The poor, the widows and the homeless

Posted: November 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

Recently I’ve felt burdened for the homeless and beggar community here in Shanghai. There is enough of them where it breaks your heart a bit, and there’s even more rumors flying around about how you shouldn’t help them out because they either have money already, or are trying to rob you somehow, just to name a few. I often hear that the beggars are part of bigger network of some sort of mafia-esque type business, and all the money just goes into a pool, and eventually back to ‘the man,’ sort of Slum dog Millionaire style. Others say that the poor are not actually poor, that they have nice homes and things, educated children, and that it’s all an act because that is their full time job, and they are pros at it. Still one can’t be a a little saddened seeing someone filthy on the street, begging for money. But here’s what angers me. The other day I went to my usual bus stop to catch the good old 108 bus I usually take to work. Upon approaching the stop, I see there is an older man lying down leaning against the tree next to the stop. Now trees in Shanghai have a base built around them on the ground, usually some metal grates or stones, and this is often where people will toss trash and let their dogs do the business. On top of that, right next to the tree was a garbage can which had filthiness written all over it due the surrounding area never really being cleaned. There he was, dirty, rocking back and forth, looking like he was in some severe discomfort. He had his own bag of trash next to him; homeless people here often sift through the trash for recyclables as means of earning money. I have a minute to think as my bus approaches, do I help the guy out? Here comes the bus, Jesus said to help the poor, moment of truth, do I give him some money? Some food? Some water? What would you do in this situation? I’ll give you a minute to think about it ………………………………………………………………………………………………… As my bus came to a stop, he sat up, seemingly no longer in terrible anguish, pulls out a pack of smokes and lights one up. I lost a majority of the pity I had for the man. Was he really poor and needy? I have no idea, he sure had me convinced though. Now I hold no judgment against smokers, but am I wrong to withhold my money from this guy? I’d love to hear what others would have done in this situation, what would you do? I guess I’m called to love him either way, so YES, I am wrong. Thank goodness we have Jesus.

While it seems there is some truth to many of the rumors, it’s truly one of those things that is hard to discern, and no one has a really good answer about what to do when one encounters the common homeless beggar. Most often they are ignored, as if they don’t exist. I’ll admit it, I’ve done it too. It certainly wasn’t the right thing to do, but it’s so easy to justify to one’s self : “O, he’s really not poor, it’s just an act……that is if the rumors are true……and they are……to some extent…..but are they true for this guy? or gal?” I’ve been praying for discernment in this area lately, and for good reason. The Bible is abundantly clear, if not emphatic, that we are to help and bless the poor, the widows, the orphans, in any way we can. Want some conviction? Here is some served up on a silver platter:

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

Matthew 25: 41-45

Ouch, stings a bit. The stance I’m currently holding and trying out is that when someone asks me for money, I will ask them if they are hungry. If they say ‘yes,’ I will seek out some food for them. I’ve had the opportunity to try this several times, and believe it or not, most people turn me down as they just want my money. I’ve had some very wild and mixed reactions, once by a guy whom I believe was possessed. He literally freaked out when I offered to accompany him and buy him some food. The evil saw the light. But it just goes to show you, beggars can be choosers. Last week I met a guy outside of a restaurant asking for money, and did my routine, and to my surprise he accepted my offer. We walked a few blocks, chatted, and we found a convenience store where I bought him a bunch of groceries, hopefully that lasted him a few days. I had a really good chat with him, found out he had diabetes (becoming more and more prolific here in China) and couldn’t work. He had a house to stay in which I was happy to hear, but very little family to speak of to help him out. He also told me he made about 20 RMB a day begging, that is about $3 US. You can do the math. He was only about 40 years old, and I enjoyed helping him out, even if only a little bit. I wished there was more I could do…..of course there was, and is. He thanked me for the food, and I told him not to thank me, but to thank Jesus. He knew clearly what I was talking about, so I pray that thought continues to resonate in his mind.

So what is the right answer? I haven’t a clue. It’s definitely not black and white, yes or no. Send me your feedback!

