January 18, 2019
Washington headlines are screaming today about President Trump cancelling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's use of an Air Force plane for a week long trip to the Middle East. "In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate," wrote the president in a letter to Speaker Pelosi. "I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me..." Not surprisingly, Congressional Democrats are responding furiously.
Sadly, the Speaker shows no interest in using this next week to negotiate an end to the shutdown and the border crisis. Instead, we are beginning to see another crisis forming for the families of federal workers. So it's been left to churches and faith based organizations to spring into action to offer them help -- many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck.
This isn't the first time that churches have jumped in to fill a void left by our government. I can personally attest to how churches are on the front lines of relief in natural disasters -- and the same is true now as the shutdown enters its 28th day. We are receiving reports that churches all over the country -- including many that are a part of our Watchmen on the Wall ministry -- are expanding their food pantry operations to serve furloughed workers.
One of those is Calvary Chapel International Worship Center in Severn, Maryland. The church is hosting a "Shutdown Relief Sunday" where it will "offer prayers for affected families" as well as a week's worth of food that includes a "10-pound bag of chicken, a 6-pound box of hamburgers and a variety of sides." Washington D.C.'s Redemption Hill Church blasted out an email to its congregation this morning announcing a new benevolence fund to provide grocery gift cards to affected church members. Pastor Mark Cowart of Church for all the Nations in Colorado Springs, CO tells us that they are gearing up for a food distribution to government workers. Yesterday, the First Baptist Church of Huntsville, Alabama gave out $16,500 worth of grocery gift cards to many of the thousands of furloughed NASA employees who live in the area. One NASA contractor who received a gift card thanked the church for "helping a lot of people out by giving gift cards to the grocery store, which is going to go a long way. It's a little stressful reaching into week four."
Pastor Bryan Carter of Concord Church in Dallas, Texas asked for any federal employees in his congregation to stand up. He prayed over them for several minutes before distributing $100 gift cards to each person and offered food baskets for anyone in need. "They didn't get a paycheck on Friday so now they're trying to just survive," said Pastor Carter. "When our community hurts, we hurt."
These are just a few of the many examples of the body of Christ bearing one another's burden. (Galatians 6:2) Meeting material needs are important, but we have an opportunity to meet spiritual needs as well -- making an eternal impact. In midst of all the depressing headlines, let's keep in mind that the generous spirit of churchgoing America remains very strong -- to the tune of $1.2 trillion according to one study. That's the jaw-dropping sum that has been totaled up from the "fair market value of goods and services" by religious groups and businesses with religious ties. American churches are incredibly generous to the needs of a hurting world. That's not even considering the countless hours that Christian churches and ministries devote to helping the poor and the needy, nor the private actions of individual Christians.
Whether you serve in a homeless shelter, prison ministry, a food pantry, an adoption center, disaster relief, or other such ministries -- you are making a tangible difference in people's lives. Motivated by your faith in Jesus Christ, you are bearing both public and personal witness to His love and grace.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.