What is Poverty
I was listening to a sermon recently that focused on the idea of worldwide poverty, and I wanted to talk about what poverty looks like. It is so hard to describe poverty if you have never seen it firsthand, if you have never smelled it, or have never known people who lived in it. It is hard to describe it to Americans who have no context of it unless they work with the homeless and really not even then. It is hard to describe it because I have never lived in it. I have never wondered from where my next meal would come or forgotten when I had last eaten. I have never been so desperately hungry that I was begging on the street or screaming at a passing car to stop just so I could ask for scraps or change. Me trying to describe poverty is like me trying to describe art. I have seen it, and I can tell you what I have seen, but I am not an artist and I have no idea how people can create the things that they have created. I have seen poverty, I have friends who have less than nothing, but I have never known what it was like to truly live in poverty. So please take this for what it is worth, this is not from the perspective of an expert but of an observer.
Maybe the worst thing about coming face-to-face with poverty is the hopelessness that accompanies it. It is not a hopelessness that stems from lack of skill or even from lack of desire. It is a hopelessness that stems from a true lack of opportunity, it is a hopelessness that is accompanied by helplessness. There is definitely a difference that is subtle and hard to describe, but definitely real. When you feel hopeless and you are helpless, what else can you do? When there are no jobs, no money, no food, and no chances for any of those things, what is there? It is so hard to describe what it is like to receive a letter in broken English from a young man who is about 22 and has no where else to turn. He has one more year of school, but he cannot afford to go to school, he has no job, and no family to turn to. He is stuck. So he begs us for a job, but we don’t have anything for him to do and neither does anyone else. And while this is just one example, it describes so many people here. Men with families who have no way to provide for them, women with multiple children and no food, and children all over playing outside at 10:00 am when they should be at school because their families cannot afford it.
All of these things happen out in the rural area where we live, this does not even touch the scenes that you run into in Port Au Prince. This does not even describe the smell of burning trash throughout the day, the mass of humanity as 2 million people cram into the small capital, or the look on the faces of merchants as 25 people line up right next to each other each one trying to sell mangoes for 10 gourdes each (about 20 cents). Sure there are areas of Port that are beautiful and many people who are doing just fine, but that is not the norm. The norm is abject poverty throughout a nation where almost everyone (about 73%) live on less than $2/day and a majority of people live on less than $1/day. It is consistently heartbreaking to see this every single day.
So why am I sharing this with you? Why I am writing about complete and utter poverty as the holiday season is starting up (Thanksgiving in 2 weeks, Christmas in a little over a month)? I just want all of us (including myself) to understand what we are up against in our world. We are going to eat so much on Thanksgiving that we will not even be able to walk, the amount that we are going to spend on Christmas could feed a family of 4 for 1 year, and all the while there are people all over the world who have nothing! Can you imagine that? I do not even try to describe to my friends here what the holiday season is like in America because they just could not grasp it. If you buy one Ipad this year for a Christmas gift, you have just given that person something worth more than the average income of Haiti. In fact, the items in your stocking could send a friend of mine to school for 1 year (that friend is currently not going to school because it is too expensive).
I promise this is not to make anyone feel bad, and if it does I am truly sorry. I just want to wake each of us up to the reality that our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are literally starving every day, but we just keep on with our normal traditions. I want us to realize that 20,000 children die each and everyday around the world because of starvation and preventable diseases, but we keep making sure our children have Iphones, computers, and game systems that are worth more than most people see in 1 year.
So what do we do? That’s the right question to ask isn’t it? You may unsubscribe to our blog now, but at least let’s ask this question…What do we in light of our brothers and sisters, our children not having their most basic needs met on a daily basis? I am not arguing for you to give more money to All Things New, I am not trying to convince you to move to another country (even though that would be awesome), and I am not trying to tell you what to do with your money. What I do want us to do is to begin to look at the world from a GODly perspective. To begin to see the world as GOD sees it. The world is bigger than our family, our friends, our city, our state, and even our country. GOD loves the entire world, and there are people every day who die without the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are people every day who are sitting in their homes starving and they cannot do anything about it. Let’s ask this question…
How can we change our lives so that we see the world like GOD sees the world?
I can promise you that this is a terrifying question to truly ask yourself, because GOD will give you an answer. And if you truly ask this question and then seek after GOD for an answer, things will change. GOD may ask you to move to a different house, eat out less, sell one of your cars, or even give up some of your possessions so that you have more money to give away. He may ask you to give up everything and move to another country. At the very least, your life will change in ways that you have never even began to think about. I remember the first time I went to the movie theater after moving to Haiti and thinking, “The amount of money people spent here on popcorn could feed my entire community in Haiti for 1 week.” It is a sobering thought. So in the midst of all of the fun, family, parties, and gifts that we will share during this Christmas season, let’s not forget why we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Christmas because of how much GOD loves us. We celebrate Christmas because He sent His Son to this world to save us from our sins. So let’s not celebrate Christmas by thinking only about ourselves! Let’s celebrate Christmas by asking GOD this question…“how can we change our lives so that we see the world like GOD sees the world?”