Acts 3 – Affecting Lives Beyond Just Today

As Peter and John were headed to the temple, they encountered a man with a physical problem that he’d had since birth (Acts 3:1-2).  Every day someone took him to the temple gate where he begged everyday.  That “someone” seemed to think that was the best that could be done for the man.  The person helped him “manage” to get through life.  The man sought assistance from others that would get him through the day and meet his short-term needs to get him through again in order to do it all over the next day.

“When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money” (v. 3).  Peter and John broke into this man’s cycle and changed everything.

“Peter LOOKED straight at him, as did John…” (v. 4).  Who knows whether this man ever got any eye contact from others?!  How many times do people see someone panhandling and try hard not to see him or her?  However, in this situation, on that day for this man, two people “looked straight at him.”

“…then Peter SAID, ‘Look at us!’” (v. 4).  They not only gave him eye contact, but they SPOKE to him as well.

“So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them” (v. 5).  Still in his usual frame of mind, he was looking for what he’d always been looking—something to get him by for that day, his short-term needs.

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I GIVE you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’” (v. 6).  Peter didn’t worry about not having that for which the man was asking.  In fact, Peter chose to give what would have a long-term effect on the man’s life—in this case, an eternal power entered a finite moment and brought physical change.

Affectling Lives Beyond Just Today

“TAKING him BY the right HAND, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk” (v. 7-8).  In Peter’s interactions with this man, he touched the man—another possible rarity in this formerly invalid man’s life (aside from whoever took him to the gate daily).  How easy it can be to avoid offering the simple act of touch to others, especially to those most in need among us.

“… Then he went WITH THEM into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God” (v. 8).  This man hung out with Peter and John, getting a bit of social life.  From what we read about the man, this may have been one of those very rare moments in his life when someone welcomed his company.  They even were okay with him touching them: “While the beggar held onto Peter and John…” (v. 11).

“When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who sued to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him….all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonade…” (v. 9-11).

The gift that was given to this man that affected his long-term needs also affected the entire community.  No donation given to him on any of those other day-after-days to meet his short-term needs had such a widespread impact on the community.

Consider how this man’s life and community were affected by the choice of two men who gave from the resources to which they had access to meet his long-term needs.  His physical health was the most obvious effect.  Yet, his emotional and mental health were improved through the way Peter and John looked at, spoke to, touched, and spent time with him—boosting his value and affirmation.  His social health surely saw improvement with that time spent with them too.

The community saw the change in him.  They were in awe and amazement.  Peter and John took the opportunity to sue what happened as a teachable moment, explaining God’s role in what had happened and tying it into their own eternal needs.  Even though the two of them were put in jail later by the temple leaders, “many who heard the message believed” (4:4).

Often, it can seem so much easier to accept the way things are and never wonder what could be better if something were done differently.  Those who took the man to the gate daily were only seeing his symptoms, his current situation.  Peter and John looked at the root cause of his begging and did what it took to set him on a new course toward ending his crippling condition.  They didn’t just do a little something to feel like they helped at least in some way; they made a big something that had far-reaching results.

When it comes to addressing big issues in our communities like poverty and homelessness, will we do things that allow us to “manage” the problems and feel like we’ve at least done something?  Or, will we examine the root causes—the entire gamut, not just the typically attributed—and seek ways to work together to “end” homelessness and poverty?

~~~~~~~~~~

“The church that develops long-term, trusting relationships with the community is the one that has an opportunity to influence its culture.  The most effective way to do that seems to be in the context of serving.  In meeting the needs of others and serving alongside them, we cannot help but create relationship.  Relationship is key to building bridges into the community.”

– Rusaw/Swanson

~~~~~~~~~

“…poverty and despair can become so internalized that it can take generations to heal.  There is a family…with four children… No member of this family has had a meaningful job for two generations, and both parents and some grandparents have been in and out of jail.  Getting a minimum wage job will not fix this.  Just giving them enough to keep starvation at bay is not enough.  Poverty is not just a lack of cash, medicine, or technology.  It is also about the confidence, skills, and belief that people can use what they have for the community’s good.  Surely poverty is as much about identity, meaning, and belonging as material goods.  Surely God’s hope needs to be involved to change the world and rid it of poverty.”

– Ash Barker, Make Poverty Personal

Advertisements

Bag Mats

“Plarn” mats turn trash into better rest for homeless man

After a week of trying out the first bag mat made by volunteers at the Grayville Senior Center in Grayville, Illinois, Alan Stichweh noted, “I sleep better with it.  I don’t toss and turn like I used to because it’s easier on my joints.”

A bag mat is a three by six foot sleeping mat made by crocheting “plarn” (or plastic yarn) cut from shopping bags.  Bags that often become trash are recycled into a portable, light-weight mat that can help a person who is homeless on the streets sleep better.

