Archive for the 'Poverty' Category

Aug 01 2015

War

Published by under Poverty

We’re at war, don’t you know?

Imagine you were part of a military company. Word comes over the radio that your fellow soldiers are in trouble – pinned down in a difficult spot. And they’re calling for reinforcements. What do you do? In most situations, you’d deploy to help them.

War is a state of armed conflict between different nations. It pits the morals, resources, skill, discipline, strength, and training of one nation against that of another.

As soft as it may seem, there’s a real battle happening in the spiritual world – between God, who loves life and Satan, who loves suffering and death. We see it played out in poor communities all over the world. Poverty is a frontline of war with skirmishes and battles that rage on every moment of every day – light vs dark, life vs death.

There are people pinned down in these communities. They’re smart and determined, but poverty has them pinned down in a strategic chokehold. They’re calling for help. Do you sense that?

I’m putting together a team of people who want to thoughtfully make war against poverty.

This isn’t theoretical or pie-in-the-sky. I’ve dedicated my life to this for the last four years. I’ve traveled all over the world. I have very close connections to people in communities in Kenya, India, and Haiti. I travel to each of these communities a couple times a year. And I need help! Of course, financial help, but I need highly capable people with me day-in and day-out.

The model we’re pursuing: Build communities so THEY can build people who build God’s kingdom on this earth.

The methods: Depending on the community, a mixture of water, nutrition, sanitation, health care, soul development, schools, job training, and business development. Each community has a leadership council of 12–16 people who make decisions about priorities and mobilize others in their community. We then help them execute those plans over a period of 8–12 years, increasing their own leadership and governance skills all throughout so they’re in a position to fully run their community without any help from us in the end.

Who am I looking for? I’m looking for the best. I’m looking for people who are a combination of the following:

  • Frustrated in leadership that doesn’t have the comprehensive understanding needed to address issues well
  • Exhausted by overly-emotional poverty appeals
  • Tired of poor strategy in combating poverty
  • Desire to build God’s kingdom by thoughtfully living life
  • Learners who want to discover and implement intelligent poverty solutions
  • Genuine affection for God, his ways, and the bible
  • Highly confident in their abilities (whatever they might be, even if you’re not recognized for them). For example, you often say to yourself, “I’m so good at _______.” (NOTE: This isn’t bragging. God made you this way!)

Emotion doesn’t win a war. It plays a part, but only a small one. Victory over poverty requires the same thing as victory in war: morals, resources, skill, discipline, strength, and training. My team needs help developing all angles of our campaign against poverty – intellectual, artistic, administrative, and probably a dozen others.

We need troops in this war! If you’re interested on possibly joining up with me and my team, please drop me a message (not a comment on the post) and write down your thoughts on what I’ve written here (and anything else you want). A link to my email is at the top of the site (the little envelope icon). We’ll then put you through an application process. If you know someone who fits the description here, PLEASE forward this to them! I’m praying to God that he’ll bring just the right people – people who want to love others by going to war!

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Jul 22 2015

Sunsets

Published by under Poverty

Beautiful sunsets last only a few minutes. When the sun hits the horizon, it doesn’t linger long. In slow motion, it disappears moment by moment.

Today begins an eight-day trip to Kenya where a few buddies and I will spend time in a village getting to know the people that we’ve committed to being friends with for the next 8-10 years – a period of time that all of us hope will result in an increase of well-being and a decrease of disease and poverty.

For me, this marks my third time to Kenya in the last year and my 22nd time leaving the United States in the last four years.

One thing I’ve learned during this time is that Westerners often treat interaction with the poor like a counseling session. We ask questions about the difficulty of their lives and they tell us of their struggles. We shake our heads in disbelief and nod in sympathy.

Our initial interaction with the poor shouldn’t be characterized by these levels of pity. How might we feel if someone first asked us about our life challenges – being depressed, overweight, under-educated, and struggling in our stage of life? If you start with what’s wrong, you sometimes never get to what’s right.

