Ministry Mobilizes Churches to Help, Reach Out to America's Poor

With more and more Americans losing their jobs in an unstable economy, evictions are also on the rise.

In Los Angeles, the problem has grown to such proportions that the city council recently halted evictions and the city decided to buy empty buildings and designate them as affordable apartments.

"Many Americans are now losing or facing the prospect of losing their homes as both homeowners and renters feel the impact of the foreclosure crisis," noted Deborah DeSantis, president and CEO of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, earlier this year.

"Millions more Americans are likely to fall into deep poverty in the coming months as a result of rising unemployment and declining state and local funding for safety net programs that assist people who are unable to find work," she added.

With many experts expecting the economic situation to get worse before getting better, a national inner-city ministry is mobilizing Christians nationwide to help people struggling with poverty.

Here's Life Inner City, the urban ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International, has been promoting a resource that it has produced for churches to learn how to effectively reach out to the poor.

The faith-based educational program, called "Compassion by Command," explores the issues of poverty and teaches biblical directives related to helping the poor. It offers an interactive Bible study for small groups that incorporates real-life video case studies and the film "God Bless the Child," starring Academy Award nominee Mare Winningham.

"Our hope is that people will gain a broader understanding of Scripture and what God says about His heart for the poor," said Ted Gandy, national director of Here's Life Inner City. "The true stories about poor families provide gripping case studies about how people can impact the lives of the poor beyond just giving financially."

Since 2001, hundreds of U.S churches have reportedly used "Compassion by Command," which International Christian Visual Media honored with a Silver Award winner for Best Curriculum.

Available in a 7-week format or a 14-week format, "Compassion by Command" offers practical steps to helping church make a difference in their community.

"We believe that people trapped in generational poverty must be viewed wholistically – body, soul and spirit," states Here's Life Inner City in its website.

"If we truly care, we will seek to empower people in as many of these areas as possible," it adds.

Since 1983, Here's Life Inner City and more than 1,300 partner churches and organizations have been responded to the growing epidemic of poverty and despair in America's inner cities.

Their wide-ranging efforts have provided the poor with food and other basic necessities, life skills, career development and youth development programs.

"Scripture commands the church to have compassion for the poor - it is both a responsibility and a privilege," the organization asserts.

Last month, the U.S. unemployment rate zoomed to 8.5 percent – the highest in a quarter-century – after employers axed 663,000 more workers. It was also the first time job losses topped 600,000 for a fourth month in a row in government record-keeping dating to 1939.

According to estimates, there are now over 13 million jobless in America.

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