Monday, February 20, 2006

A Response To Poverty

Chad responded to this post with a great question below:

So Chris, I have a question, do you think World Vision is a worthwhile way to start helping kids in Africa? Suzanne and I sponsor a little girl in Nigeria, her name is Esther. We get her grades and all kinds of mail from her, is this one way to solve this issue. I would like to hear your thoughts, $35.00 a month makes a huge difference in her life, we are told. We would like to sponsor a few more.

So, I thought I would share my thoughts on this subject. So, here goes nothing.

First of all, I really do not have answers to this very tough question. I think I've been a part of the problem, as opposed to the solution. So, I have decided to spend the next year in learning mode. I want to try and get a balanced view on the issues of global poverty. Now, I may get on a soapbox, so forgive me ahead-of-time. Anyhow, what can we do to fight global poverty?

First, we can't ignore the issue. I think EVERY Christian should educate themselves on what is really going on. I know something like 30,000 + will die today because of poverty...That is totally unacceptable. IMHO, if Christ-followers really understood the problem, and if we did not try and politisize the issue, then our hearts would be broken. The way we spend our time & money would (this is why I think I'm a part of the problem, because I have failed the world with the way I've spent my money and time) change and we would be more grateful for the life that God has given many of us here in the West.

I also think the church has to do a better job of creating awareness. For the most part, churches are running (or sprinting) to the "burbs." Because of this, they hardly see any poverty or outward brokenness. We (myself included) desire to serve God in the safe spaces of life. We want good neighborhoods, great schools and safe environments to raise our family. So, I think the church needs to bring to light the significance of poverty and what is the Biblical response to this crisis? Without going into great detail, I can say for sure that it's our job to serve the poor. So, if poverty exist, (as it does) it's because the church has failed somewhere along the way. Look at the Book of Acts as a prime example, are we sharing what we have? Are we making sure their is no one who is in need?

So, this takes me to another issue...Yesterday, I spoke with some folks and they were exhausted. Why, because they were fed up with how many church activities that they had to be at because they were leaders in their local church. Herein lies a major problem in regards to fighting poverty. The church is so busy doing bible studies, play dates, small groups, set up & tear down, leadership training, big events etc...It seems many Christians and churches have no time to serve the poor. Life is a blur, out of sight out of mind theory seems to ring true. It's not that we intentionally do not desire to help, but we simply forget because we are always running to the next "task." Honestly, do we really need to be at church more then two times a week? This is the problem with attraction-styles of ministry. We spend so much time and resources on ONE gathering for ONE hour per week. I think it's really important that we deconstruct our thinking and actions in this regards. We have to create room for folks to get out of the church culture and walk into the real world, that is broken and walks with a sense of hopelessness. I think this is the best form of discipleship. Western Christianity is so comfortable, it's like some sort of pop psychology has infiltrated the church. We need leaders who will stand up and call people to suffer for the sake of the Kingdom. Maybe, just maybe, life is not all about going to work, then heading to soccer (kids), and then going church?

Please remember, I'm not spending much time on this post, so the above statements are not well defined. I know as Americans we have to connect with our culture. And I also know that the local church is the hope of the world. I just think we have to find a better balance.

GO,GO,GO. If we would go and spend a week with the global poor, our lives will be forever altered. I think every Christ Follower should go serve the global poor on a consistent basis. It's really hard to see God's greatness within the confines of safety. I for one have wanted to do this for a long time, but I keep making excuses...No time, no money, etc. But the reality is this: God will provide, if we reach out in faith and prayer. So, within the next year, I want to go hang with Mark in Budapest and with Steven in S.Africa. They both have plans and thoughts on how they are going to serve the poor in their respected areas.

Finally, to respond to Chad's question. Below are some practical ways in which we could help in this cause.

1. Support Indigenous leadership is the greatest priority in my opinion. How can we, the church in America, or better yet the West, support indigenous leadership? (or organizations that are helping train indigenous leaders) This is a two-fold opportunity for us.

- Connect and build relationship with local leaders. They really need us. They need our prayers, support and resources. They need to know that we care that their people are suffering, and we want to help them bring the Gospel to their regions.

- I would put my money into these folks, but I think we have to up-the-anti. They need MONEY, not our tiny leftovers. How can we support them in ways that will truly make an impact? Here are 3 areas that I personally want to support. These areas are practical, but beautiful.

1. Give to the local leadership. If they are financially solid, they will be more effective in ministry.

2. Micro loans. We we can teach folks how to make their own money; then they can be proud and they can support their families. A micro loan is basically loaning a local third world person capital to fund their business. So for instance, they can buy X amount of Chickens and then sell the eggs at the local market. Therefore, they do not have to rely on "outsiders" for eternal support.

3. Wells. Fresh water is huge. Many villages have no pure drinking water, so they are forced to drink water that makes them sick. This is a huge issue in 3rd world countries. So sad, could imagine drinking dirty muddy water. :(

At the end of the day, this problem is so great and overwhelming; it can seem paralyzing. I think the most important thing we can do is: Act. Do something. Not feel guilt ridden...We do not need to take sole responsibility for global poverty on our shoulders; if Mother Teresa could not solve this problem, then it's highly unlikely that we can. But if we all do something, then hopefully we can add some type of value. And slowly, one person at a time, we can help end global poverty. Peace & Love.


Chad K Miller said...

Thanks Chris, great thoughts. I appreciate them!

mtnfund said...

I'll be brief. Read The End of Poverty, by Jeff Sachs. It is going to take the wealth of nations, (apologies to Adam Smith) to create significant change in global poverty. Individuals are important however, so do what you can as you can. Right now the average individual donates $1800 or so dollars a year to charity. The majority goes to support religion (88.3 billion) with 5.3 billion going to international aid.

amalh said...

The sort of changes that are required to help poor third world villages go beyond financial help. This is illustrated in a story called the 'Mystic and the Blossoms'. It is the story of a poor third world village and its change to prosperity over a period of seven years. The book is available at