We should interview people for wonder. What do they find beautiful where they live? What’s a favorite memory from their childhood? What’s a time their parent whooped them for being bad? What do they do for fun? What traits do they think are necessary for success in life? What are they, as an individual, excellent at doing? What is something they’ve made with their hands that they’re proud of? What have they learned about life lately?

These are the sunset moments – where we discover the beauty of another person’s life. Hopefully I’ll have some stories for you each day while we’re here.

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Jul 06 2015

And Luxury Cost

Published by under Life,Poverty

What we want costs significantly more than what we need. We can call this gap in price the Luxury Cost of our purchases. For example, Suave shampoo at $1.50 is left on the shelf in favor of a $12.00 salon shampoo. A $5 soup and sandwich at home is exchanged for a $23 sushi dinner at a nice restaurant. If we add up our luxury costs each year, the results would floor us.

We’ve lost two abilities in the relatively homogenous, wealthy worlds where we live – we rarely remember the plight of the poor and, so, we rarely consider the ways our consumption inadvertently (but POWERFULLY) affects them.

Every dollar we put into our luxury is a dollar that probably doesn’t help the poor. Imagine purchasing a new car or house. We typically try to buy the maximum we can afford. We want safety and safety costs money – a car with more safety features or a neighborhood in a safer area. But many poor don’t have FOOD safety. We’re securing marginal safety increases while the most basic safeties of the poor are lacking or altogether missing.

We have budgets for “eating out” (which often has a significant Luxury Cost) when millions of poor in our streets don’t have a budget for eating at all. Oh, my soul! God will certainly judge us for this.

We don’t intend to be cruel. We learn to live life like those around us. But what if that way is wrong? We’ve lost our sense of sacrifice. Jesus Christ had everything. And he sacrificed it all.

Figuratively, we have everything also. And most of us, myself included, sacrifice so little. “Give until it hurts,” Mother Teresa famously said. We give until it affects our luxury. Or, more accurately, we spend on luxury and see what’s left to give – which is usually very little because our appetite for luxury has grown to be so voracious. We have it backwards!

We must identify and cut our Luxury Spending. We must suffer. And we must research our investments in non-profits as we do our financial investments. Our “humanity investments” should help the suffering poor become non-suffering and non-poor. It should help them become everything they’re capable of! Too few non-profits truly accomplish this work. We must demand it! We must stop with the never-ending band-aids on poverty. We must minimize our Luxury Costs. We must do it in the name of Love. Oh God, help us be these people!

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Jun 27 2014

The Beast: A Short Tale

Published by under Honduras,Poverty

It’s called The Beast. And it’s not the rollercoaster ride at King’s Island outside Cincinnati.

Also called “The Train of Death,” The Beast is a catch-all phrase used to describe the 10-15 train network throughout Mexico that ferries immigrants from their countries in Central America and Mexico to the borders of the US.

HOMIE
I just returned home from Honduras and made a genuine new friendship with a guy there named José. José and I made two round-trips from Tegucigalpa to San Marcos and spent about 14 hours in the car together during that time.

jose1

We also worked next to each other all week.

jose2

On one of our 3.5 hour drives, José and I talked about soccer and what it means to Hondurans. José explained:

There are many poor people in Honduras. So many poor people who are struggling. The great thing about fútbol (soccer) is that for 90 minutes everyone has hope. Eight million people have hope. We have hope of winning something.

An extremely common misconception when people visit the poor in other countries is that the people there are all happy. “They’re so poor but they have so much joy,” is the oft-repeated refrain. It’s not true for many.

There is such a thing as manners. To be unkind and ungracious to visitors would be rude. Although I’ve been flicked off numerous times in my travels, it’s an infinitesimally small percentage who are so ill-behaved.

In addition, we need to imagine ourselves in their shoes. Imagine you lived in poverty and you heard some wealthy people were coming on a fact-finding trip to see what conditions were like. You’d have hope they might help out your community. THAT would make you happy. You would be abundantly kind to them in order to win favor.

