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Goliath (pronounced: “Go-lee-at” in Spanish) was an especially big baby born to a single mom in a four-foot high cardboard box with only a straw mattress on the dirt floor of the Guatemala City garbage dump. Thousands of squatters made their home living on top of the garbage. They made their “homes” out of scraps, tires, boxes, and other discarded items found on the dump.
It was our Field Ministry Internship health care team’s first day at the clinic at the City Dump. The clinic might have closed that summer in 1991 if we had not arrived. The YWAM staff team leading the clinic were all enrolled in the first University of the Nations Introduction to Primary Health Care School for Spanish speakers. They were glad we came. Our FMI team, led by Nurse Bonnie, kept the clinic open and operating.
Our journalism and social work interns took a walk with me through the Dump community. We met a man with bright yellow eyes, a key symptom of an acute and fatal case of hepatitis, probably due to alcohol abuse. He was silent, but his facial expressions betrayed the fact that he was a dangerous man. After we directed him to the clinic, a woman told us the same man regularly beat his wife.
Smoke rose over the mass of garbage burning at the center of the dump. Our eyes began to burn and I wondered how anyone could live in this place. We continued to visit families in their “homes.” One family of twelve seemed very well settled with a larger one-room hut, probably 12×15 feet, which included a large family bed and hammocks for the smaller children.
On our return to the clinic, we almost walked passed the “box.” But we heard the whimpering of a baby inside. I stooped down to look inside. This small box was a woman’s home and she held her oversized baby, Goliath.
We were welcomed “in,” but only one of us could fit on the straw mattress on the ground next to her. I looked in the sad dark face of the woman and joined her. I held her big baby.
I didn’t know whether to choke from the smell, or cry for the conditions this baby was born into. With the help of a translator, I spoke to the woman about her baby and the Child Jesus, who was born in an animal stall.
The woman paid close attention and I sensed the Holy Spirit drawing her as my words were simple and direct. I spoke of a hope that was beyond all hope. I shared Jesus.
Goliath’s mom prayed with me that day. As I opened my eyes I could see something happened; her grin was from ear to ear. The next day, Golaith’s mom was at the clinic asking to help. She became a true follower of Jesus that day.
Key #3: Power from the Throne of God.
The third key to ministry among the poor is “Power from the Throne of God.” The Poor are powerless in many respects. The Poor are most often born into poverty, like a lottery of life. Most of us, certainly most Westerners, would likely not survive in such conditions.
The Poor are denied access; they are held in powerlessness primarily because of broken relationships. All their relationships are working against them. It’s as if they were caught in a spider’s web, a diabolical trap from which there is no escape.
The Bible says there are “principalities and powers,” or rulers of darkness, which keep people in bondage to sin and misery. The evil spirits lock the Poor out of healthy relationships, especially from “seeing” Jesus Christ.
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.” 2 Cor. 4:4
The enemy keeps the Poor in the cycle of poverty, a cycle of broken relationships. Relationship is the key dynamic of the throne of God.
What do the Poor need?
They need to be connected in relationship with God and others. They need a right relationship with their family, their community, and the resources of this world.
What is the problem with sin? It separates.
Sin separates us; relationships of all kinds suffer due to sin. The poor are no different from anyone; they need to be connected to others. The connection with others should not be primarily for the sake of provision; providing food, shelter and medicines has often been used as a means of control.
The poor need to be connected with the broader community where they have been restricted from access.
Kingdom-based Responses reflect Power from the Throne of God
A kingdom-based response to poverty will reverse the “process of dis-empowerment.”
A kingdom-based response will confront spiritual powers and principalities, including “god-complexes” that pins one group of people over another.
A kingdom-based response will heal bodies and relationships; it teaches and models a more complete worldview based on Christ’s character and authority to set them free.
A kingdom-based response will challenge the principalities and powers of darkness (including institutions that are instruments of those powers).
A kingdom-based response will establish “truth and righteousness”, and proclaim that “all power belongs to God.”
A kingdom-based response will restore a person’s relationship with himself/herself. As I wrote in the previous post, poverty, ultimately, is the poverty of “being” and of “purpose.” Conversely, abundant life is the abundance of “being” and “purpose”. It is from the vantage point of the throne of God that an individual and a people may find their God-given identity and vocation conferring the essential being and purpose.
My son, Justin, was there at the garbage dump clinic with my wife, Mary. Justin was just 15 months old. I held my son that evening and prayed with him as he went to sleep. We had little to no money, only $25 USD, on the day Justin was born. For many, we would be considered poor. What’s the difference?