Dottie Isbell, a Grayville resident, heard about the bag mat project from her daughter Kat Isbell, who has been working in recent years with nonprofits in Evansville, Indiana, to help end homelessness and poverty.

Kat had found an online video (http://vimeo.com/4887139) from Lutheran Church Charities in Chicago and designed a how-to brochure for the project, then passed the instructions on to her mom.

After learning how to make and crochet plarn into a mat, Dottie took the idea to the Grayville Senior Center.  Norma Armstrong, Mary Handel, and Marcella Sweeney became involved in the folding, cutting, tying, and rolling of the plarn.

“I’m from a large family and over the years we have had a helping hand a time or two,” related Sweeney. “It makes me feel good when I can give back.”

Meanwhile, Dottie would crochet at the center with the group and at home.  She uses an ice cream bucket with a hole in the lid to contain the plarn while doing a single crochet with a #10 hook.  Several hours went into the production of one mat.

Several months after the Grayville ladies completed their first bag mat, Kat met Stichweh, who attended a presentation she led through her job.  She learned of his homeless situation through conversations with him.

For several months, Stichweh has been homeless in Evansville after losing a well-paying job in another part of Indiana.  He’s tried the men’s shelters and yet often sleeps out on the streets.  He continues to look for work that can sustain him and help him afford housing once again.

Isbell offered the bag mat to Stichweh, who accepted it and gave permission to share his photo, name, and comments.

He said the mat “worked really well” and when it “got wet, it dried out quickly.”  He commented that they “made it about the right length.  The size is good for an average body.”

Stichweh appreciated the padding and cushion the bag mat provided as he slept.  “On the concrete, it helps on your shoulders and hips, and back.”

The ladies also crocheted a strap for tying the mat after it’s rolled.  Stichweh said the strap made it easy to carry and affirmed, “It’s good for the environment.”

The bag mat project has already inspired other features and other individuals to involve others.

Mary Handel had mentioned the project at the church she attends and Barbara Higginson, of Grayville too, was motivated to go to the Senior Center and learn to make plarn.  She’s now working on a bag mat at home.

Stichweh had ideas of enhancements to the bag mat.  He wondered if a pillow could be made, with an open end, allowing other bags to be used for stuffing and for carrying things at other times.  Dottie Isbell is working out a way to make a bag pillow based on his idea.

In reflecting on being involved with making bag mats, Dottie said she “really enjoyed getting together to work on it and visiting while we did.”  She also expressed, “I really like that somebody is making good use of it.”

Handel said, “I think it’s good anytime we can help those in need. It was good to fellowship with each other while working on the mat.”

For a brochure on how to make plarn and bag mats, send a self-addressed/stamped envelope to Kat Kreations, PO Box 2555, Evansville, IN 47728 or email katkreations82@aol.com with “bag mats” in the subject line, or to download it as a PDF file, click here

Start a bag mat project yourself:  1) Find a homeless service provider who can connect your mats with those who can most use them; 2) Recruit team members for the various tasks; 3) Gather several regular-size plastic bags—even if there are holes; 4) Work together to CUT the bags, LINK the loops, ROLL the plarn, and/or CROCHET the bags into bag mats; 5) GIVE the bag mats away.

You’ll be doing good for the environment and for others in need.  Armstrong would agree, “I think it is a good deal to help anyone out. I would do it anytime for anyone.”

download a PDF version of the article with more photos – click here: Bag Mat Project

First bag mat created by ladies from the Senior Center in Grayville, IL

~~~~

UPDATES

Sept 2011 >>  The ladies in Grayville, IL, have since donated the plarn they had cut, tied, and/or rolled to an agency in Southwest Indiana that involves people who are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in the bag mat making project.  The mats they make are donated to a homeless service provider in Evansville, IN.

Oct 2011>> Kat spoke at a regional youth conference in Washington, IN, intertwining the demonstration of the steps for making bag mats with the concepts of ending homelessness, motivating the teens to focus on considering how their communities might work so that all residents are “Housed, not Homeless!”  (Interested in having Kat as a speaker?  Email at katkreations82@aol.com)

By 2013, Alan has been housed!

Oct 2013>> Kat spoke at the Ignition Conference in Troy, IL, during the missions time, teaching over 170 middle school youth and their leaders to make plarn. In the days that followed, a ministry group from Troy United Methodist Church, called Chicks with Sticks, will be using the plarn to crochet bag mats that will be distributed to the homeless by the young adults during a missions project to come.

Since this blog posting >> 2013, (not counting unknown downloads & views) the Bag Mat brochure has been requested by people from almost across the continental U.S. — Greenley, CO; Escenaba, MI; Ackerman, MS; Maryville, TN; Pittsfield, MA; Murrells Inlet, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Westminster, MD; and Ringgold, GA!  Go, God!  🙂