Thursday, September 29, 2005

Anawim Christian Community

Anawim is a Hebrew term that means, “The poor who cry out to the Lord for deliverance.” Some of the passages that use the term anawim or it’s Greek equivalents, (ptoxoi—“poor” or praeis—“meek”) are Psalm 37, the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12; Luke 6:20-24) and James 2:1-6. The “poor” of the Lord are those who are rejected or persecuted by society, but they pursue the Lord, do righteousness, and continually pray to the Lord for deliverance from their experience of oppression or rejection.

Anawim Christian Community is a church made up of the poor for the sake of the poor. Our goals are twofold: a. to create a community in which the anawim are welcome and built up in the Lord and b. to draw in others who are poor or rejected, yet not in the Lord, and to encourage them to be of the anawim in Jesus. Those who have been drawn to Anawim Christian Community (ACC) are the homeless, those who are struggling with substance abuse, and those who are mentally ill. Although there are other socio-economic groups that could be classified “poor” in the idea of anawim, (such as Christians who are elderly, developmentally disabled or immigrants), these three groups are our focus.

ACC began as an effort of Steve and Diane Kimes who welcomed the homeless into their apartment in Southeast Portland for dinner and then listened to their concerns and needs. The effort drew in more people when it moved to Peace Mennonite Church for a weekly, then bi-weekly meal. As the community seeking food grew, and the Kimes’ saw a need for a worship service among the homeless, Anawim separated from Peace Mennonite, and began meeting in downtown Gresham. Anawim’s worship services began with just six people, and Steve leading the services. Over time they moved to five different locations throughout Gresham, and then to two different locations in downtown Portland—meeting every Saturday and Sunday.

As time went on, more participants were coming from the Oregon State Hospital in Portland and from group homes in Portland and Gresham. In the meetings downtown, more participants were being contacted through Cascadia Mental Health. At the same time, intensive discipleship was required, which began with accountability meetings, and then some of those who were dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues in their discipleship were welcomed to live with the Kimes’.

In order to accommodate the specific discipleship/evangelism needs of the social groups ACC is made up of, the church is set up in an alternative manner. There are worship services held every Saturday and Sunday, as well as Bible Studies on Wednesdays and Fridays. The meetings are frequent in order to keep the groups small so that the issues of some would be less likely to interfere with other’s issues, and to reach out to four separate physical communities in Portland/Gresham. Every meeting is only an hour long, and participation by those attending is not discouraged—even commenting on the sermon while it is going on. Fancy dress is discouraged, however, in order that everyone may be welcome. And everyone is welcome—even if they are drunk or high—as long as they don’t disturb other’s worship of God.

Every service has a pattern of singing, Bible reading, teaching and prayer that does not vary from week to week, in order to provide security for those whose lives are insecure. Food is provided at each meeting so that participants would have their physical needs met. Showers and clothes are also available at our meeting in Gresham, and available on request at our Portland house. Literature concerning discipleship issues, mental health issues and homelessness are written and produced by ACC.

A few of those who are able to minister under discipleship accountability live with Steve, Diane and their family in a house in North Portland. Those in the house, as well some others in the church are the base ministry team that keeps ACC functioning week-to-week. Many also visit the house throughout the week to talk to those who live there or call Steve on his cell phone for counseling and prayer.

Those who come to ACC will note the difference right away—people eating and talking in casual, sometimes filthy clothes. But as the meetings begin and continue, it will be seen that those who come truly love the Lord, are trying to understand his word and are sincerely praying for God’s deliverance. It is an extreme departure for those used to a middle class service, but it is a real and vibrant form of honoring God in community.

First presented to the Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference, June 2004

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