Key #2: A Kingdom View of the Poor.
“Line up!” shouted the man who climbed out of the Ford Econoline 350 box truck. “Stand back! Stand de vuelta!” Clowns, balloons, and face painting helped attract people from the nearby pueblos. The dry wind swept up the grey dirt as the crowd of people from Cuidad Juarez, and the surrounding Mexican border squatter villages, gathered to receive clothes, food, and other donated items. Obediently, the people stood in line and waited for the man to open to back of the truck. I have no doubt the man and the others with him had kind intentions, however my heart sunk as I watched these people reduced to pitiable passive recipients of American excesses.
The truckload of donations was part of an outreach ministry of a church on the El Paso side of the Rio Grande. It was the summer of 1990. We were in Juarez for six weeks with our Field Ministry Internship student teams of Youth With A Mission‘s Student Mobilization Centre. On this hot July afternoon, we were assisting the American group that came to plant a church. We were asked to conduct simple health examinations, primary health care, in a makeshift medical clinic. This personal contact also gave us opportunity to ask if we can pray for the children and their families.
However, the oversized sound system and overzealous worship leaders made it difficult to pray, let alone conduct any thorough examinations in the clinic. The loud and raucous singing and music was giving me a headache.
I stepped out of the clinic to observe the open air meeting. The music continued as young American evangelists, many with clown outfits, went into the audience to pray for the sick.
Please understand, I am a firm believer in prayer and God’s power to heal.
But this disturbed me.
A small Mexican child, obviously frightened by the clowns laying their hands on him, was crying and reaching out toward his mother. Others were surrounding “Mom” and praying for her. The noise and confusion even had me anxious to leave. I wondered what this child and family would think of Jesus after this traumatic day.
This brings us to the second key to ministry among the poor.
Christian ministries will always reflect their leadership’s view of the poor, their understanding of the nature of poverty. That view may be less biblical and more the prevailing view of the surrounding culture.
What is your view of the poor?
The way we approach our ministry to the poor communicates value, either positively or negatively. No matter how many dollars or valuables we donate, our posture and attitude in what we do and say communicates far more than what we give.
When Christians reach out to the poor, we too often unintentionally communicate what we think of their value.
This is what the poor “hear”:
“We are complete, you are not.”
Simply put, the goal of our outreach to the poor should be to avoid communicating that lie. Our goal should be to identify with the poor in our mutual recovery of identity in relation to God’s creative design and purpose.
How do we do that?
In order to communicate value to the poor, we must first communicate value to the volunteer serving alongside us in ministry to the poor.
This is why we emphasize “Calling” in our university student ministries and outreaches. If our outreach emphasizes the discovery of vocation in the life of the volunteer, the Christian participant in ministry to the poor, then we will effectively communicate the value of the design and purpose of God to the community in which we minister.
Then we will fulfill the commission to preach the good news to the poor.
Our aim is the same as that of Jesus’ public ministry:
“And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.’” (Luke 4: 17-19)
Our goal is to ‘set free’ the poor from their destructive relationships so they may enjoy Shalom, a Hebrew term for peace, completeness, and welfare. All of us are called by God to an abundant life of healthy kingdom relationships.
The way we reach this goal must begin with the right posture, the right attitude. We must begin by demonstrating a servant heart, the nature of our servant King Jesus.
In our outreach to the Poor we must represent a kingdom community, demonstrating the biblical story and representing God’s identity and purpose in our relationships.
Our outreach should portray the kingdom of God, which represents the character of God in all the various expressions of his callings.
God is healer, communicator, builder, author, creator, artist, counselor, teacher, etc. Therefore, these vocations are representing God’s character in community.
Outreach is best when we represent the kingdom of God in a community of servants. We represent the character of God and the holistic and interrelated spheres of His ministry.
Ministry to the Poor requires a view of the poor and a vision of the kingdom of God.
In this series, I am referring to the book: God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power, and the Kingdom of God, by Christian, Jayakumar.
Looking into the hollow eyes of Paulo, I wondered what we could do. Paulo was emaciated and gaunt, but with a bloated belly. His parents asked us to come see him. They worried that he would no longer eat the corn tortillas they had been feeding him. Because he was weak, his mother kept Paulo hidden in the dark corner of the small mud brick house. She feared that the sun and the warm air in the mountains of Guatemala would harm him.
