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/