Today I had to make a heartbreaking decision. I had to turn away a desperate father who came to the church looking for money to purchase formula for his hungry baby daughter. He was in tears, asking if he could work around the church as a way of earning the $12 he was short. Unfortunately we were not in a position where we could help him out and I had to turn him away.

Now our church gets a number of people who come in off the street looking for money for various reasons. Everything from stranded motorists who need to fill their gas tank up, to needing help with bills, to needing money to pay for a hotel, etc. The majority of these requests are scams of one type or the other. We have even had one man come in about 6 times in the last year and a half. Always with different versions of the same story and they always end with him "threatening" suicide if we can't help him out. I personally have talked to him three times.

Because of this we have adopted a "no cash" policy. We will help someone out by giving them food from our food bank, beyond that we may attempt to connect them with an organization that can help them out. Occasionally myself or one of the other pastors will help them out, out of our own pocket if we can and if we feel that they truly need the help. More often than not however we turn people away and it's always bothered me when we have to do so.

It can be so hard to live in the tension between caring for the poor on one side and being a good steward on the other.

On one hand having a policy like ours ensures that those who need help are the ones getting it. It allows us to be wise with our finances and ensure that we will have enough to continue doing what we do. The down side is that we do have to turn away some people who genuinely need our help.

The other option is to just help out everyone who asks. Sure there will be those who come in looking for a hand out knowing that church's are easy targets. But it would also mean that no one who really needs help would be turned away. The down side is that it is not sustainable. If you operate in that manner you will soon run out of resources and then you cannot help anyone.

This is not an easy place to be in. Especially when there are so many people out there right now who can use a hand.

Now I don't know if this man who came in today really needed the help. My sense is that he did. I offered to go buy the formula myself since I didn't have any cash on me. Unfortunately his daughter requires a special formula that you need a prescription for. At that point I had to turn him away. As he walked out of here in tears I started thinking about what I would do if I were in a similar situation as he is. A desperate father trying to take care of his child, humbling himself enough to ask for help. It would be my hope that people wouldn't question my sincerity.

"Lord I pray for this man and his family. I ask that you would provide what he needs. I don't know if everything he told me was true or not but if it was Lord please take care of his baby girl. Do not let our inability to help be a blight on Your name but instead provide for him in ways that only you can...."

I think I need to start keeping a little cash around just in case...