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Letter: Issues of poverty are complex

I wanted to respond to a recent letter to the editor on the topic of welfare recipients by sharing some of my own experiences with poverty.

I used to hold a lot preconceived judgments about poverty. I blamed the individuals experiencing poverty for their circumstances. This was easy to do as I did not have any close friends or family in such circumstances.

It wasn't until I joined a ministry to the homeless while in college that my ideas were challenged. I met many of the same men and women week after week and listened to their life stories. I met veterans with undiagnosed mental illness, bankrupt business owners disowned by family, and hardworking individuals unable to secure a job for lack of a physical address. The issues were broad and deep.

Fast forward a few years, and I am working for a ministry called Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) whose purpose is to help churches help people. One of our services is operating a helpline that connects callers with the most appropriate community resources for their need. This has brought me into contact with numerous caring people who lovingly serve their fellow man through both community non-profits and government agencies.

While I will be the first to say that there is need for reform in the way we (governments, non-profits and churches) help people, I have also learned about many systems currently in place that are designed to help people become self-sufficient. The one specific response I would have to the previous article is to say those who abuse the system are the exception, not the norm; and that is speaking from my professional experience.

It can be easy to judge nameless "welfare recipients" whom we do not know personally. We can wonder why they act, dress, or behave certain ways. The truth is, until we know them personally, we have no idea what their circumstances are and cannot know how we ourselves would respond in their circumstances.

Love INC actually has a training/discussion on these very topics (400 words doesn't begin to touch the surface). I would like to invite Mr. Vetsch and anyone else interested to attend the next "Love That Makes a Difference" training on Wednesday July 17th, 6 to 8:30 p.m. at First Lutheran Church, Worthington.

Wrestle with these tough issues and come away a more loving neighbor. I myself am continuing on this journey.