In other news, Shanghai has really been growing on me. Opportunities for everything abound. God continues to give me chances to minister and bless people in the city, although He has blessed me far more here than I ever could bless others. That’s usually how it goes, isn’t it? God is good. I also had the amazing opportunity to lead worship last night at a monthly event called “Outpouring.” It was a big deal for me, as I’m not a great guitar player, and even worse of a singer. But overall it went well, and I’d like to do it again. It was also a big deal because the speaker was a guy by the name of Wayne Hildsen. Pastor Wayne has lived with his family in Jerusalem the past 27 years bringing the Word. Some of his insights were amazing, and the ministry he helped create there has grown exponentially over the years, and I see him as playing a significant role in what the Bible prophecies about all of Israel turning to the Lord. It was extremely encouraging and really mind blowing hearing about his ministry and the miracles God has provided for him to be in Jerusalem. For example, it’s really hard, in fact impossible to get a residence visa to live in Israel if you’re a foreigner, yet he and his wife receive one every year. As far as he knows, he’s the only one in the country to have one, and hasn’t heard of anyone else ever having one, especially now as it’s becoming harder and harder to get visas there. Anyways, awesome stuff, one of those “you needed to be there” sort of moments.

In other news, hockey is going well, our team is 2-1-1, if you want to follow the Broncos, check out this site:  It’s got an interactive toolbar on the left where you can see the league standings, and even some of the scoring stats, I think made the list! Actually I’ve had a slow start, but last weekend I blew up, scoring a pair of goals and nabbing 3 assists, for 5 total points on the night, earning ‘Star of the Game.’ Likely the first and last time I’ll get that honor, but we’ll see. I’ve also met a few other believers in the league which has been real encouraging, who knows where it could go. I’m also going to be a bit more active helping the league with some PR stuff, writing, and some photography (I hope) in the future, so I’m excited about that as well.

All in all, God is good, all the time.

  1. matt young says:

    I felt that burden when I liked in California. for the first few months I would give to whomever asked, but as time went on my heart hardened to their needs. Your right there is no clear yes or no answer, I think what you are doing is great because you offer to meet one of the needs all people have. You offer something and that is honorable.

  2. Danny D says:

    Good move on asking people if they are hungry. Most homeless ministries in the US specifically mention not to just give out money. Difficult in that you shouldn’t feel like you’re judging anyone necessarily – if someone is homeless, money might not be the best option for giving. They most likely have had trouble managing money in the past.

    However, obviously, if led, you would want to give money. Sometimes it is obvious that people are not faking – like once in Beijing I saw a woman holding her child in a darkened part of the street in the evening, seemed obvious at least and when I prayed He led me to give. But if you got the chops to speak with them and grab something to eat, you’re doing the right thing, bud. I find that the homeless here and those poor in spirit would take a meal and someone to talk to over $5 most days.

  3. pazagape says:

    Giving to the needy. . .After looking through verses I came to a conclusion that it can be treated as an opportunity to love. When you feed the poor you can take that as an opportunity to offer food that never perishes as well. I don’t know that you should give money necessarily but if you can offer food and its been placed in your heart to give, give! You’re Father sees all that you do and He will reward you. You are serving Him. You are simply following His commandment to love. God bless you. Your blogs are a huge encouragement to me:)

  4. Kathy Brown says:

    Hey Mike–just got caught up on your postings since October–it is really an education for me as I know almost nothing about China. I am praying for you and the people you are interacting with. As for anyone you meet you can assume God is drawing them to Himself–we are the Light in the world because we have the Light of the World in us. (See John 9:4 and 5, and John 5:17, 6:44). Give them what you have to give–a kind word, God’s blessing (in Chinese words would be nice), a Chinese gospel tract, a prayer over them for God to meet them and address their needs, a meal, or whatever the Holy Spirit leads you to beyond this. Remember Jesus did not physically heal every needy person, He used the 24 hours a day He had to do His Father’s will. (John 4:34, John 5:19) I am grateful for your loving heart, follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and do not feel guilty about deeds undone.

  5. Kathy Brown says:

    Hey Mike just wanted to say Merry Christmas and I am praying for you as you are presumably far from home this year for Christmas. God bless you and I pray you have a special Christmas filled with His presence:)

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