Week three is entitled "Understanding Poverty." The beginning focuses on "For Such a Time as This"--that famous verse from Esther and how she was put exactly where she was supposed to be to save her people. We have been placed--most of us, that is--in the wealthiest country in the world. We have opportunities galore, at all different levels. Why? Ephesians 2:10 says, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Think about all we can do here in America!!! And then there's the infamous, "To whom much is given, much will be demanded." (Luke 12:48) So, first questions:
(1a).What good works do you think God may have prepared for you to do? I know that for me, Africa is part of the equation. Months ago (well, years ago, but it just clicked within the past year) God made it clear that for me to experience more of God, there would be involvement (in some way) with Africa. The problem is, I don't know what. I looked into helping out Africans formerly (in a hands on way) in the area, and didn't find anything through World Vision or as I googled, but I know there are African families living around here. Our adoption has something to do with these "good works", of course, but I also know it's not the whole picture. There's just so much good to be done, I need wisdom to know where and how and who....without getting so overwhelmed I don't do anything.
Bono has a great quote: "God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them."
Amber VanSchooneveld talks about the causes of poverty:
- Natural disasters
- Environmental changes (natural and man-made)
- Ethnic hostilities and racism
- International trade law and tariff structures
- Government corruption
- International debt
- Social and personal sin
- Social injustice
- A lack of education and opportunity
She then talks about something Wes Stafford has coined the Poverty Wheel which helps us to focus on the whole person. "In the center of the wheel, the hub, there is absolute poverty. The outer rim represents enough. The opposite of poverty isn't wealth--it's enough. Enough food to live, enough shelter to remain safe and dry, enough opportunity to become a self-sustaining member of society, enough dignity to be the person God created you to be. The six spokes of the wheel represent the various areas of life that must be intact for "enough" to occur. The spokes are economic, educational, health, environmental, social, and spiritual. As with an actual wheel, each spoke is necessary for the stability of the whole. When one spoke is week, it has an impact on all the others." (92). That's why person-focused and holisitc help is what's essential.
Because it's so easy to be overwhelmed by statistics, the next day is focused on specific children and people who grew up in poverty and have overcome/are overcoming the cycle. They are individuals, not statistics, and "they are...what hope is about." (100)
There is included an interview with Wes Stafford, who has worked at Compassion International for 30 years, 14 years as president. He is amazing. And so knowledgable, as well as compassionate. He said, "You cannot have a more powerful word to describe the cure for poverty or for empty hearts that should be reaching out to poverty than hope." His stories confirm that this is true in my mind. It is true that the need is so great that it often feels like the little I do wont make a difference, so why should I even do anything?!? Totally a lie, I know, but it is easy to feel this way, nonetheless. Likewise, and yet very differently, if there is no hope for those who are impoverished, there will be no change either. If a child growing up in a city dump believes that no one cares whether she lives or dies, then she will not fight for change. Fight for...anything. But if she starts to realize that she has value, amazing changes can occur. "Stepping out of poverty is learning that I matter. If I matter, what I think matters. This is where beating back poverty happens. When a person realizes what they think matters, they gain confidence. They say, 'Let me tell you what I think'...eventually, they'll say, 'You see this over here? This is wrong, and I'm going to fix that.' When a child goes from "I don't matter" to "I can fix that," you've just won the war on poverty." (104)
Lastly, the last day focuses on "The Greatest Poverty"-the poverty of the soul. Amber says, "I am in the greatest poverty....when I eat my fill and lounge on my couch, while thinking only fleetingly of others not as materially blessed as I have been. My poverty is real when my love is deadened, medicated, frozen by too much. And my soul is maybe in even more danger than those in the poverty of too little." (109). Also on this page, Mother Theresa, one who saw wretched poverty, had this opinion about the worst poverty: "to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." Oh my goodness. How do you deal with that?!? That is me, Lord. Children die that I could have a hand in saving if I wasn't so careless about our food budget, or are clothing budget, or our entertainment budget, or, or, OR. And yet, once again, I find myself saying, "But what, Lord?" What would you have me do? What would you have my family do?!?" I still don't have the answers and I still feel so burdened knowing that we're not doing it right. I really need your help, Lord. I want to be obedient, no matter the cost.
So, I already posed one question, but other questions for the week include these:
- How has your concept of poverty been challenged?
- Do the people in poverty seem real to you, like flesh and blood? Write about your perceptions, and perhaps misconceptions, about those in poverty.
- How do you think hope relates to poverty? Do you have hope for those in poverty and your part in reaching out? Why or why not?
- Do you agree that poverty is a spiritual issue? Do you believe you are involved in a spiritual battle yourself? In what ways?
- How has your perspective on poverty changed this week?
- Thanks for hanging in there with me for those that have been waiting for this. I have really been struggling with this issue for about a week. I have a friend that was teasing me and made some comment about "Poverty this, Poverty that. Danielle, do you talk about anything else?" Now, he was totally teasing me as he has a big heart for social justice and the poor as well, but it really bothered me for a totally different reason. I think I'm pretty much all talk. Huge confession, I know, but it's true. I mean, besides our adoption, I do SO LITTLE for the poor. We sponsor a child. We, VERY rarely, donate our time to the homeless shelter. We give financially in other ways. But we truly do SO LITTLE...and yet I, at some level, project that there's more going on. In my mind, yes. But faith is about ACTION, too!!! Anyway, those are some of my struggles right now. I would love feedback.
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