Jun 25 2014

We have homeless students???

You may have seen homeless adults sleeping on the streets, behind convenience stores, on park benches, or heading up to the forest to camp. But did you know that we have homeless students in Lincoln County and Mescalero?
You may not see them sleeping on the streets, but they are a part of a “new” reality in our community. They sleep in cars, “couch-surf” at friends’ houses, or live with their family under the same roof with one or more families or in substandard housing. That doesn’t sound so bad, you say? Imagine if you were 16 years old and didn’t know where you were going to sleep tonight or where your next meal was coming from or how you were going to get your homework done or wondering if your classmates will notice your dirty clothes. And those are just a few of the immediate issues. The long-term concerns are “Will I be able to hang on long enough to graduate? Will I ever be normal or is my life going to always be like this? Does anybody care?” Luisa Rodriguez, a licensed social worker in the counseling department at Ruidoso High School reports that 40 students or roughly 4% of the student population were identified as homeless this past school year and there are probably more that have not been identified.
According to The McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001, http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg116.html, the term homeless children and youth “means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence and includes children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement; children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and migratory children.”
Schools and regional service centers receiving federal monies are required to provide services to ensure that students have every opportunity to succeed in school and graduate. Our schools are working hard to offer assistance during the school day and there are a few afterschool programs offered and these are very necessary. The NEST offers shelter to some students who are victims of abuse and churches and agencies like the Boys and Girls Clubs offer help in various ways. The students need all of that and the community is grateful for those who reach out in whatever ways they can. But the fact of the matter is that a comprehensive safety net is needed so that students can not only have a successful educational experience during the day but be safe and nurtured after the school day ends until the next school day begins. To that end, a “Homeless Students Task Force” has formed and is working to ensure that all children in Lincoln County and Mescalero grow up educated, healthy, loved, respected, and ready for higher education and/or the workforce. Members of the faith community, school personnel, representatives from social service agencies, philanthropists, and other concerned folk have identified unmet needs of homeless students, with a starting point of helping the high school homeless population. An evening “drop-in” shelter is needed so that students can wash clothes, shower, eat a nutritious meal, do homework, have wholesome recreation, and have access to counselors and coordinated social services. An overnight shelter with trained personnel is needed to provide a safe and secure night for the students. And these shelters are needed every day and night of the week, including weekends. Anyone interested in being part of this task force is welcome to attend the meetings on the 4th Tuesday of each month at 9:00 AM in the Parish Hall of the Church of the Holy Mount, 121 Mescalero Trail, Ruidoso. (575-257-2356)

Jun 18 2014

Community Suppers at the ECLC– Part 1(How it all started)

I guess it all started with Jesus who said all kinds of things about feeding people. Sometime in 2011, I felt called to start a feeding ministry, but the timing seemed wrong as the parish I served in in Texas was in the middle of a search for a new rector. Anyway, I started reading all I could get my hands on about soup kitchens and I even visited a few of them. Then my husband and I moved back to New Mexico and the bishop assigned me to a parish I had served in before we moved to Texas. The parish had a new rector and the parish seemed to be in good order. The new rector, Judy, asked me to help with the outreach of the parish. I formed a parish Outreach Council in the fall of 2012 to help in identifying the needs, concerns, and hopes of our surrounding communities. Members on the Outreach Council included leaders in ministries having an outreach or service component. We opened each meeting in prayer and then had a brief Bible study. The first few meetings were spend identifying who Jesus said to care for and what resources we had on hand in our parish. We generated a long list of both. Hunger, poverty, and shelter were of great concern. One of the big concerns in our community is food insecurity. Our list of resources was surprisingly long as we are a relatively small parish without a lot of money.
Among the list of the resources identified were a certified kitchen, a parish hall, and $2500 given for Outreach from a memorial fund. Without knowing about my call to feed people, one of the Council members said the parish could offer a free meal to people. The rest of the Council seemed on board with the concept and we decided to do a little research and report on this at the next meeting. I talked with my daughter and sister who are both dietitians and they both suggested that I use Food For Fifty, a college textbook. I bought that book and another, How to Start a Soup Kitchen. In addition, I had lots of notes and articles that I had collected for a few years. So, with these in hand, I was ready for the next meeting.

Dec 25 2013

The Word Became Flesh

The Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) The word becoming flesh is the decisive event in human history. The incarnation changed God’s relationship to humanity and humanity’s relationship to God. Because of the incarnation, human beings could see, hear, and know God and his everlasting love in ways never before possible. Jesus is the Incarnate Word of God, the revealer of God’s purpose for humankind, and the giver of intimate access to God. This new thing that God has done is so dramatic because the story of Jesus in not only a story about Jesus. It is the story of God. God did not stay distant from the world he created and loved. In Jesus, who is the light of the world, God chose to live with and wrap himself up with all of humanity and its weakness, imperfection, pain, and darkness as well as with the goodness of humanity. As John said, “But to all who received him, believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God (John 1:12). Are we fully living into being children of God? What does God expect of us in this new relationship as a community of believers two thousand years later? Are we sharing the good news of God in Christ with others who may not know him? Are we meeting God through Christ incarnate in all of his children—including people who are hungry, the homeless teenagers who don’t know where they will sleep tonight, the incarcerated men and women in our prisons and their families, children unable to attend school in third world countries because of lack of clothing and supplies, the poor suffering along our border with Mexico, the undocumented mother at risk of deportation and separation from her U.S. born children, victims of domestic violence and human trafficking…Through the incarnation, we have become bearers of the light of Christ. Through the incarnation, we have become the hands and feet of Christ. As St. Teresa of Avila once said, ”Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world”.