Every August, Shiloh Church in Oakland, CA does a Back to School Bash. It is an evangelistic opportunity for the church to reach out to a needy community (it is located in the heart of an economically struggling neighbourhood), providing supplies to help children get the education they need to break the cycle of poverty and let them know we care so we can be there for them spiritually.
This is a common theme in Shiloh. Even the dedication given before the offering this weekend speaks to that goal:
Today, I am asking the Lord to bless and prosper me with more than enough so that I can be creative with my surplus, help with missions, feed the poor, build hospitals, orphanages, and help the vision of my church, Bless me, Lord. Pour in so that I can pour out. Fill my life, Lord.
Over the weekend, over 2500 people were ministered to and 1000 backpacks were handed to children. Dozens of chiurch members volunteered of their time and the efforts were spearheaded by associate pastors Steve and Portia Sumner.
While the federal government bickers over whether those who can most afford it should shoulder more of the economic recovery or whether social programs should be cut that help neighbourhoods like Shiloh's, the church can stand up and fill the gap. For a church of mixed ethnicity like Shiloh, the problem of the disproportionate effect the economy is having on minoroities is all the more visible.
Do not rob the poor because he is poor, nor oppress the afflicted at the gate. For the Lord will plead their cause, and plunder the soul of those who plunder them. (Proverbs 22:22-23, NKJ)
Free school supplies are hardly enough to bring a family out of poverty. But if one church feeds a family for a few days of every month, equips their children for education, and gives them a source of hope, that is a step in the right direction. Other churches can provide clothing, and others still different services so the need for government help diminishes in tough times.