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1999 Call for Bringing Economic Hope to the Poor in Jesus’ Name

Presented by the Commission on Christian Action, adopted by the delegates to the 114th Covenant Annual Meeting.

The Biblical Basis for Our Call

Our God is a God of promise and blessings and hope. This is clearly stated in Jeremiah 29:11: “ ‘I have plans for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” Jesus further stresses this in John 10:10: “I have come that you might have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.” God has never intended his people to be oppressed, downtrodden, and without hope.

God also puts a great emphasis on homes and housing. In Isaiah 32:18, he states, “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” But his word also says in Psalm 127:1, that “unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”

God encourages and supports our work and labor, and throughout Proverbs we see references to the dangers of idleness. In most inner-city areas and in some other areas people live with little or no hope, poor housing conditions (homelessness), and few transferable skills or skill training opportunities.

They are often unemployed or unemployable. Unfortunately, these areas also have little affordable housing and no product-producing businesses, which are critical to build economic stability in any area. Such conditions rob people of the opportunity for contributing to their communities with dignity and a sense of worth.

The good news is needed in this situation, for the gospel is for the whole person. “Evangelism is central to social change. Nothing so transforms the self-identity, self-worth, and initiative of a poor, oppressed person as a personal, living relationship with God in Christ (Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, by Ronald J. Sider, p. 231).

The Covenant has from its beginning made economic development a part of its mission. Close to a century ago, Covenant missionaries to Alaska brought Laplanders to teach the Alaskan native people to herd reindeer and thus better their economic situation. More recently, the same sort of ministry has been accomplished in Congo through forestry projects and in Thailand through agriculture.

Throughout the Bible we are instructed to encourage, support, help, and love unconditionally. God requires us to use our talents to the benefit of his kingdom, his people, and the world. “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

The Call

We propose that our congregations support various community, economic, and housing development projects in needy areas. We recognize that when these areas are hurting, it threatens the spiritual and physical well being of us all, like a cancer unattended in part of our body.

This call is based on the premise that if you give people fish, they eat for a day; if you teach them to fish, they eat for a lifetime!

Our Response

Through individual involvement: 1) to be friends and mentors to youth and adult offenders, at-risk youth, and welfare recipients in training and work-related situations, 2) to share needed skills, knowledge, ability, and experiences, 3) to pray for programs that are providing valuable services in at-risk communities, 4) to provide financial assistance to Christ-centered programs like those described earlier.

Through congregation involvement: 1) to create interdependent partnerships between churches in needy areas and other churches, opening ourselves to the gifts to be shared in both directions, 2) to sponsor and establish community and economic development projects with special emphasis on affordable housing, 3) to encourage and support self-help projects and those programs with a spiritual and Christian base that will result in long-term positive change and improvement, 4) to pray for specific programs, needs, problems, and issues, 5) to covenant together with other congregations to sponsor fund-raisers and awareness events which foster solutions for problems of jobs, housing, and skills, 6) to provide financial support to Covenant and other Christ-centered programs aimed at turning the tide of devastation and despair through job and skill training and small business development.

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