I attended State Senator Tim Salazar’s town meeting at the Riverton library. Sen. Salazar, recently appointed to the Wyoming Senate’s powerful Appropriations Committee, asked us for advice on how Wyoming’s unexpected “surplus” in revenues should be allocated. I asked him to find funds for a homeless shelter in Riverton.
Another constituent piped up immediately that the government should not fund a homeless shelter because that is the responsibility of churches. I saw an opportunity. I let them know that the Riverton Peace Mission is considering sponsoring a Homelessness Summit and hoped churches would participate.
A leader of the Christian Motorcycle Association spoke up that Riverton has 38 churches. He wondered what they might do if they came together. I agree. What churches in Riverton couldn’t do should they unite to serve those in need in our community! Not in competition, but in cooperation. Not to convert, but to serve.
Churches with buildings could open their doors to lodging. Their kitchens could be for cooking hot meals. A few fix breakfasts, others provide lunch. Some provide clothing. How about restrooms where people can freshen up, maybe even take a shower. Churches with land in town could provide space for tents. Churches providing hospitality. You can’t get any more biblical than that.
A caveat, however. Respect of Indigenous people’s traditions and culture needs to be central. Churches must no longer perpetuate institutional racism and colonization. Jesus was about truth-telling, setting prisoners free, and challenging the oppressors while lifting up those at the bottom.
Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, says “Charity and small change are not enough.” To end poverty, to end racism, requires new ways of doing. It’s not government or churches; it’s all institutions and individuals combining our energy and resources plus the will for big change.
You can help. If you belong to a church, ask your church to support the Riverton Peace Mission to create ways that government, churches, and others can come together to address root causes of poverty and to find lasting solutions. You can volunteer and contribute directly. Together we make a difference.
Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.