Why Aren't We Asking the Right Questions?

by Robbie Joern, Coordinator of Mission & Outreach and

John Stedman, JONAH Organizer

Sometimes we get in a rut. Monday washing, Tuesday ironing, Wednesday cleaning, etc. But sticking to a routine in this way goes beyond the typical household tasks. When we'd rather not be challenged, there are times in life when we ask, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" Churches fall into this trap as well.

First Lutheran has wonderful Missions of the Month that cover many necessary services inspired by our faith. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and let justice roll like a river are well-known admonitions among faith communities. The work is so very challenging, yet satisfying. We feel an adrenalin rush when goals are met - a monthly meal for  volunteer caregivers at The Chippewa Valley Free Clinic, packed and delivered Weekend Kid's Meals for students at Sherman Elementary, growing congregational participation in Lutheran World Relief projects like making quilts and School Kits are but a few examples. We've worked very hard and we have the results to prove it: hundreds of children in our community no longer go hungry over the weekends, volunteers are energized to assist those who lack medical insurance, students receive tools they need to help them learn, and people all over the world are kept warm.

Despite our efforts, we continue to find ourselves overwhelmed by the needs of the homeless, the plight of the working poor, and the invisible in our midst who find themselves without access to compassionate documentation to work legally in this country. We struggle to provide resources for those who find themselves trafficked and permanent solutions to ensure we all have the right to breathe unpolluted air, drink clean water and be assured the life systems of our planet are secure.  Why? Why, after all these years of feeding the poor and hungry, are the numbers continuing to rise?  Why do needs in all areas of life seem to be exponentially out of control? Why would justice be denied to anyone?

These important questions go directly to our hearts. To find answers, we need to think differently. We must challenge ourselves to look at the situation in a different light and go upstream to examine causes and conditions. If "good enough" really becomes good enough, then hope for our future will be lost.

When we embark on the lifelong journey to educate ourselves on such issues, we will find that long-term justice-denied issues take time and energy to untangle. They require in-depth exploration and lots of relationship building - especially with those sisters and brothers in Christ we have yet to meet. This relational work will create alliances where once was only division. It will uncover resources (both human and material) previously unknown and help us muster the courage to move in unexplored directions.

Why are people and families homeless? Why do we live in a society where many who take on the work most of us won't do still can't legally drive to their worksite? Why do we continue to observe the rise of human trafficking in our state and region? These questions are not easily answered, but JONAH (Joining Our Neighbors, Advancing Hope) is committed to not only asking tough questions, but finding ways to respond to them with others who care.

JONAH is First Lutheran's October Mission of the Month. In its early days in the Eau Claire area, JONAH counted First Lutheran as a partner. We are excited about renewing our covenant with JONAH member congregations and other non-traditional partners like Public Health. We look forward to formalizing our partnership with JONAH and will take the month of October to share their work with you.

JONAH currently has task forces that are wrestling with Criminal Justice, Immigration, Poverty and Environmental Justice. These issues were selected locally and reflect local interest.

If you wish to learn more about any of these issue areas or endeavor to get involved in JONAH's work please contact: jonahorganizer@gmail.com