While visiting my home church of Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church, I was asked a great question this week. An affluent fellow in the Sunday School I was talking with asked me what made the need in Macon County unique. I was unsure what he meant at first, but quickly realized that we live in a culture where poverty is associated with the city for most people. When I was in graduate school, all our community development courses revolved around the plight of the urban poor. When our presidential candidates were speaking about the nations problems, we heard a lot about reviving our cities. Having lived in Birmingham most of my life, I remember that there are dozens of ministries seeking to serve the needs of the urban poor. This is a wonderful thing, and I wouldn’t do anything to diminish it. I encourage everyone who feels led towards the needs of our cities to keep pursuing that with their whole hearts.
There are other stories out there too, however. People whose families have lived in the country for as long as they can remember, who lack access to the basic social services and job opportunities that exist in the city. Macon county is a beautiful place, full of countryside and a great national park. What it lacks however, are choices for people who grow up in poverty here. Many of the families we work with are a long ways from opportunities, and need our love too. The county is small, with a population of only 25,000 or so, and goes largely unnoticed by those who aren’t looking for it. But there is no place too small to go unnoticed by God, and so we are called to ministry here also. We do small things, like patching a roof or building a wheelchair ramp, but these simple acts are huge to the families who need them. This is why it is so important for a ministry like ARM to be present here.