It was 1991 and our university student Field Ministry Internship teams visited this mountain village to serve the Rabinal Achi people, a poor community with little or no access to health care and education.
Bonnie, a nurse and our health care team leader said Paulo was dying; he was at the final stages of starvation.
With the mother’s permission and Bonnie’s recommendation, I picked up the frail boy and held him to pray. He was light as a feather. I carried him into the sun. A member of our team ran to get some 7Up and soda crackers to attempt to rehydrate him, but he would not eat. I fed him the liquid with a tea spoon, which appeared to help him. We prayed earnestly as tears welled up in our eyes for the boy and his family. “Jesus, please heal this one today.”
The clinical name for the condition is called Kwashiorkor. The belly swells due to the lack of protein. The parents did not understand that the diet of tortillas, the only food available for their little boy, was insufficient. Paulo was not getting the nutrients he needed to survive.
We learned the next day that Paulo died. Even as I write this today, I agonize over the loss of this small child that had so little hope of survival. Even now, I want to bring a good report; I want to say, “Jesus healed Paulo!” But that is not what happened.
Paulo’s family is among the poorest of the poor. He is not merely a statistic, but he is among three billion people, almost half the world’s population, who live on less than $2.50 USD a day. Approximately 24,000 children like Paulo die every day due to malnutrition and impure water. (See Facts on Global Poverty.)
That experience, and dozens of others like it in as many countries over the past two decades, shaped my vision and passion for mobilizing university students toward their calling in Christ’s mission to a needy world. I ache to see a generation of university students offer their lives, including their studies and their careers, as living sacrifices in worship of Jesus. I long to see communities of faith, churches, devote more of their resources to mission and less to the one hour event on a Sunday morning. I long to see Christian business leaders, educators, scientists, communicators, food growers, builders, health care specialists, and families connect, conspire and collaborate to serve the world’s poor, starting with one small boy or girl in one small village.
One of the most important books I have read on the subject of ministry to the poor is God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power, and the Kingdom of God by Jayakumar Christian. (Amazingly, this book is not available for less than $200.00. Therefore, I will provide a brief synopsis for my next four blog posts.)
As I read this book I was challenged to understand several keys to ministry among the poor. I’m convinced these key principles are important for any ministry, any Christian desiring to serve Christ’s mission. Additional posts with stories of our ministry among the poor will follow soon.
(Note: The name “Paulo” may not be accurate, but the story is true. I may have confused this boy’s name with another we ministered to some time later.)
Ray Bakke points out that an “incarnational servanthood” model presents a “unique and profound combination of Jesus as message and Jesus as model.” (Sider 2004:137) Families opening their homes to students will counteract globalization’s isolating effect, for the host and the student. My wife and I have hosted internationals in one way or another since we were married in 1988. Relationships with students from Japan to Colombia, Ethiopia to Indonesia, and China to Saudi Arabia have been cultivated at our dinner table, living room, and backyard BBQ. This kind of hospitality, friendship with the foreigner, is biblical. It’s loving our global neighbors.
When the church responds to the opportunities for international relationships at the university community, she will find herself more apt to pursue answers to desperate social issues, presenting a more hopeful message.
The growing global need for pure water reveals our interdependency and our call to environmental stewardship. Because the “goal of the church’s holistic outreach is the transformation of people, communities, and society for the glory of God,” water is a primary operating theme for development.
The Au Sable Institute, a biblically based Wisconsin Idea, is pursuing a vision to help develop livable cities, energy-efficiency, and rising standards of living around the world. Au Sable presents a view of God that comes from the revelation of creation. By our faithful stewardship of God’s creation we witness to the world that our faith is real. The church is marginalized in influence in as much as Christians have little revelation of the God of the material world where environmental issues and global poverty are very real.
“The Christian answer to the educational problem must be given in unity with the answer to the problem of personality and community…it must point men (sic) toward such a community as is sufficiently concrete and commanding to claim the hearts of individuals and masses and yet also sufficiently transcendent and universal to embrace all human ideals and possibilities.” (Tillich 1988:18)
How do people react to individualism, environmentalism, and poverty in Madison? These forces may be at the same time subtle and powerful. Globalization is having a paradoxical effect, connecting people and resources through technology and isolating people in reaction to the enormity of global needs. “As the [global] demand for water continues to increase, there is greater pressure placed on an already shrinking water supply,” says Joel Pedersen, a UW-Madison environmental chemist. “More people are considering the reuse of water.” While most expect individual freedoms to continue, others are sounding the alarm to warn us that individualism in Western culture is a major contributor to global problems. In Madison, research on water resources, HIV/AIDS, and global poverty is churning in the laboratories of the University of Wisconsin. How should today’s Jesus follower respond? Followers of Christ believe in community, but most have so aligned with the culture of individualism that they take little notice of urgent global human needs. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Perhaps, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, evangelical believers in the 21st century should ask “Who is my neighbor?”
