This is a guest post from Joe Battaglia, broadcaster, media promotor, author, and President of Renaissance Communications, a company whose mission is to provide media platforms for gifted communicators of Biblical truth. In episode 3 of the BoldIdea podcast, Joe talked about speaking up for truth in a culture than denies it. The following is an excerpt from his book with Joe Pellegrino, Fathers Say (2017, Broadstreet Publishing. Used with permission).
I had just graduated from college, and desiring to further my education, I enrolled in a rather unique program offered through New York Seminary called the Urban Theological Year. The emphasis was to prepare people for understanding urban street ministry. As a journalist, and as a Christian, I felt it would offer me a perspective on life that would serve me well as an interpreter of a particular social sphere I knew little about.
One particular assignment was really out of the box for me. Each one of us in the class was assigned to live in a rescue mission in Manhattan for one weekend! We were not to tell anyone who we were. Our objective was simply to observe, and then report our observations the following week.
So, when I got to the mission, I stood in line with all the others waiting for a hot meal and a roof over their heads for the weekend.
And that’s when the learning experience began.
As I stood there, I got into a conversation with an out-of-town man who decided to engage a prostitute in his car overnight in a no parking zone. The police discovered them and impounded his car. It would cost him $300 to retrieve it from the pound, but he had no money left after paying the fine for his indiscretion. So he was stuck in New York.
I asked him why he just didn’t call someone in his family to help him out. Or, if that was too embarrassing, go find a temporary job to make the money. And then I learned my first lesson about the mindset of poverty. It’s one thing to be poor; another thing to be poor…and hopeless. People who have lost hope have lost way more than the ability to look for a job. They have lost the ability to believe that anyone would hire them. Worse yet, the accompanying feeling is that no cares, either.
We see the politics of poverty all around us. Politicians all say they want to create jobs without knowing or caring to know that providing a job is only good if you provide hope, as well. Poverty of the pocket is one side of the coin. Poverty of the spirit is the other. When both needs are met, a person has a much better chance of breaking cycles and strongholds.
Another important lesson was soon to come.
During the evening, I saw a man playing chess by himself, so I asked if I could play. He nodded and I joined him. For two hours we played chess. And not a word was exchanged between us. I usually can strike up a conversation with anyone. Not this time.
I learned that poverty of the spirit also breeds a sense of anonymity. That man felt like he was invisible. That he had no identity, and that he, too, had no hope.
That weekend reinforced my conviction that Jesus addresses the poverty of the spirit like no other. Simply, He restores hope to the person who feels unloved and uncared for by leading them to the cross. He not only dies to show his love. He goes further. To the anonymous, he gives a new name. Redeemed. And brings you into a new family. The Body of Christ. That’s great news for all those who feel hopeless and invisible.