Like the biblical Job who suffered hardship after hardship, Karen Tappin has found her faith tested these past few years. After a decade of tending to her 12-year-old autistic son and her parents, who needed full-time care until they died, she has been unable to find a permanent job. Now the Coast Guard veteran may lose her Liberty City home to foreclosure.
''It's been one thing piled on top of another,'' Tappin says. ''When bad things happen to good people, your faith is challenged.''
And when it is, when she doubts and her soul screams why me, Tappin turns to the Church of the Open Door and her pastor, the Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis, for more than spiritual comfort. Along with the weekly prayer meetings that have been her emotional sustenance, Tappin has also received financial help -- and not just in one-time cash aid for emergencies.
Church members have steered her to temporary jobs and counseled her on dealing with creditors. ''They teach you how to cope with difficult financial situations,'' she says.
In these tough economic times, churches are finding that it takes more than scripture to navigate the shoals of hardship. As the downturn deepens, religious organizations are redefining their role in the lives of faithful who have lost their jobs, fallen behind on their mortgage payments or just don't have enough money to pay the bills.
Tappin's church is a member of the Collective Banking Group, a coalition of about 70 African American churches and six banks that uses religious institutions as an economic engine. CBG has partnered with Miami-Dade Neighborhood Housing Services to help negotiate payment plans for homeowners in foreclosure. . .
STEEPED IN TRADITION
Caring for the poor and tending to the needy is a tradition in all religions.
''From our community perspective, every Muslim should contribute to charity, regardless of how the economy is doing,'' says Altaf Ali, director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Florida chapter. ''This means not just spiritual guidance but also a call to engage a neighbor who might be in need.''
The organization, Ali adds, is in the early stages of planning a series of financial seminars because the crisis is affecting everybody across the board. (MORE)