Raif: The best way to show God to others

71 encampment

Harvest, at right, lives under a Texas 71 overpass in Austin. Herman Rux, who was homeless in the 1980s, still visits encampments. (Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune)

This morning I was reading a column by Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times (Opinion, Oct. 27). He was referring to new data on young people who do not identify as Christians: only 49 percent of millennials do. This compares with 84 percent among Americans in their mid-70s.

The Pew Research study concluded, “The U.S. Is steadily becoming less Christian and less religiously observant.” The share of adults who consider themselves Christian has fallen 12 percentage points in the past decade.

I also read about Gov. Greg Abbott’s efforts to “clean up” the camps of homeless people in Austin. Apparently he has gotten flack because the camps reflect on Texas government’s inability to have enough compassion to provide real relief.

It’s true that some don’t want to move from their spot, many times with good reason. Where will they go? Are they just going to be shuffled to another camp somewhere else? Have they been given too many reasons not to trust anyone?

One woman said her “home” has been disrupted many times and she has lost a shoe in moving. One shoe. Most of us would just go buy another pair, even if we had to look for a sale. But her loss of one shoe is a big deal because she doesn’t have the money to buy another pair.

Some say, “Well, they can go to a mission.” Right. But too many of them have had Jesus jammed down their throats without any real help — such as replacing their shoes.

My husband worked for a state office in Fort Worth for many years, working with people on welfare. He saw the results of missions not giving people what they really needed. I don’t intend to paint all the missions with the same brush, but there are too many not to criticize their misguided efforts.

As for the millennials Kristof mentions, I have a son in his early 40s. He and his wife do not go to church, nor take their young children anywhere. That really bothers me, but I can well understand his reasons. He doesn’t see enough good examples to believe that Jesus/God can make any difference in their lives. I see that they need to give their children a way to judge how they should behave or choose when they come up against situations they aren’t familiar with. How can they make right decisions when they can’t understand consequences or see how what they decide can affect someone else?

For years both my husband and I (even before we married eight years ago) have ministered to those who need to see God’s hand help them. I’ll toot my own horn here. When I was 68, I began graduate school in social work, commuting 2 1/2 hours each way to Arlington for almost three years. After graduation I was offered — and took — a job that paid very, very well. But I was miserable because I so strongly felt I was not doing what God wanted me to. So I quit, without a job offer elsewhere.

Ron and I were not yet married, but I had some money left from a settlement. A few months later I was approached by Chris, whom I did not know, but who was then director of Cornerstone Counseling. He said one of their counselors had moved to Dallas and they had an opening. Would I be interested? Before I could answer he said, “But it is not a paid position, only volunteer.” I said, “When do I start?”

I was there for four years before I retired. During that time I also started counseling at Hiway 80 Mission for two years, again at no pay. We lived on my husband’s retirement income.

As a Christian, I’ve always felt the best way I could show God to others was to help fill a need. Even when I literally had no income except for what I could make selling produce and home-baked goods, I helped others. One was a man walking alongside the highway in socks because he had no shoes. I picked him up and took him to my church, which gave him some shoes and gave me money to take him to the grocery store to get some “traveling” food. I didn’t have to “witness” because he knew who was helping him.

I think another reason young people are turning away from church and Christianity is because they see or read of pastors and others in Christian work who are accused, rightly, of sexual abuse. They see people who staunchly support our president even though his actions and philosophy are so strongly anti-Christian.

I recently turned 80. I lived in post WWII when we didn’t have cell phones, or a TV until I was 9 years old, or a car until I was in sixth grade. The world has changed a lot. I’m weary. I have no idea how long God will keep me on earth to do what He has in store for me, until He decides it’s time to quit and go home to Him. Then maybe I can rest.

— Gayle Raif, a Longview resident, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum.

Today's Bible verse

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.”

— Psalm 95:2-3

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