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Tag Archives: Poverty

Poverty: An Imbalance of Opportunity

Today I have the honor of a guest blogger. 

I guess the process started a year or so ago, but my friend, Joey Espinosa, felt led to pack his life and family up and move to the lower part of South Carolina to Allendale County, which is a part of the Corridor of Shame.  Allendale is, per capita, the poorest part of the state.  He was living in the upstate and the children’s pastor of my church.  God moved him in the direction of going to live out his faith and restart a Boys and Girls Club in Allendale.  The whole story is amazing, and you can find out more on his blog, Mission: Allendale.  Additionally he has another blog about faith and parenting called A Different Way.

When we think about poverty, we have to move beyond considering the lack of resources. Generational poverty is also about the lack of opportunities.

Our Basic Desire

Years ago, when I had a “real” job, my co-workers and I were having a discussion about a war going on in another part of the world. It was a divided group, with some very strong opinions from both ends of the political spectrum. As you can imagine, the conversation was going nowhere fast.

After trying to stay out of the fracas, I felt like I had to say something, to redirect the issue. “You know what I think about? That there is some dad in that country with kids my age. He really doesn’t care about which side is right or wrong. He’s just trying to provide for his family, so his kids can grow up safe, healthy, and educated.”

No matter what social status you are in, everyone has the  common bond of wanting a chance. For some of us, it’s the opportunity to buy  more and better stuff. For others, it’s the opportunity for a more fulfilling  job, or a way to better use their gifts. And for many  people in the world (including the USA), they
merely want opportunities to obtain basic needs for their families, like food,  shelter, and health care.

When I pause and reflect, something just isn’t right about many of the imbalances  we see. And it’s not so much the imbalance of consumable resources, but the  imbalance of opportunities.

Imbalance of Opportunities

This past summer, a few high school students from Greenville  lived with a friend in the Allendale area, and they also spent a handful of  nights with us.

Late in July, one of the boys came to me in the morning and calmly informed me that his ear hurt. I told him that it would probably feel  better later. But my wife (the compassionate mom) knew what it was: an ear infection.

After trying to contact his mom (unsuccessfully) and trying to figure out if he had insurance or Medicaid (“I don’t know”), my wife took him to a local clinic.

Joanna explained to the medical staff the situation, and he received the attention he needed. The payment was based on a sliding scale, and was a trivial amount (for us).

But the part that stood out was having to pay $8 for the prescription drug amoxicillin. Why did this irk us? Because in Greenville, this drug would be free at a Publix pharmacy.

So, in the most under-resourced part of the state (Allendale), people pay $8 or more for a particular medicine. And in one of the wealthiest areas in the state (Greenville), you can get it for free.

Opportunities in Education

How many more advanced placement (AP) classes do you think are available in the average school in Greenville or Columbia, compared to Allendale? Surely there are children with above-average intelligence and motivation in this area.

How are kids going to consistently develop relationships of trust with educators in this school district, with the highest teacher turnover ratio, and where half of the schools have new principals in 2011?

We are seeing a negative trend of the imbalance in many areas. Not only have suburban schools gained advantages over urban ones, but they tend to hoard these advantages. Under-resourced schools become more under-resourced, comparatively.

“I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice”

I am not pushing for socialism or communism. I’m not proposing mandatory wealth distribution. But I am saying that our hearts need to be stirred and softened. We need to be moved to take action when we see the scarcity of opportunity in areas of generational poverty.

Consider what your life would be like if you were in their shoes. What resources would you need? What opportunities?

Try not to think of those in poverty as a group, as in “What they need is . . .” Consider the individuals, the families. For, however much of little that you have, there is always someone else worse off, who just needs a chance.

Related Links

They’re Baaack!

What’s Our Ultimate Purpose in Allendale?

So, what do you think?  I believe there is STRONG biblical evidence that when it is all said and done, what we are going to be judged most for in the end is what we did concerning those less fortunate, specicially the extreme poor, those in generational poverty because of a lack of opportunities, orphans, and widows.  We have “pet sins” in the Amercan Church.  We like to pick on premarital sex, drunkedness, and homosexuality…but we leave out what it seems the God holds more important, taking care of each other.  Never donating time and money to helping give those in need a hand up is not often talked about as a sin, but it is.  Throughout the Old and New Testament, this is one thing that comes up more than anything else.  How did you treat the poor, widows, orphans.  What did you do about it?

I am not suggesting that everyone do what Joey and his family did, but you need to do something.  Donate some time (not just money) to a cause for those in generational poverty.  Pray about it.  Find something.  Do it.  And then see if you don’t start to see God start to change you.

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Why Weekends–Why and WorldVision (Part 1)

Why Weekend?  What and why?

I have been trying to figure out when I will be blogging and if I will have occasional themes.  A part of this internal discussion was whether or not I would post on the weekends or not.  I know a lot of blogger don’t.  I just didn’t know until we were driving home from LA’s grandparents’ house (a long enough trip to have thinking time).  God gave the the thought about a weekend theme.  And that is the theme of “Why”.

“OneCupofJoe guy, ‘why’ is not a theme.”

