Students urged to help poor

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Special to The Times-Journal

Judson College president Dr. David Potts inaugurated the college’s fall chapel program with his address on Sept. 6.

The president traditionally speaks in the first worship service and Potts used the time to reflect on two traumas and to challenge students to bring “hope and healing” to their worlds.

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Referring to the fourth anniversary of 9-11, Potts said it was burned in his memory just like the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.

“The horrors of that day are something we share,” he told the assembled students and staff.

Potts noted the second more recent tragedy is Hurricane Katrina, and asked students from affected areas or who had family members in the affected area to stand.

Some 20 students did.

“I pledge to you our prayers and our desire to be helpful to you in any way we can,” Potts said.

Potts used the bulk of his message to talk about ministry opportunities in Perry County.

“The town of Marion was called the ‘Athens of Alabama’ in the 19th century,” he said.

“It was a place of prosperity and wisdom.”

But Potts noted that The Birmingham News in a series of articles two years ago called the Black Belt region of the state ‘the third world of Alabama.'”

“More than 54 percent of the children in this county live in poverty,” Potts said.

“Twenty-two percent of births are to unwed teen-aged mothers and we are among the top counties in Alabama in the number of high school drop-outs.”

Potts suggested that the “gap” between the “have’s” and the “have-not’s” is now more like a “chasm.”

“The church of Jesus Christ has hidden behind Jesus’ rebuke for too long,” he said.

“Jesus said ‘the poor you have with you always.’

That doesn’t mean that our job is useless.

It means our challenge is ever fresh.”

Potts cited research by theologian Jim Wallis who noted that words in the Old Testament about the poor and forgotten are second only to the number of warnings about the sin of idolatry, and fully one verse in every 16 in the New Testament reminds God’s people about compassion for the poor.

In the gospels, one verse in every ten deals with the poor and disenfranchised.

Potts thanked Judson students for their ministry efforts in the past, and mentioned a long list of accomplishments.

Judson women have served as after-school tutors, taught summer enrichment classes, partnered with Samford University to sponsor hypertension clinics, worked to rehab houses, taught financial and entrepreneurial skills in local high schools and improved the Perry Lakes and Barton’s Beach areas.

“Remember that what we do is not ‘to’ or ‘for’ the poor,” Potts said, “but ‘with’ the poor.

And even if we fail to eradicate poverty in this area, it will be a glorious failure!”

Potts concluded his remarks recounting the story of Victor Frankl who survived years of incarceration at the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz during World War II, though members of his family didn’t survive.

Frankl later wrote that the survivors he knew were the people who spent time helping others – giving them scraps of food meant for themselves or trying to work harder to protect those too weak to work.

“Frankl found that helping others made us stronger, and though he was an atheist when arrested, he found God at Auschwitz,” Potts said.

“I hope we can aid hurting peoples around us,” Potts said.

“May God bless you as study and learn and serve this new academic year.”