I’m not so cynical as to believe that NO ONE in poverty is happy or joyful. Or that their motives are selfishly driven. But we Americans need to stop being silly in thinking all poor people are happy. They’re not.

THE BARRIERS
One of the great disadvantages of going to countries where you don’t speak the language is that you can’t have full conversations with the locals, asking questions that really probe the realities of their lives.

The other disadvantage of short-term trips abroad is that they’re, by definition, short-term. We don’t spend enough time to really get to know the people there so we don’t earn enough trust with them.

A final hinderance is that we rarely get to spend extended time with the SAME people. Even if we have conversations, they’re often with multiple people throughout the week – which prevents us from going deep with one person.

If we can overcome one or more of those barriers with locals, what we discover at some point is tears. It’s probably true of all human beings – spend enough time with any of us and we’ll cry when we talk about our lives. But I’m telling you the tears come quickly with many of the poor when you get beneath the surface.

THE BEAST
An article in the New York Times reported just this morning that the US Border Patrol has apprehended 39,000 adult illegal immigrants since October. This is in addition to 52,000 CHILDREN traveling WITHOUT adults that have been apprehended in the same time period. 9,000 people were apprehend this May alone – a new monthly record. That’s roughly 100,000 people. We have no estimate as to how many have been successful in crossing the border.

Pain, high unemployment rates, and lack of hope is what fuels most immigration to the US. Many of the materially poor are not happy where they are. It’s why they risk life and limb to leave their families and homes.

When I was in Honduras this past December, my friend Samy told me about his friend who had gotten on The Beast. About halfway to the US, his friend fell off the train while he was sleeping (a common occurrence on The Beast) onto the tracks and had both his legs severed. He survived but now lives back in Honduras in a wheelchair, begging on the street because he’s unable to work doing the manual labor he once performed.

(If you’re interested in learning more about The Beast, I’d recommend the films Sin Nombre, Which Way Home, and De Nadie as starters to the topic. If you’re a reader, I’d recommend Sonia Nazario’s novel “Enrique’s Journey”).

Throughout their journey on The Beast, people deal with the constant threat of violence from gangs who board the trains at various points for purposes of robbery, rape, kidnapping, and even outright murder. In 2010, there were a reported 11,000 kidnappings of people from The Beast. At a ransom of almost $2,500/person, kidnapping is big business for Mexico’s drug cartels.

THE BIBLE
There are biblical things we don’t understand a lick. Our wealthy lives insulate us from some biblical understanding. Someone traveling on The Beast understands this Psalm in a way I probably never will…

Hide me from the plots of this evil mob,
from this gang of wrongdoers…
They shoot from ambush at the innocent,
attacking suddenly and fearlessly.
They encourage each other to do evil
and plan how to set their traps in secret.
_Psalm 64:2-5

REAL LIFE
As I stood 4,700 feet above sea level in Honduras’ Sierra de la Botija mountain range, I talked with a teenager named Juan who is quitting his job next month and trying to make it to the US on The Beast.

When I heard this, I immediately and reflexively blurted out, “Buena suerte, hermano!” which means “Good luck, brother!”

Can you now imagine the difficulties that await him on his journey?

His path forward is one fraught with danger and I hope God helps him survive and thrive.

OUR LIVES
I have no action steps. In the last 12 months, I’ve been on eight trips to six countries on three continents. I’ve seen the opulence of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and the dilapidated shacks of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. Every single trip I’m taking is disrupting my life a little bit at a time.

And that’s why I wrote this post. I want it to be something that moves the soil of our hearts just a little bit. We need to see the lives and experiences of the poor and understand they’re made in God’s image just the same as us. He loves them just like he loves us. And from our perch of power, God is expecting us to do something. Each of us can do something to help the poor in the US and abroad. We need to discover what it is and how to do it. We already know the WHY. May it fuel us every day to dig a little deeper.

We love because he first loved us.
_1 John 4:19

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