During his 1978 run for governor, the former UW-Stevens Point chancellor, Lee Dreyfus, was quoted saying Madison is “thirty square miles surrounded by reality.” (Moe 1999) There are major “gaps between gospel values and the practices of Christianity in ‘Christian’ Europe” and other formerly Christian territories. (Budde 1997:5) Equally true is the gap between the early gospel values and practices at the University of Wisconsin. A plaque on Bascom Hall reveals the commitment to “encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth may be found.” Etched in the stone of South Hall, is: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Class of 1955.”
The following posts will discuss four characteristics of globalization in the Madison context and how they affect the Church in Madison. They are post-modernism; materialism; secularism and pluralism; and individualism, environmentalism, and poverty.
How can a small community of Christ followers serve as a catalyst of a new, broad-structured, international missions movement for the 21st century?
Answer: By creating collaborative partnerships among ministries and leaders in university communities building “bridges” of community transformation.
The following action steps are what our ministries are attempting in this new season of development. Our plan is to serve as a catalyst with YWAM Campus Ministries creating “bridges” of community transformation by:
1. Committing to a coherent set of learning outcomes, a core curriculum, for all School of University Ministries & Missions (SUMM) participants, and in seminars. All SUMM participants will develop an understanding of the 21st century mission field.
a. The school will emphasize YWAM’s commitment to the Christian Magna Carta. Participants will learn how to facilitate a spirit of collaboration in response to dramatic shifts in the Church globally and extraordinary economic and societal crises.
b. Mobilizing students on cross-cultural, serving-learning experiences is an integral part of YWAM’s discipleship of students in every campus ministry location. (See: Field Ministry Internships)
c. Designing Seminars & Conferences, which target and rally university communities for mobilization toward effective ministry addressing Global Human Need. (See: Human Development Index.) These desperate needs, including poverty, corruption, children at risk, HIV/AIDS, malaria, human trafficking, and impure water, are targeted as “giants” which we are confronting with “smooth stones” in our Slingshot Camps. Slingshot is a discipleship camp with an intention of training young people in how to live and share the gospel. This Slingshot is built on the concept of David’s five smooth stones defined as:
(1) Identity in Christ
(2) Intimacy with God
(3) Integrity in Life
(4) Influence in the world, and
(5) Involvement in Missions.
2. Recruiting and Dispatching Volunteers: Field Project Interface and University Community Interface. These staff assignments will be limited to those who have completed the School of University Ministries & Missions (IDM/HIS 313 & 314) -or- a YWAM staff with a Four-Year College Degree and Student Ministries Leadership Seminar (IDM 501).
If either Field Project Interface or University Community Interface serve in locations where there is no YWAM team or ministry, they must have a minimum of two team members working together. All SMC staff require a two year commitment.
A. Field Project Interface: A minimum of two Field Project Interface, serving as SMC staff, will live and work in a YWAM Campus Ministry community in the developing world with the task of coordinating field projects for student teams, particularly Field Ministry Internships. Field Project Interface will assess community needs (health, education, economic, family, environment, etc.), create partnerships with churches and ministries, and interface with the YWAM host when student project teams travel and serve in their location. Field Project Interface will have a particular liaison role with the SMC preparing for summer teams, drawing up project plans for students to gain academic credit, and assisting the SMC to apply for project grants.
B. University Community Interface will partner with existing YWAM ministries and campus ministries, facilitating collaboration and adoption of a whole community in the developing world. University Community Interface will recruit outreach teams for field projects in a single developing world community, drawing from the resources and personnel of a single university community, including churches, student organizations, and Christian faculty and staff.
3. Emphasizing “Community Bridges” – a collaborative and transformational approach to ministries. As a catalyst of transformation, we are building “bridges” of engagement between university communities and developing world communities. The SMC will work with Campus Ministries and associate ministries and churches to remove barriers of collaboration that get in the way of transforming students’ lives and transforming whole communities.
The Community Bridge approach will broaden the radar of any single student organization or church ministry in the university community to focus resources to accomplish far more than any single organization could.
