Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Three Things About Poverty

So this week's assignment from Compassion is to write three things about one word, either hope, poverty, silence, or sacrifice.  I think because Compassion is all about releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name, I'm going with poverty. :-) 

There are three things that stick out to me about poverty...1. it's a loaded word with lots of opinions on either side.  2.  Poverty can be generational. 3.  Poverty means something different on the other side of the world.  First and foremost, poverty is a loaded word with lots of meaning and opinions related to it.  The most common opinions I hear are that people who live in poverty are lazy, do-nothings who deserve the situation they are in.  In some cases that might be true but the VAST majority of the people I meet living in poverty are single moms, families who are struggling, or children who are living in this environment through no fault of their own.  The overarching question we have to ask, and one that cuts through the rhetoric, is how would Jesus look at those living in poverty?  If we claim to be Christ-followers, how should we look at the person in poverty?  How can we walk alongside the person in poverty helping them meet real needs in a way that builds them up as a person instead of marginalizing them even further?  How can we use our time and talents to help the young mom discover her talents and gifts and then get her connected with educational or job opportunities that we in our lack of poverty have access to?  What real needs can we meet through relationship-building as opposed to meeting needs by throwing money at the problem (that solution doesn't work by the way).

Secondly, poverty can be generational - this is true here in the US and around the world.  We, through the relationship building I mentioned earlier, can break this generational cycle.  If we as Christ-followers committed to walking alongside the families in our neighborhoods and churches, met needs and made sure people didn't fall through the "cracks" in the system, I'm convinced we could drastically reduce the poverty rates in our communities.  We working alongside other people could make sure needs were met, educational goals were met and people saw the value in themselves as children of God.  Some may call me utopian but in reality, it's the New Testament Church way of doing things.  It's actually what we as believers are called and commanded to do.  Why aren't we doing it?

That being said, poverty looks entirely different in many areas overseas. Here in the US, you are considered in poverty if you as a family of four make $23,283/year.  In Uganda and Burkina Faso (where my sponsored kids live), that's a fortune.  Here in the US, we don't have to worry about the water that we drink - we eliminated waterborne illnesses almost a century ago.  Not true elsewhere.  In the US, if you live in poverty, there are numerous programs (flawed as they may be), not to mention churches that can assist families who are struggling.  Where do you find that in most developing nations?  Answer, you don't.  Sure, we have more people living in poverty than we should and we have a responsibility to address that but the reality is, poverty in other parts of the world is much more severe and needs as much attention (if not more) from the American Church as poverty here does. 

One more thing (I knew I couldn't stick to 3):  a major issue for many people is spiritual poverty.  That can range from not knowing Christ to knowing Christ but being "stuck" for a variety of reasons.  If you are not a Christ-follower but want more info on how you could be, please reach out to me or to someone else to get your questions answered.  Those who are already Christ-followers but struggling through a dry season, I encourage you to seek fellowship with other believers who can walk alongside you, encourage you, and spur you on.  We all go through times where we struggle with our faith - that's what other believers are for - to help us in our spiritual poverty.  If you're local to ATL, check out Renovation Church as a place to get connected.

If you're curious about Compassion and want to learn more, I encourage you to check out their website (www.compassion.com) and check out sponsorship.  It's the best decision I ever made.  If you know you want to sponsor a child, you can follow this link: http://www.compassion.com/sponsor_a_child/default.htm?referer=133414. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Blogging For Compassion

So anyone that knows me knows that Compassion International is one of my favorite organizations on the planet.  I've been a sponsor for years and an Advocate with them for the past three-plus years.  I value their commitment to the gospel and meeting needs of "the least of these" through local churches in the countries where they work.  This year, I'm taking things one step further and participating in their Blogging for Compassion campaign. 

The topic for the week was to write a blog post to your childhood self.  I have to admit, I've been thinking on this since the topic was assigned on Tuesday.  There is SO MUCH I would choose to tell myself (and subsequently do differently) but I think there are four broad areas my advice would fall under: you are more than your appearance, try new/different things, appreciate people who aren't like you, and your parents aren't idiots.

First, and probably most importantly, you are more than your appearance.  I struggled with (and still struggle with) finding my identity in how I looked.  I was the kid who was overweight, had crazy hair and didn't wear the trendiest clothes.  As I've gotten older, I've discovered most people who truly matter in life don't give a thought to my weight, hair or clothes.  They care about ME as a person and see past the superficial.  I would remind my younger self that God created me exactly how He wanted me to be and as long as I was treating my body in a healthy manner, I was fine.  It's not an easy lesson to learn but oh the heartache learning that lesson could have prevented.

Second, I would tell myself to try new and different things.  I was fortunate in that parents supported me doing different things but there were lots of experiences I was "afraid" to try.  In some respects it wasn't fear in the usual sense - I'm not talking daredevil activities - it was a fear of failing at something.  I'm a perfectionist by nature and trying stuff outside my comfort zone means I might not be good at it.  I wish I'd taken an art class or a speech class or attempted to do some sort of foreign exchange program in college.  Sure, I might not have been successful but there are so many lessons learned in failures. 

Third, gain an early appreciation for people who aren't like you.  This can take SO MANY forms.  I attended a private school and the education was excellent but all the people were just like me.  The trend continued somewhat through college.  I've had to force myself out of my comfort zone to meet people from different backgrounds, ethnic groups, belief systems, etc.  I've learned so much about myself and others from interacting with people who challenge my beliefs and worldview.  Sometimes my opinions have changed, other times, my opinions have been strengthened.  The important thing is that I wish I had come to this realization earlier - there's a big world out there and the more we can appreciate each other, the better we'll all be. 

Finally, realize earlier than your parents aren't idiots.  I didn't think this very often but in the teenage years, there were times.  I realize now the wisdom I've gained from listening to my parents' advice over the years.  I love that they are and always have been willing to give advice.  I'm just smart enough now to listen and follow that advice. :-)

So there you have it, four lessons I would tell my younger self.  There's probably a lot more I could explore but I don't want an overwhelmingly long post.