Thursday, June 19, 2008

Charity is not Romantic

This is the fourth week that we are hosting displaced people in our church hall.
And that which began with chaotic good humour has now become a more considered act of charity. We have invented systems for feeding people, clothing them, and housing them. We have learned how to estimate the food requirements, and how much soap and toilet paper will get used each day. But the congregation is getting tired – what some call “donor fatigue”.

The refugees have also adapted. They began as a disorientated collection of individuals. The only thing that they had in common was an experience of rejection and loss of both property and dignity. Four weeks later they have begun to recover some independence. Many leave our premises during the day to go to work. And the women report each morning to the office to discuss catering arrangements and other housekeeping needs. But the newly forming community is showing rifts.

The family units provide leadership in terms of cooking the food, and organizing community life. But there is a large group of young men who go out in the late afternoon and do not return until late at night. They often show signs of having been drinking – and on their arrival they demand food. This has caused tensions, and I suspect has led to some of our guests choosing to move out.

Today two family units moved out.
And tomorrow there will be unhappiness, because the cooks have now gone, as has Baba Abel, who acted as the glue to hold the community together.

So pray for us tomorrow.

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