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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Upper New York young adults reflect on poverty

    January 24, 2017 / By UNY Communications / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Earlier this month, 15 young adults from the UNY Conference traveled to Washington, D.C.  and spent two days learning at the United Methodist Building as part of the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) seminar program, focusing on #FaithandPoverty. Maya Smith, Weagba Nelson, Alisyn Klock, and Cory Jones share their reflections on what they learned about poverty. Below are a few reflections from the young adults who attended.

    Maya Smith

    While in Washington D.C., myself along with other Upper New York young adults, had the chance to attend a Global Board of Church and Society (GBCS) poverty and homelessness seminar. The first thing we learned was that in Syracuse one in every two children live in poverty, 31% of the total people living in Syracuse live in poverty, and poverty in Syracuse ranks 29th when compared against the whole nation. This came as a shock to me, as someone who lives so close to the city and as a UNY young adult.

    In addition to learning these statistics on poverty, we had the chance to learn that there are many different ways people become impoverished and homeless. Dr. Jessie Smith from GBCS guided our conversations. Whether we said it or not,  , most of our brains immediately went to addiction and laziness when asked what causes one to become impoverished or homeless. However, we learned that there are so many other reasons such as loss of a job, debt, mental illness, loss of a loved one, depression, and choice, just to name a few and that addiction is often a result of these and ends up being a coping mechanism.

    The reasons listed can be separated into two categories: Voluntary and Involuntary poverty. Voluntary poverty would include monks, popes, and intentional communities. These people choose to free themselves of possessions and wealth in order to open themselves up to God. On the other hand, involuntary poverty would include: job loss, debt, or mental illness. These people do not choose to be impoverished, but circumstances have led them there. On top of this, there is generational poverty and situational poverty. If you are born into an impoverished family, you are in generational poverty. If health problems put you in debt and in turn led you to poverty, you are in situational poverty. We also had the chance to hear stories from two improvised people who have lived through homelessness. We got to hear about what put them there, the hardships, successes, and their passion to help those who walk in the same shoes.

    Dr. Smith also guided us through the story of the Good Samaritan. We all know this story but have we really heard what Jesus is telling us? The beaten man was not helped by the priest nor the Levite. Both of these men we supposed to be kin to the beaten man. However, the only person to stop and help him was the Samaritan, the sworn enemy of the man. The Samaritan cleans and bandages his wounds and brings him to shelter and promises to pay for his care. Here Jesus shows us a story of great compassion. He teaches us to extend a hand to those who need help regardless of who they are and whether or not they are your best friend or your sworn enemy. Linking to this is Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words. He was referencing the story of the Good Samaritan when he said, “The question is not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ The question is, ‘If I do not stop the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?’”.

    While in Washington D.C., I became inspired to make a change. From being completely shocked that there was so much unmentioned poverty around me, to learning that poverty is complex and has a face, to learning that the bible and famous activists have spoken great words on this subject.

    Right in the middle of our Conference, there is great poverty. I am now inspired to go to these places and lend a hand to those who need help. Now, I know that poverty isn’t one sided. It is voluntary, involuntary, generational, and situational. It has a name. There are stories and people, not just a general reason or statistic. My eyes are now open to this and so is my heart and mind. My eyes, heart, and mind are now flooded with the story of the Good Samaritan. Reminding me every day to worry less about what society will say if I am helping the homeless and impoverished, but to remember this is what Jesus teaches us to do. That myself and all of us must worry more about what will happen to the man in need if I do not help and to show the compassion of Jesus. While in Washington D.C.  I learned that as a Christian young adult I am called to help, called to serve, and called to show compassion to all regardless of circumstance.

    Weagba Nelson

    My experience on our young adult trip to D.C. was largely a self-reflective time for me. I have personally experienced poverty, and have always been interested in alleviating the pain it causes. A lot of what we heard, I already knew; however, hearing things over again gave me a fresh perspective on the continued pain that poverty causes, and how systems continue to trap generations of families. Over the trip, I thought deeply on what my role in ending that pain could be, how I want to act towards those experiencing homelessness and poverty; and most importantly how I can become the light God is calling me to be. That is what I was able to take away from our trip to the Global Board of Church and Society in Washington D.C.

    Alisyn Klock

    I chose to go on this trip for two reasons. The first being I thought it would be great way to meet other young adults in our Conference, and the second being I wanted to do something meaningful with my winter break. This experience was truly eye opening and has helped me understand some of the fundamental causes and effects of homelessness and poverty.

    I See You by Cory Jones
    (A poem based on Luke 10:25-37 The Parable of the Good Samaritan, from the perspective of the beaten man as the priest passes by.)

    You pass me by pretending not to see me lying here black and blue,
    My presence is an inconvenience to someone just passing through,
    I didn’t choose to be here but there was nothing I could do,
    Although our eyes don’t meet I can still see you,

    Ignoring me is easy as you go along your way,
    Helping someone in need wasn’t on the agenda for today,
    But things don’t always work out the way that you wish,
    Just look at me I never planned on being here in this ditch,

    You present an image that makes others stand in awe,
    I’d stand up to greet you but at this point I can’t even crawl
    If you won’t stop to help me I can’t help but wonder who
    The orphan, the widow, the needy are they also an inconvenience to you?

    So while you pretend not to see me, I see you.

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."