Yes, by itself it is not a theme.  But my “why” is going to be a challenge.  These challenges are going to be based challenges God has been pounding my heart with as of late (and more that I have no doubt will continue to come).  They will vary from week to week, for the most part–except the first two, and will usually hover on issues in our world at large.

I have decided not to rest solely on the “Christian Spin” for this…actually I am going to avoid that as much as I can.  Why?  Because, though I do see everything I will write about as things Christians need to take a stand and fight for, I see all of these things as human issues that we all need to view a little more closely and work together to make changes.

That said, I will probably have my normal references to God and faith, especially when it comes to why I have taken on some of these causes, but please read on.  It is just a means to explain how I got there and have been challenged by these issues. However, these things are challenges that we all have to face.

There is so much hurting and need in the world.  It is not fair for us to hoard the resources and leave the rest of the world to fend for itself.  I think it is almost just as wrong for us to wait for governments to step in and fix things.  To paraphrase something I heard at a meeting about adoption and foster care this week, “These are not government problems, they are [HUMAN] problems.”  It is time for us to step out of our comfort and reach out to those less fortunate around our world (which is a vast majority of the residents of Earth).

So, I will start with my first “Why”.  This is going to be a two-parter.  I will delve into it more next week.  Because you have soldiered on through the long explation of my weekend theme, I will reward you by just dealing with the “set-up” of this challenge.

Why is there so much EXTREME POVERTY around the world?

Early this year, mid-January to be exact, God caused a radical transformation on my heart. Through a variety of sources and ways, he pretty much changed my perspective on almost everything. I will write more on this later (be on the look out for “My Time Travel Testimony”). One of the things that he changed is how I viewed the rest of the world in the light of poverty.

Now, I have always had a want to help those in need. I have sponsored children through both Compassion International and WorldVision (seperately most of the time, but for a little while at the same time). I have given to various ministries, worked at an emergency boys shelter for three years, and currently work at a school in a low-income area (going into my sixth year there). Despite all of this, God needed to teach me WHY this was important and lead me to take these things even more seriously.

I would love to get in to the Biblical reasons for why people in extreme poverty should be important to you, but like I said, I am going to take a different perspective. I want to appeal to believers and non-believers alike. I want to grip your human heart and make you want to reach out to the world because it is the right thing to do.

Did you know that as members as the “civilized industrial west”, statistics say that we (almost all Americans…even those considered poor) are a part of the 20% of the world’s income earners. 80% of the world lives off of less than $10 a day!! $10!!! But even more shocking…just under 50% of the world’s population lives on around $2.50 a day. WE PAY MORE FOR A BURGER FOR ONE MEAL.

Let me just say this. This is wrong! So wrong that I can barely stomach it. Even as you read this, can you believe it? And guess what? As bad as many people in the US may have it, even our poorest would be considered blessed in most of the rest of the world.

Before I move on, I will just say that I am by no means saying we should not support the poor in our country. Not in the least. I am even more motivated for those around me than I ever have. BUT, the rest of the world needs to be a part of your “giving/caring deal”. You CAN NOT just pretend the extreme poverty in the world is not there. You can’t. You just can’t.  (If you do want a perspective on poverty around us, though,  check out these blog posts: Saul 1, Saul 2, Saul 3, and Final Reflections on Saul.)

Now back to the numbers. Look at them again. Around 50% of the world lives on less than $2.50. A lot of people pay more for a cup of coffee. If I lost $2.50, I probably wouldn’t tear up the house to look for it or retrace my steps for the day (maybe, but not likely). This is insane. The fact that 30% of those who live off of more than $2.50 still live on less than $10 should make us all really take stock of our lives. 80% of the world makes a living on less than $10!! I would look for $10 if I lost it, but I wouldn’t cry over it if I didn’t find it.

“But, OneCup guy, these people don’t need as much to live on, so it is not as bad as you are making it out to be.” True and false. Yes, it takes less for most to scratch out an exsistance, BUT it still takes more than $10 a day…and way more than $2.50!!

I won’t get into the statistics on mortality, health, nutrition, and education this week, but just know, that you really can’t excuse being okay with the disparity between the top 20% and bottom 80%! You can’t. You just can’t.

If I am not mistaken (and I am pretty sure I am not) we live in a time of unparalelled resources.  Why are there so many people literally dying becuase 20% of the population lives in extreme comfort?  This is not okay.  This is something we can do something about.  Seriously.  What can you give up?  What can you do without?  What can you sacrafice?  It is more than easy to help.  There are so many organizations out there…they just need the resources we are hoarding.  Think about it.

I am going to be pushing WorldVision because I believe in them, I love the way they do what they do, and know they are making a difference, but I don’t care who you go through.  Just do something.  Your comfort is not worth other people dying for.

Okay, I have set this up. I will get into the just mentioned stats next weekend. I just hope your eyes are opened a little.

If this is something you would like to follow up on for yourself, let me lead you to WorldVision’s website (www.worldvision.com). I will talk much more about this organization next week, but the heart of their mission is to change the dynamics of poverty around the world one community at a time. Check them out. Please sponsor a child if you feel so led. Please do. And let me know if you did, I want to encourage you in this! It is an awesome thing!

Oh, and click on the picture to find out a really cool thing going on with WorldVision for the next week or so.  Awesomeness!

To be continued next weekend!

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