A ministry of presence is a requirement for serving alongside the poor. We must come near to those we desire to serve. We must touch them, and they us. It is not until their problems become our problems that we will ever truly be able to minister. Not in the sense that we care about them so much that their problems burden us emotionally, but rather in the sense that the problems we face in our lives are the same ones they face in theirs. When we suffer the violence of living with corrupt or absent police officers, when our property values drop because of corrupt banking practices, when our schools are failing and our jobs are gone, then we will be trusted to minister.
We will be trusted because we understand. We will be trusted because we have come close enough for the dirt to rub off on us. The cost of ministry is the suffering we experience when we recognize that poverty is a spiritual disease that cannot be healed by “throwing our possessions over a wall at the poor on the other side.”21 The cost of ministry is the suffering we experience when we become poor in order to reach the poor.22 Identification with those whom we serve is inherent to Kingdom ministry. Without walls to protect us, but without walls to divide us,23 we will have come close enough for the Kingdom to rub off of us. Indeed we have become so close that we have become one; no longer ‘my neighborhood’ or ‘your neighborhood’ but rather ‘our neighborhood.’