Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Christians and Government Social Services

On Wednesday mornings I usually get together with other pastors for prayer. Last week, however, I got an invitation from the "Dassel Ministerial" saying that they were going to meet today with a representative of Meeker County Social Services to talk about "available aid for people in crisis." Though we are located in Wright County, we have many members in Meeker, so I thought it would be good to go along.

The woman who met with us was Jan Schlack, the Meeker County Social Services financial services supervisor. Jan is also an active member of the social ministry committee at Zion Lutheran Church in Litchfield. She filled us in on one of the really great things they do at her church -- they have trained volunteers to help people fill out the voluminous applications for public assistance programs. Let me know if you'd like to learn more about that.

Jan had many interesting and informative things to say. Many of the programs provided by Meeker county are the same as in any Minnesota county, including Wright, although, Jan says, the Wright County Social Services case load is much heavier. She stated that about 80% of social service costs are connected with Medical Assistance, with the rest going to Food Support and extremely limited cash assitance. A single parent and child, for example, are limited to $437 per month cash assistance.

Some Christians are opposed to using government social services. On Veterans' Day at the Dassel-Cokato High School we heard our state senator, David Dille, talk about helping a Vietnamese family settle in the United States after the war. He highlighted the fact that they had done that without government welfare. I think his suggestion was that we do the same, that is, avoid using government social service programs. Jan Schlack, on the other hand, stated that many families (I assume many of them Christian) try to make sure that their elder relatives assets are spent down or given to family members so the elders don't need to pay for nursing home services.

What do you think? The chairperson of the Dassel Ministerial, Pastor Douglas Pierce, said this as a prelude to this morning's meeting: "As a society we have chosen to use the government to provide certain services." He then talked about how hospitals and nursing homes, for example, that were originally founded by Christians, are now dependent on government funded Medical Assistance and etc. If that is true, what is our responsibility as regards social service programs?

I don't think this is a simple issue...

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