Turning the Page on Poverty

24 Jul

Blog post by Joe C., Team Ethiopia 2012

Poverty is at the root of so many of the injustices around the world and causes the most vulnerable in our society to be pushed further and further into the dirt.  The Bible is so clear that we caused this grave situation starting with the first choice to eat from the wrong tree.   The statistics are staggering, to the point that we’ve generally ignored them because they are so large that most of us have no frame of reference to understand them.  We can’t possibly put faces, names or identities to all those who suffer in poverty.  Although, if you go to www.poverty.com they will put faces to the people who died in the past hour from hunger.  Then you can put a name with a face.  If you watch for 24 hours, you will see on average 25,000 people died of hunger related causes in that time.  So many preventable diseases and medical conditions causing death are related to poverty, so many children sold in to slavery, prostitution or abandoned as orphans stem from people living in poverty.  The numbers are overwhelming, the reality is overwhelming, to the point where many of us get angry and bitter, we get hopeless and ineffectual or we get apathetic and ignorant in order to protect our sanity against the reality.

The Bible however, is also clear that this isn’t just a big punishment and blame game that God is playing with us because of fallen state of our species.  After he gave us the boot from a perfect creation without poverty, he said you’ll have to work hard, but I’ll provide what you need.  He actually didn’t send us into an impoverished world.  Poverty.com also says, “yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone.”  
www.Live58.org says that the Evangelical Church in the USA alone has the financial resources to end extreme poverty in 10 years if properly allocated (no more 10 million dollar church building projects would be a good start).  Extreme poverty has been cut in half in just a generation and according to Live58.org we’re actually winning the war on extreme poverty.  Although people are still spending more on their soy latte at Starbucks (Lrg dbl dbl’s at Tim Horton’s if you’re Canadian) on the way to church on Sunday than they are directing at mosquito nets and measles vaccinations, but the tide is shifting.
I’m not convinced sharing these numbers will motivate you, but here they are: 145 Million abandoned and orphaned children have lost one or both parents.  How do you feel? Angry, bitter, hopeless, ignorant?
But what if our approach to fighting poverty is often backwards?  Sometimes I think the way we do lots of things are backwards, perhaps this is no exception.
What if trying to motivate people to action by flooding them with unrelatable numbers actually causes more hopelessness and despair and results in inaction?  While the sales pitch for doing things to relieve poverty has gone more away from guilt trips to slightly hopeful feel good action (i.e. for the price of a cup of coffee a day…) it still leaves a disconnect or a gap very often.  Although I give to support two sponsor children, I still drink too much coffee, so I still feel slightly guilty, sometimes.  The numbers still overwhelm me, there’s always more I could be doing.  True.
I’m going to let you off the hook.  You are not responsible for 145 million orphans.  But you could be responsible for one (or two or three maybe even ten).  The possibilities are endless in how you can help.  Please don’t let the gigantic, unrelatable, seemingly unconquerable problem deter you.  No more cop-outs, no more excuses.  So you can’t commit to $30 a month (I don’t believe you) but give $10 this month.  Blood:Water Missions says $1=1 Year of clean drinking water for 1 African.  That’s pretty simple math.  So you don’t trust these big organizations or like the way they spend money, then find someone who is doing work on the ground and help them directly with time, money or prayer.   Africa’s too far away to help someone, find a kid in your neighborhood who is fatherless and give them your time, show them they’re important and loved.  Not sure you can do it yet, check out some of these kids. http://bloodwatermission.tumblr.com/
Don’t feel guilty, don’t feel powerless.  Jesus didn’t give you that mindset.  You can’t save 145 million orphans, you can’t eradicate poverty and all its symptoms – that’s above your pay grade –  but you can do something.  You could rescue one.  You could print off all the statistics, you could read a million stories, you could see hundreds of sponsor kids waiting to be adopted but will you help turn the page for one?
Joe resides in Canada and will be serving with Journey117 this month on Team Ethiopia.  
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