I’m in Palm Springs, California for different meetings. Most people think of Palm Springs as a center of affluence. After all President Obama just left this area today after meetings with the King of Jordan. But in the shadow of prosperity is great poverty. Driving through the region, one can see wealth and stores of affluence. Yet just at the outskirts are mobile home parks and even shanties resembling a third world country. Signs for laborers can be found where people line up hoping to be driven to the date farms or other places for work. Maybe they will be paid, maybe they won’t. The region’s large Hispanic population with limited education and English is a prime target for labor trafficking.
Earlier today my wife, Helen, and I walked an area filled with shops. Sipping iced tea I checked out a sport coat with a $1,098 price tag. I’m glad it was on sale! The tea was all I could afford. We literally went across the highway to stop in a thrift store. No more than 100 yards from this affluent strip was another strip. Next to the thrift store was a nail salon, massage parlor, and a run down hourly motel. This can often indicate an area for sex trafficking. Just across the street from prosperity was poverty and possible trafficking. I wondered how often we travel past such poverty without seeing. Like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37), I think we often miss the opportunity to stop and serve wounded neighbors in need.
Many think they have to travel to a foreign country or the inner city to find poverty and needs. That simply isn’t true. Even in Palm Springs there are significant needs. The sign for document preparation and another for notario office, are sure signs that poor neighbors are being defrauded and taken advantage of. But how can they receive good advice? How can they receive help navigating the complexities of the legal and government system? One legal aid office exist to meet the significant need for access to justice in the Palm Springs area. More needs to be done.
Fortunately there is a church in the area – Southwest Church – that sees these needs and is on a ten month campaign to engage their community with compassion and justice in a variety of ways. What a powerful testimony to the outside world to see a church leaving its building to distribute food, clothes, health care, legal and other services. Partnering with local domestic violence shelters and recovery programs. Encouraging people to use their time, talent and treasure to make an eternal difference in their community. Let’s pray the Lord blesses all those who participate in this kingdom work.
God has placed you wherever you are for a reason. All around you are real needs that you can meet. You can make a difference as you learn the needs in your community and create an action plan for addressing. Start with the free study guide – Do Likewise, living the gospel through compassion and justice. There is a deep need for justice. There is a deep need for Jesus. Take the opportunity to provide greater access to both. Take the opportunity to go and do likewise.