Learning to Listen: The Key to Hearing What God is Asking of UsEmail This Share This Tweet This
by Carole Somers-Clark, retired Vice President, Pastoral Services, Methodist Hospital, Dallas
As facilitator of TMF’s Leadership Ministry's Ministry with the Poor Learning Community, I’ve been blessed to work with remarkable people over the last 18 months. As the year comes to an end, I want to share what it means to me to be a part of this extraordinary group.
The Ministry with the Poor group includes clergy, lay leaders and heads of not-for-profit groups who are all working to break the cycle of poverty that has persisted through multiple generations. I had no idea when we started that I would be working with 12 of the most talented, action-oriented individuals I’ve ever been around, each with a deep knowledge of working with communities in poverty. They are all passionately committed to their own ministries and always willing to share their questions, ideas and common experiences to help one another.
Thanks to TMF’s support, our group has traveled to each other’s ministries for our quarterly meetings. We’ve congregated in churches, community centers, homes and on streets. Every experience is up-close and hands-on. What I’ve witnessed is nothing short of miraculous.
One especially powerful moment was meeting a 15-year old young man who was brave enough to share his story of homelessness and of the harrowing challenges faced by LGBT youth living on the street. All too often, these are kids who’ve been bullied and rejected at home, and who then live under bridges because they have no other options. These same kids then find themselves bullied and rejected (or worse) on the streets and in shelters, where they face great risks to their safety.
While talking with us, this teenager became emotionally overwhelmed simply because he couldn’t comprehend that we were interested in hearing about his life and his struggle. No one gave advice. No one said what he should or shouldn’t have done. The mere fact that we listened to him brought this young man to tears. His reaction had the same effect on most of us there. What we experienced during that conversation was truly communion. We were at the Lord’s Table, and we all experienced the incarnate God, together.
If my experience as part of the Ministry with the Poor group has taught me anything, it’s that we need to listen to people struggling with poverty instead of only talking to them. We need to stop deciding what we think they need until we truly hear what they are telling us. Listening is learning. Listening is how you get invited into the conversation. Through listening to those who are homeless, those in poverty, and those in pain, we truly hear what God telling us. That is how we discover the path to transformation.
As you celebrate Christmas this year, please consider those individuals and families in your community who are living and struggling in poverty. Simply remember the story of a young, homeless couple who couldn’t find a welcoming neighbor even in the harshest of circumstances. Finally, one kind gentleman listened to their story and offered them his stable. Later that night, their son was born in a manger.
Editor’s note: Our TMF blog shares stories and essays inspired by our purpose: to help individuals, families, congregations and like-minded organizations achieve their God-inspired potential. In this post, Carole Somers-Clark shares what she learned as a facilitator of TMF’s Leadership Ministries, and the importance of listening this Christmas season, and all year long.