Christmas Appeal: Hope: If We Follow the Spirit, Great Things Will Come to Pass.

December 17th, 2010

We are again in need of your support, to feed the poor, and maintain our community. The Christian Faith as well as the great mystical traditions put so much emphasis on hope. It is one thing to have faith in the creation of a building – when you can see with your eyes a construction company with a finely-drawn plan by architects, millions in their bank account, all the concrete and steel, and a fleet of experienced construction workers. It is another to have faith in spirit to build something great out of things we cannot see, and not according to our plans or logic.

The Christmas story is an embodiment of hope: that from the most unexpected place will come a new leader and a new teaching which can lead to healing and liberation. Mary and Joseph, the three kings, and all the witnesses of the birth of Christ are all just radically following the Spirit with hope that great things will come to pass. Granted, sometimes it helps to have angels appear and tell you what to do. But, it is still a leap to act on the belief that if we surrender moment to moment, if we follow the spirit through the desert day after day, great and amazing things will come to pass. This type of hope is one of intuitive decision-making, the leadership style of mystics, which we strive to emulate at the Center for the Working Poor (aka the Burning Bush Community).

In contrast, my training as both an organizer and critic of organizations encourages constant falling back into doubt, and wanting to be attached to well thought-out plans of my own making. However, the reality separate from my mind, my will, and my doubt is beautiful to behold. We run on a slim budget of $35,000 a year, which is lower than any standard for the non-profit world, and we have only volunteers with $200 a month stipends. Yet, we still consistently feed the impoverished families in our program and are available in their lives when they call. We can not do great things of our own will, unlike the organizations and institutions I have worked for with millions in revenue. However, if we throw out our plans and listen to the call, in the right moments – with the help of the Spirit – we can do things they would scarcely attempt. ?

We coached undocumented students who were fasting for weeks for a chance to stay in school. We trained homeowners who were fighting their evictions and for a fair deal with bailed-out banks. We showed up at just the right time when hope was lost for a teenager with a troubled past in jail. We helped him find his first job to support himself and his family. He was rejected again and again until Sam was able to coach him on how to tell his story with strength and redemption.

I still have a greater hope that if we continue to listen and throw our hyper-organizational plans to the wind we will be part of a new nonviolent social movement. Already, I’ve been surprised by what we have accomplished following the Spirit. I never imagined that within our 5 years of existence we would have been the leaders (or architects) of the largest civil disobedience in Los Angeles history. for living wages and immigrant rights of a 22 day fast of a dozen people with hundreds sleeping over night in our tent city in a downtown park, or of an outbreak of hundreds of people taking over health insurance offices in 20 cities demanding care for those dying without it. It is now easier – even without angels appearing – to hope that more will come if only we can survive another year.

However, it still difficult for me, after all this time, to carry the hope that the Spirit will take care of us financially and that you will help us and donate again to maintain us another year. We depend on you, even though we cannot see you, and have no proof that you again will support us. But I hope you will join us in our hope that with your help great things will indeed come to pass.

Peace, and hope,

Paul Engler

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