Poverty

Interview: Gar Mickelson, Kaleidoscope Community Services

I walk into 2nd Street Commons, a nondescript building in downtown Coeur d’Alene (CDA), Idaho, sandwiched between a dive bar and a closed gun shop. Once inside the first thing I realize is that I have no idea how to categorize the premises, though I try: a coffee shop without a coffee bar, a living room without a TV, a pub without the liquored smell of vomit, a church without a program. There is no schema that fits, and I love it.

People are simply scattered. They look weary, but comfortable, at ease, respite. Some folks relax on the couch while others bustle up and down hallways, in and out of the kitchen.

It is here where I meet Gar Mickelson. He wears a bright smile, gives a big hug, and introduces me to everyone. “This is my friend Kevin,” he says. And everyone I meet makes me feel like family. They, too, give hugs and handshakes.

Gar gives a tour of the facility. As we walk along I continue to meet people, a mix of volunteers and visitors. Some are cooking, cleaning, painting, hauling. The volunteers are passionate and dedicated. Because I am cynical this is all odd for me. I’m waiting for the hook, the agenda, the money making scheme, something to take me out of this fairy tale of genuine coexistence.

We walk into a new room, “Excuse the camping gear,” Gar says. “We’re holding that for someone who was forced to leave his camp site.”

“For free?” I ask. “You’re holding it for free?”

“That’s what we’re all about here, Kevin. ‘Come and be for free.'”

I really want to give Gar another hug, but that would be too weird. So instead, we head into his office, and I ask him a few questions about how Kaleidoscope Community Services started, when it started, and what the heck this place even is.

What is Kaleidoscope Community Services? What is 2nd Street Commons, and how long has the CDA location been established?

Kaleidoscope Community Services is a private, faith-based non-profit corporation based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. KCS exists to bridge the gap between community needs and community resources, and we do this in a variety of ways.

KCS opened the 2nd Street Commons at the end of January, 2014. Since that time we’ve had over 100 volunteers from 10 different churches, served almost 500 gallons of coffee, served almost 1000 meals, and have gone through approximately 6 miles of toilet paper…  (more…)

Follow Up: The Judas Argument

A few weeks back I wrote a blog called “Professional Christians (and Other Oxymorons).” In short, I shared my distaste of paid salaries and wasteful spending—in my opinion, one in the same—in the modern church.

I’ve also since written a response to the responses of that post called, “A Thick Skinned Grin: My Reply to Your Response.”

As promised, I wanted to write a follow-up to a specific comment that came in. Anna from http://cannopener.wordpress.com/ (an awesome blog) wrote a comment on “Professional Christians…”, regarding what I deemed unnecessary and poor spending, that has since stuck with me.

Just a little question. Wasn’t it Judas who said “this [expensive perfume poured out in worship of Jesus] should have been sold and the money given to the poor”?

JudASS

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this argument. The church spends a $1000 on a new drum cage; I say the money should be spent on more substantial purposes like the poor or sex-trafficking awareness (or maybe even… I don’t know… drum lessons so the drummers can learn volume control, a basic skill most educated drummers have).

What happens? Someone always says, “What about Judas and the perfume?” And another, “Remember when Jesus said, ‘the poor will always be with you’?” For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, go read the Gospels. I believe this story is mentioned, oddly enough, in each Gospel account.

In the story, a woman, Mary, anoints Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. As Jesus points out, she is preparing him for burial and doing “a beautiful thing,” despite the grumblings of Judas and maybe other disciples.

This act is definitely a beautiful thing, and one of the most sentimental in all of scripture.

But here’s the deal: we can’t excuse the church’s poor spending habits by taking Jesus stories out of context, the perfume story especially.

My Quick Three-Point Rebuttal

1. Not every Jesus story can, or should, be flipped and turned to fit our modern times to solve our modern problems. The perfume story, I believe, falls into this category (this statement, of course, is worth arguing in better detail). To me, the perfume story speaks of the disciples’ sadness and confusion, as well as the humanity of Jesus, NOT an open door to spend money as we please. Jesus was to soon be tortured, executed, and buried. At that moment in time there was no better use of that or any perfume.

2. The Gospel of John states that Judas desired the money for himself because he was a thief. This was hardly my intention.

3. Jesus is not here any more. Not in the flesh, at least. Spending money on giant buildings with top notch gear and a full salaried staff (flying to conferences) is NOT synonymous with pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet. Our consumerism driven church is often wasteful and greedy—in light of the troubles of the world—and represents Mammon more than Christ.

mary-and-jesus-feet

This is my rebuttal. It may need some tweaking. I’m leaving soon for a cross-country road trip to Upstate New York, and I thought it’d be best to respond before this issue got too far away from me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter! What’s your take on the perfume story? Does it excuse all church spending?