Beacon Fine Homes & Custom Pools is a local home builder in OK. They’ve launched their Design for Change contest! You can design your dream floor plan to impact a community and for a chance to win an iPad! Beacon will donate $1 to Cross And Crown Mission for every Facebook ‘LIKE’ they receive during the contest! Visit the Web Site for all the contest details. Please take five minutes to help us raise funds to help our community!
OKLAHOMA CITY — In Oklahoma a person must make less than $1,200 per month to qualify for food stamps. Right now there are more than 600,000 Oklahomans who fit that bill. According to Department of Human Services officials the numbers could get worse before they get better.
It’s the middle of the night at Crest grocery store in Oklahoma City, yet shoppers armed with lengthy grocery lists line every single aisle. When the clock strikes midnight, it will be the first of the month. At that moment it’s pay day for those shoppers. Their electronic benefit transfer cards, or EBT cards, are loaded with money. It’s money from Oklahoma’s SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). But you may know it as food stamps.
In Tulsa, the first of the month means long lines at Perry’s Food Mart. It’s a line that over time has grown longer than ever before.
In the past three years, the number of people receiving the benefits has skyrocketed. In 2008, there were 415,000 Oklahomans receiving food stamps. Now there are more than 600,000. That’s more than the entire population of Oklahoma City. It’s also an increase of 46 percent.
Melia Shuman is one of those thousands of food stamp recipients. In 2008 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Two days later she was laid off. Less than a week later the company she worked for no longer existed, leaving her high and dry.
“I didn’t know how I was going to live. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for a living. I didn’t know how I was going to pay utilities. I didn’t know what I was going to do for eating,” said Melia Shuman.
Her only option, she said, was to apply for food stamps. For the past two years Shuman has been receiving the maximum individual food stamp allowance of $200 a month. She said that money alone would not be enough to pay for all of her food needs. To get by, she combines her SNAP money with donated food from local food pantries.
“You have to learn to budget. That’s the only way you can make it through. Cause they give you the bare minimum,” said Shuman.
Eventually she hopes to get off food stamps and onto permanent disability. But, she admits the large amounts of federal government spending makes her worry about the future of these programs.
Gerald Davis is a regional Director for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, which runs the food stamp program. He said the staff at his Tulsa office has been slammed with new clients.
“DHS has been asked to help and we have responded,” said Davis.
Davis said food stamps are usually the last resort for people in financial trouble. To him that means times are tough in Oklahoma.
“Twenty-nine straight months of increase, record increase, that tells me that yeah, we’re in a crisis,” said Davis.
And this crisis could cost taxpayers a billion dollars this year. In 2008, Oklahoma received $485 million in federal food stamp funding. That paid the average recipient $97 a month. Now the average monthly payment is $130 per person, meaning Oklahoma is on track to receive $945 million in federal food stamp funding this year.
The Department of Human Services will only speculate as to what’s behind the crisis. They have not compiled their data to give an exact reason. They speculate that Oklahoma’s crisis is due to the late arrival of the nation’s economic crisis here. They say it’s all related to jobs.
“So many people have lost jobs or they’ve been reduced in the number of hours they can work,” said Davis.
It appears unemployed Oklahomans are a major factor, but so are the working poor. In 2008, the state’s unemployment rate was 4.2 percent. Add to that 50,000 more Oklahomans and now unemployment is at 7 percent. But 185,000 people enrolled in the food stamps program in that time. That means many of them have jobs and still are poor enough to qualify for food stamps.
Job or no job, poverty is spreading amongst Oklahomans. Sadly, many of the new food stamp recipients are children. Right now, a shocking 30 percent of Oklahoma’s children are being fed through the food stamps program.
When we say that the mission will be closed for Spring Break, we never close completely, but we do want to create space for our volunteers to enjoy family and take time for much needed rest.
The food and clothing pantry and clothing store will be closed M,T,W. The following will continue:
Sunday, 14th Youth Hangout 3:30pm
Family Meal and Worship 6:00pm
Monday, 15th AA at 12:00pm
Youth Hangout 10:00am to 2:00pm
Tuesday, 16th Youth Hangout 10:00am to 2:00pm
Sunday, 21st Youth Hangout 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Family meal and worship 6:00pm
We are constantly amazed by the provision of God here at the mission. One way we gauge the effectiveness of our programs is to look at who the programs serve and how many repeat relationships we build. Through relationship we are able to share the good news that changes lives!
This week, Paul shared with the staff and volunteers the numbers for 2009 as a way of showing the impact the mission has on our neighborhood. They are as follows:
6,286 boxes of food
12,552 adults served
11,868 children served
Total served = 24,420
This is a new record for the mission. The numbers tell us that the economy has affected our people dramatically. Our total number served has increased in 2009 by almost 20%. We are seeing new people come that never needed our services before, especially in our clinics. We expect this trend to continue throughout 2010.
