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  • Writer's pictureBFIA Director

A Christian Organization...

A Christian Organization…

This week has been challenging for different reasons than we have become accustomed to. As the director, it is easy to fall into the thought pattern of keeping everything upbeat and rosy for the staff; yet they live, breathe, and feel the reality of our work daily. I owe it to all of us to be candid and forthright about a day in the life of Bristol Faith in Action. The staff are warriors and champions in the face of adversity because we are a Christian organization.

First of all, most people are very gracious and appreciative of our efforts to help them during a financial crisis. We know we made the right decision, and had a positive impact when the woman with three children, one of them special needs, and a husband who works harder than most is so grateful that her tears of gratitude roll not only down my bare arm, but drip off of my elbow and into my shoes. She was sincere. She was embarrassed to ask for help. She brought herself to ask for help because there was no other way. We happily helped her, we fulfilled our mission and our vision. We served in a Christ-like manner.

Secondly, a crisis is relative to one’s perspective. In my way of thinking, a financial crisis is one that a person or family may normally be able to meet their financial needs and obligations, except that an unusual event or circumstance has happened. Or several of these events have happened and accumulated to the point of dire circumstance. These are the folks we pray to help, we love to help, and pray over once they have been helped. However, there are those who seek help that are not necessarily in such dire need but have evolved into a lifestyle of poverty in which seeking help from everyone available is the chosen way to survive. We have love in our hearts for these folks as well. We pray over these folks equally as much as the others.

The difference is, these are the folks that are abusive, threatening, and generally unpleasant to all around. I have personally resolved after such a brutal week to pray extra for these folks, for my staff, and for myself. At the end of this week, after all the anger, hostility, name calling, and brutality thrown at us, we still served in a Christ-like manner by praying for these folks because that is all we have to offer under these kinds of circumstances. We are good stewards and will become even better stewards. We are a Christian organization. Our Faith is practiced in our actions even under the most negative situations. Yet we have been brow beaten this week among other weeks, because we are a “Christian organization in that we should help everyone” no matter the situation. Randomly and not thoughtfully helping everyone no matter what, is not being a good steward.

A financial crisis may be caused by sudden and unexpected job loss, a sudden medical issue resulting in high medical costs (actually paid) or hospitalization, or a major car or appliance repair to name a few. A financial crisis is not being chronically late with paying one’s financial obligations, that is in fact a lifestyle, and a choice. Poor spending habits such as spending on everything other than one’s financial needs and obligations such as excessive eating out, movies, tanning and nails, going on unnecessary trips, and excessive tobacco use are a few other negative spending habits that do not constitute an emergency. I pray daily for discernment for each and every person that calls or walks in for help. It is my job to carefully and thoughtfully evaluate each situation and make the best decisions possible based on the information presented to me. It is my job to ensure that the right amount of money goes to the right folks for the right reasons.

Not everyone who has an appointment will get a voucher. We do not have the funds to pay bills in full. We can only pay a portion, and the person seeking help has to pay the remaining amount. We provide assistance to pay, not relief of the full bill. Challenges this week have been appalling in that some have sought our financial help, yet we have discovered income not reported, or spending on an unnecessary trip, having surplus money after paying all bills, and many other things that can disqualify true need of assistance. I cannot and will not write a voucher under such circumstances. People asking for our help who have wrongly reported their circumstance have yelled, cursed, threatened, and otherwise shown very negative behaviors to me and the staff.

We have a zero tolerance policy for abusive, threatening, and or violent behavior. Once a person crosses that line with us, they are permanently ineligible for financial assistance. Our being a Christian organization is not a license for verbal assault and abuse whether in person, by phone, or by mail. Our being a Christian organization is not a reason to demand assistance. We are privately funded by churches, individuals, and our grantors. We are not obligated in any way shape or form to provide vouchers to whoever walks through the door, calls, or otherwise demands assistance. Each case is carefully evaluated by me personally with numerous volunteer staff. Everyone is treated equally by us with dignity and respect. We do not see nor care about race, creed, or any other culturally identifying factors, we see people in need. And, I require that we are treated with dignity and respect.

We truly want to help those in actual need. We want to reach those folks that work hard and yet still fall short. Those folks that try to track their finances responsibly and find ways to make ends meet, but are still short on funds. We are here for you. You are the folks that are trying to improve your situation. We want to help you search for and find longer term solutions. I believe people are more than their bills. I believe in seeing the whole person, the real reasons behind one’s poverty or income limitations. I believe we can offer something more than a voucher, something to make life a little better, something to give you hope. Let us know if we can help you. Do not feel shame or embarrassment. Call and ask for an appointment and we will call you back.

Finally, Christianity comes with responsibility. Being a Christian organization does not mean we will hand out money as if throwing it to the streets with no thought as to true need, or who else may come in beyond desperate. We are responsible, and this often means saying I’m sorry, we cannot help this time. Everyone will be given a fair and equal in depth evaluation as to need and circumstance.

Everyone is prayed for whether they ask or not. Every. Single. Day. God Bless


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