Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored


True Poverty: Thoughts from my Trip with Compassion

I recently spent a few days in the Dominican Republic getting up close and personal with their churches and the people they serve, and it was a stark reminder that true poverty looks a lot different that being poor.

Poverty in America is based on greed, poverty in the world is based on need. Americans hesitate to give money to charity because they see it go to people who don't truly have needs. We are jaded because people have learned how to take advantage of the system at every place so that they can get money without working hard for it. But there are people out there who desperately need us, and they need our help in a very specific, powerful way. We dare not let the poor keep us from helping the truly needy. In fact, we are commanded to take care of them!

When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap all the way to the edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the foreign resident; I am Yahweh your God.”
(Lev 23:22, HCSB)

True Poverty is very different than being poor.

True poverty is living in a home no larger than a closet.

True poverty sharing a bed with every member of your family.

True poverty is having a cat or dog because you can't keep the rodents out.

True poverty is when you kids walk around in one pair of clothes because the other is being cleaned.

True poverty is playing neighborhood baseball with a broomstick and bottle caps, because that’s all your community can get.

True poverty is living at the bottom of a hill where rain sends water streaming into your house.

True poverty is doing whatever a gang asks you to do, because they promise to provide for you.

True poverty is fixing a 30 year old fan for the 100th time because all your money goes toward food.

True poverty is praying with great passion because if God doesn't provide food or healing, the person being prayed for will almost certainly die.

True poverty is giving into a terrible man because staying with him at least guarantees you will have consistent food to eat.

True poverty robs us of so many unique people who would bring joy, wisdom and passion to our world…
and it should break our hearts to see true poverty. The problem is: you have to go looking for true poverty. It does not stand out on the street corner looking for a handout, most of the time. It’s hidden behind the facade of the homes that line the street, or down a neighborhood that we would never venture to, because it has nothing to tempt us. They might come to us, but we should be more intentional about going to them. If we want to help people who are truly in need: we have to find ways to find them and compassionately sort out the truly impoverished from the lazy.

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True poverty is not solved by rushing in and giving people all the things they might use to improve life, but giving them the love, wisdom, and and encouragement they need to work themselves out of it little by little. Handing a person a bunch of money without teaching them how to manage it…giving them food on a regular basis…it only teaches them to depend on you and the handouts of people.

Compassion taught me that fixing poverty means:

Empowering someone who knows the city, country, and culture of the people in need…not trying to be a hero from another country with more resources, but helping local heroes raise up more local heroes. In Compassion’s case, working through the local church.

Attacking poverty through provision, education, love and spiritual renewal. Poverty attacks all of a person, they need to be built up in every way to truly escape poverty. Through compassion, children receive food, resources, education, and love through the people and programs of a local church: and they correspond with a sponsor family by writing letters of encouragement on a regular basis.

In my opinion, there’s no better organization out there, than Compassion. In the fight to change our world, there’s no better place to entrust $38 a month than to the sponsorship of a child. I hope you can give a lot more and do a lot more than that, but its the BEST place to start. It will engage you financially, spiritually, and hopefully keep your heart focused on fixing the issue as you write to your sponsored kid.

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