We have a lot of people to thank for allowing us the privilege of praying with over 24,000 friends last year. The list would be too long to acknowledge each by name, most wouldn’t want that anyway. Thank you for your sacrifice of time and resources. You are making a lasting impact on OKC for the Kingdom.
If you are reading this and have not experienced a day at the mission, our invitation is simply to come and be a part of the Cross And Crown Family!
A blitz is scheduled (beginning October 6) to furnish the 9th street house, our first completed project. We will also work on other houses in the neighborhood (drywall, painting, etc). The food pantry and clothing store will be closed. Monday’s AA meeting and Tuesday’s clinic will still take place. We are excited to make new friendships as we make a “holy commotion” in the neighborhood!
All of life began with work—it’s the reason there was a day one in the first place. For the first six days, God worked. And when he built the garden and placed man inside, God’s first gift to that precious creature was work. Though Scripture never tells us directly why God asked man to work, the story suggests that the capacity to work—to create, to steward, and to care for what God has given us—is an integral part of the imago dei. In the beginning was the Word, the apostle tells us: the Logos and our reason for being. If the one who created us works, it should be a joy to be employed in the business of the Creator.
But as a result of the Fall, work came to feel like labor rather than an act of love. When you’re toiling through a long day at the office, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the Curse is the reason we work at all. But the truth is actually far more complex. God called work good, but then cursed the ground, the raw material of our day-to-day activities. That curse condemned us to feelings of longing and lack when we can’t quite make those raw materials do what we want.
The workplace offers plenty of venues to air our sinfulness. It’s there that we struggle directly with temptations of greed and exploitation. The closed environment of an office offers a crucible for raising and resolving gender conflicts and confronting our own struggles with honesty and integrity. And yet we know the Fall resulted not in these individual sins, but in a heart condition characterized by a longing for meaning.
So in spite of our disillusionment, we continue to grasp for meaning in our work. We seek satisfaction in our jobs just as God looked at his creation and pronounced it good. Each of us hopes our work will make a difference, if not to society at large, at least in our own lives. We seek a vocation: employment that meets an inner longing and provides satisfaction beyond the benefits we receive. We celebrate workplaces that encourage our creativity, build our spirits, and offer the opportunity to change our lives and the lives of those around us.
Does it sound too good to be true? Those jobs exist, in good work environments and bad. In spite of the Fall, the promise of fulfillment in our work remains very real. Sin corrupted our ability to find complete satisfaction in our work; but in the same curse, God inaugurated the story line of redemption. With the promise of the Savior, God gave us the ability to see significance in day-to-day activities. God has promised that one day even our work will be as satisfying as leisure.
But on that day, the work itself will be less important than the one who gave us the work in the beginning. Our work can fulfill us. It can give us a sense of purpose on this earth. But in the long run, our meaning must end where it began. Not until we understand that our truest vocation is to serve Christ will we too call our work good. For as each of us continues to work, as we seek ways to blend our occupation with our vocation, we discover more about who God is and who we are. What a gift to find ourselves gainfully employed in becoming the people God created us to be!
Excerpt from Christianity Today , Melody Pugh, August 23, 2006
Each year, Oklahoma city takes one day to count and survey every homeless person in the city. The most recent “Point-in-Time” count of the homeless was conducted on January 31, 2008. The intention of this count was to provide a snapshot picture of homelessness in Oklahoma City, of both the number of homeless people and their characteristics. A large team of community volunteers from more than ten organizations surveyed homeless persons in emergency homeless shelters, transitional housing facilities, hot meal sites, crisis facilities such as hospitals and the jail, encampments, and various street locations.
The Point-in-Time count yields valuable data to help service providers understand how many local people are homeless and what kinds of needs they have. This information aids in planning Oklahoma City’s services and programs to feed and shelter the population as well as to help them find affordable housing, access transportation, receive rehabilitation and counseling, find employment, and improve their skills through education and training.
Results showed that Oklahoma City had a high rate of chronic homelessness. A chronically homeless person is, according to HUD’s definition, an individual with a disabling condition who has been continually homeless for one year or more or has had four or more episodes of homelessness within the last three years. On January 31, 304 people counted in emergency shelters, in crisis facilities, and on the streets met this definition. Eleven percent of all people counted had been homeless at least one year, with 19% having been homeless for two or more years.
Of adults responding to special needs questions:
23% were chronically homeless by HUD’s definition
33% report mental illness
43% report substance abuse
19% report physical illness or disability
Current results show a total of 1415 homeless people counted on the night of January 31, 2008.
