Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day - Poverty

This past summer I spent 5 weeks in an urban slum of Cairo, Egypt called Mokattam.  It is one of five garbage villages in Cairo.

Before my experience in Egypt, I honestly didn't care about poverty or the injustices around me (or perpetrated by me).  I might have said I cared, but my life didn't say so, and we all know which tells the truer tale.  For me [poverty] was just that: a word, a big, dark, abstract concept.  It didn't really mean anything.

Then I lived with poor people for 5 weeks.  I saw the ways that they were oppressed by the structures around them.  They are without escape.
Then I started actually paying attention when I read books like Amos, and parables like the sheep and the goats.

Now [poverty] isn't just a scary thought to be subdued by distancing acts of charity.  No, now [poverty] is faces and names.  It is people that I love and value.  And that changes everything.

Now, poverty affects me, and I must do something about it.  

This is what God does.  He loves the unloved.  Values the unvaluable.  Makes worthy the unworthy.  Gives hope to the hopeless.

What about you?

This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'


JfishJosh said...

Your Mother Theresa quote, coupled with your post, reminded me of an article by the NY Times.

The article, in essence, asks the question: What makes one person more moral than another?

They do that by assessing the impact of Theresa and Bill Gates on the world. Mother Theresa, while an incredible servant, often didn't have the instruments to really help the people she interacted with. She might give them food and wrap their wounds, but that only delayed their suffering many instances. On the other hand, Bill Gates, despised by so many simply because of his wealth, has given a tremendous amount of money to the fight against malaria in Africa.

Some could argue that Gates has done vastly more to help people than Theresa has. I don't necessarily agree with this, but I think it highlights something incredibly insightful about how different people can all have an impact in different ways.

If 100 Christians find a spirit similar to yours, but all approach the problem in exactly the same way, we would have a problem. Let's say these 100 people go into a city to bring food to the hungry. That's great, but people have gifts and abilities for a reason.

Instead, let's say 5 people are entrepreneurs, and use their wealth and business ties to change downtown and give money to organizations the other 95 are involved with. Another 20 people are great community advocates, who bring news of the plight of the people to others, so instead of 100 volunteers, we have 1000. This goes on and on...

I think it is exciting to see your commitment to social justice and I am very glad to hear how your eyes were opened by experience. I too was changed by meeting one particular homeless man, and the conversation I had was definitely life-changing. I think it's also exciting to see the very different ways we are approaching the same problem! It's a testament to the strength of a diverse, yet unified body!

inos said...


I agree completely. Each of us is to live a life worthy of the calling he has received. Each of us has been graced with different gifts. Yet we are all one, unified in diversity that all may be built up. That's Ephesians 4:1-16.