This community transformation approach will require a model, an example, to stimulate a long-term commitment of two Christian communities in two university settings. Emphasizing collaborative field projects to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God and fulfill the Christian Magna Carta.
4. Creating a robust “Community Bridge” Model between one YWAM campus ministry/university community and one developing world community, preferably where we have another YWAM campus ministry. For example, YWAM Kingsway Maryland, with campus ministries at the U. of MD and Johns Hopkins, is developing a “community bridge” with a series of integrated projects to serve Delhi, India.
5. Making Grant Funding requests for Integrated Community Field Projects. Today’s foundations and major donors are more apt to assist collaborative efforts. Our Community Bridge approach to YWAM Campus Ministries will help us raise funds for projects, especially projects such as pure water, education, micro-business development, HIV/AIDS awareness, Malaria prevention, and Children at Risk in the developing world. Funds raised through SMC grants will be designated to the respective field projects, possibly allocating a portion for Field Project stipend for housing and travel, YWAM Campus Ministry expenses, and student team expenses.
6. Increasing the size of the SMC International Team of facilitators through rapid regional development. As the School of University Ministries & Missions trains workers on every continent, SMC Regional Teams are being formed to foster Community Bridges and Collaborative Networks.
7. Establishing New Call2All Students Networking Forums to bring together a wider collaborative movement of university ministries and missions mobilization Working collaboratively through international and inter-agency partnerships, cross-disciplinary teams, and campus-wide partnerships including faculty, staff, and students, the SMC will focus our catalytic training and resources on building bridges to serve whole communities.
A YWAM Campus Ministries International Celebration is already scheduled for 2010. Currently collaborative activities are underway through the new Campus America Wilder Project.
A new Call2AllStudents web site is being developed to serve the broader network of ministries. These efforts will culminate in periodic Regional Call2All Forums beginning in 2012 that present testimonials, instruction, and models with the best practices offering Christian communities tools to serve some of the world’s most vexing social, environmental, and economic challenges.
We all want to change the world. Perhaps I’m just too old AND too young, but I’ve always disliked the word “revolution.” I was born in ’58, just old enough to really dislike the impact of the 60′s Revolution. That period was probably really from ’68 to ’74.
I can’t say for sure if it was due to the radical ideas of the ’60s, but it was during that time my family ripped apart with divorce. I lived in Madison, Wisconsin then. I witnessed the student riots (another excuse to skip class?) and the bombing of Sterling Hall (killing an innocent person). I saw the “peace” marchers turn violent. What do you think? Did those Sixties radicals, the ones who wanted to change the world for the better, have any core beliefs? Where are they now? Some are journalists, some in government, and some are teaching the next generation of university students. We’re hearing those voices more and more.
The word revolution has made a comeback in recent years. Today’s students, many of them, are wanting to change the world again. That’s good. We all want to change the world. But why are Christians using the word revolution? I’m all for social justice as part of God’s mission to the world, but I’ve felt a huge disconnect with those who call for revolution today, those who march, sign petitions, and claim by doing so they can end poverty. The way Jesus taught his disciples to turn the world upside down was by dying to self with open-handed surrender. Perhaps, if we are going to use the word “revolution,” we should be clear in our definition. We should not promote the closed fist posture, demanding of rights, with marches on Washington.
The dictionary definition of “revolution” includes “forcible overthrow of government,” “class struggle,” and “political change through uprising.” If instead, today’s revolutionaries could re-interpret the word to mean reorientation, making Jesus the center of our reality, both spiritual and physical reality, then I could join in the call for a revolution. I want to see every person, every family, community, people group, and nation find their hope in Jesus. Some argue that Jesus is too exclusive, that Christians are too narrow in their beliefs. My reply is that Jesus is the most inclusive personality in the universe. Christians are not exclusive, their particular; they want everyone to meet the One who created everything and everyone with good intention.
What the Church often gets wrong, I think, is that they set up a “missions department,” as if the Church were the center of all things. This posture communicates to church-goers and the surrounding world that the task of reaching every person for Christ is just one of the many things the Church must do, a line item in their budget, a committee, something to remember at the annual missions conference.
Reformation, not revolution, is needed. I propose a different attitude and posture for the Church. The Church does not have a mission. God has a mission. The Church must once again apprehend the Misseo Dei, that God is on a mission. We should reorient the Church to join Christ’s mission. The Church is not the center, Jesus is the center. God has a mission and his mission has a Church. Now that is a revolutionary idea!