*The Point-in-Time count was a joint project of the City of Oklahoma City, the Coalition for the Needy, and the Homeless Alliance.
Two weeks ago, following the conclusion of the school store, I witnessed a fulfilled dream…
It wasn’t my dream. I was just blessed to be one of the people in the dream.
One of Cross and Crown’s regular volunteers pulled me aside a few weeks ago and informed me that he had experienced a dream the night before that involved myself, Ron and a couple of the youth from Rock Island. In his dream he explained that he knew how many of the young people from the neighborhood came to Rock Island, the youth center, with the mindset of receiving something. In other words, to get something we had to offer. Whether they came for food, games, entertainment or something else, he understood that, like most other youth centers/youth groups, the kids came to receive something we had to offer them. As a side note, this isn’t a bad thing. Kids that come to play games, eat our food or be entertained are really just falling into our trap! We really want them to find out about Jesus, but don’t tell anyone.
Next, he talked about how he understood that Ron and I did a fair amount of pouring into the kids and how that can be draining, which I gave a strong, “Amen”, to. He told us that there would be two of the youth that wouldn’t just come to get, get, get….but that would bless both Ron and I and be a blessing to us. Two that would bless us. He went on to name one of the boys from our group, specifically, who was in the dream and was to play a key role. He also informed us that there was another young man in the dream who was also to play a prominent role. He said he was unable to identify who the other young man was and said it may not be any of the kids that currently were involved with us at Rock Island.
As he went on to describe the dream he told us that Ron and I would be praying with the kids in a group. He said that during the prayer the young man, whom he named, would be by my side or next to me. During the prayer both the young men he told us of were to bless us, to lift us up.
So, here we go.
A couple weeks back following the conclusion of Cross and Crown’s school store, after being physically and mentally drained mostly because of youth overload, Ron and I decided to rally up the youth that were helping for the day. We told them that we would finish up the day by cleaning up, getting some snacks, praying and heading home. As we started to clean up a couple boys from a youth group in Edmond showed up to help out. They have been coming off and on over the course of the summer and have been a pleasure to be around. So, we cleaned, got snacks and the kids grabbed a seat so we could debrief and pray. After a couple minutes of talking about the weeks experiences we figured it was time to wrap up and ask God’s blessing over the rest of the week and the upcoming school year.
I started the prayer and asked for God’s covering for the upcoming school year and for blessings over each of the kids. Then before Ron finished up the prayer he left a gap for any of the youth to pray that felt led. Now, let me clarify something before I carry on with the story. 90% of the youth that come to Cross and Crown or Rock Island haven’t been to “church”. They haven’t grown up in Christian homes, been instructed how to pray or been around people that pray on a regular basis like most of us have. What this means is they haven’t developed ideas or “common prayer topics”, I’ll call them, to pray about….like traditional prayers, such as, “God, thank you for this day”, “God, thank you for your blessings over…”, “God, please bless this family with a sick relative…”, or, “God, please be with me during this situation…”. Which makes what I am about to say even more incredible.
The young man, who was identified by name and said to be sitting next to me or by my side, was doing just that. He was sitting directly next to me while all the other kids were spread out sporadically throughout the sanctuary. He then went on to say the following, “God thank you for the school store and the bookbags we were all able to get for school…Thank you for Luke and Ron and all their hard work and I ask for your blessings upon them and their families. I ask that your face shine upon then and bless them”………….
I ask for your face to shine upon them? I ask you to bless them and their families? Wow. Quite possibly one of the biggest, largest blessings of a prayer, that I am aware of, that has ever been prayed for me. But, that’s not the end. Next, after he had finished praying, one of the young men from the youth group in Edmond began to pray. He prayed a very similar prayer. He prayed for Ron and I and the work we were apart of at Rock Island with the kids. What a blessing.
Initially I didn’t connect this event with the dream that had been described to me. Hello!!! The reason the man who had the dream couldn’t identify the other young man who was going to pray for us is because he has never met or seen him. In his dream he just saw that there were going to be two young men. One he knew, the other he didn’t.
I’m not sure when I finally realized that the dream that was to happen…just unravelled right in front of me. But, regardless of when it was that I finally figured it out, I definitely felt the power and presence of God.
I don’t tell this story to make it sound like I am anything special, because I am not. I tell this story to be an encouragement to you who read this. Know that our God is the living and active God. He still does those “edgy”, “old-testament”, “why doesn’t God still work like he used to” in the old days, things. God doesn’t just want to be apart of our Sunday services and church get-togethers. He wants to be apart of every aspect of our lives. Be encouraged and know that if you desire to feel God’s presence, He’s ready. Ask.