of touch 21-year-old, I was frantically driving this mom and her kids around to various social services agencies, getting increasingly angered at the brokenness I witnessed first hand. Referral, after referral, after referral. Long lines, rude workers, and insensitivity abounded. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and heartbroken. Through some connections that Ryan had at KCB, we were able to get this young mom into a program where she and her kids were safe. I don’t know if she remembers that day, but in my mind it’s as clear as if it happened yesterday. I was forever changed.

Since that day, I’ve learned so much about poverty, community development, justice, and the role of the church in all of it. I’ve seen incredible life change and transformation:

-The dad who spent most of his life in prison, but committed himself to his daughter when he was released, and was reunited with her through a stay at Margaret’s House and job with Good Soil.

-The mom and kids who broke down in tears when they were given the keys to their first apartment of their own after fleeing domestic violence and suffering months of homelessness.

-The kids who began dreaming about what their future careers would be, after being exposed for the first time to professionals and education opportunities.

There are so many stories of life change among marginalized populations that I could name. But honestly, the change in me was greater than all of these. I learned that poverty is not about a lack of material things… it’s about brokenness. And we are ALL broken. Whether emotionally, relationally, spiritually, or socially… there are things in our lives that are in desperate need of repair, even if we might appear more put together than the person pushing a shopping cart down the street.

So, (not that anyone is asking) if I had to give one piece of “wisdom” or advice after working in this field for the past seven years… this would be it:

Stepping into relationship with those that are “other” makes all the difference in the world. It’s worth the risk.

At some point, a few of our “clients” became friends. As I recognized my own brokenness and pride, I began to see the image of God in every face and every story. I began to recognize the miracles that were happening all around (and inside) me. This is the difference between the way that KCB works and most other social service agencies. We recognize that reconciled relationships are what make the lasting transformation possible.

Is it risky? Of course. Entering into a REAL relationship with someone who is very different than you brings with it all sorts of messiness. People will take advantage of you, steal from you, cuss you out, and hurt you deeply. But didn’t we do the same to Jesus? Don’t we continue to take HIM for granted every day? Yet—he continues to love us.

So, what is poverty? One of my favorite speakers named Claudio Oliver puts it this way… “Poverty is a lack of friendship”. So, let’s end poverty together. Let’s make a new friend today.