Today is my 4th day of my Poverty Awareness Challenge.
Let me back up.
Having been thinking lots about the extent of poverty many people experience (even more-so as I’m preparing to potentially go volunteer with some missionaries in a Third World country), I’ve been convicted of my and so many others’ apathy for the needs of others. We have so much, yet we often do so little to help and love others.
So many people have next to nothing (the clothes on their back, maybe a tiny metal shack to call home, possibly a small portion of rice or corn-mush or something found in the landfills to barely keep them alive another day), while many in North America take electricity, running water, internet, air conditioning, an entire wardrobe, and fast-food as expected. While literally half of the world survives on less than $2/day, I complain because I might make a measly $10/hour take-home.
For the past 3 years since I’ve been back from South Africa, I’ve spent a lot of time living like someone who had never seen poverty. In South Africa, I realized that God gave me my money as a responsibility to do His work, not as a reward to frivolously spend as I wished. And yet, those heart-felt convictions I learned were suppressed when I came back to Canada and adjusted back into a First-World lifestyle. Maybe what makes everything worse is that, as a Christian, I have disregarded quite a few commands from the Scriptures:
“And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ~ Matthew 22:37-39
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~ Philippians 2:3-4
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” ~ James 2:15-17
(All emphasis mine).
Needless to say, I am ashamed.
I’m pretty sure that using my resources primarily for my own satisfaction and pleasure isn’t loving my neighbor as myself. I’ve been too focused on my interests and definitely not enough on other’s needs. I’ve thought about, spoke to, and even prayed for the poor and homeless, but I haven’t really done much at all about their needs.
I’ve realized that I can’t change the past, but I can use what I’ve learned to direct my future. I don’t want to be frivolous and materialistic and self-centered – I know these things do not glorify God, nor do they give me the promised happiness. But what can I do that could possibly make a difference?
*Enter Poverty Awareness Challenge.*
I thought , “What if I tried to mimic the lifestyle to some extent of an individual living in a Third World country for a month and constantly talked about it or shared my journey on social media and the Web?” This little idea sparked a flame. Maybe such a challenge would hit a little closer to home and become more personal, for myself and others. Maybe we would decide to do more for the poor when we realize just how much we have.
My goal isn’t just about simply providing them with a better temporary physical life though. Ultimately, I want us to share God’s love and the Gospel with others so that they may find and know a much better life. But how can I share the Gospel when I am not living out what Jesus asks of me? A Christian isn’t just someone who believes in God, but someone who lives out their lives in obedience to God’s Word. How can I say “I love God” and yet not love those around me enough to care for them?
God asks me to love my neighbor – am I willing to obey?
Even if this challenge would only compel one person to be more generous, to love their neighbor and the poor more like themselves, and to seek to share the Gospel so that others can have a firm hope that goes beyond everything in life – than this month will have been completely worth it to me.
So… this is my personal Poverty Awareness Challenge:
- Only 10 food items. I decided on chicken, eggs, yogurt, bananas, dark leafy greens (romaine lettuce and spinach), carrots, peanuts/100% natural peanut butter, black beans, rice, and whole wheat bread/wraps. Water is a given. No spices, no tea or coffee, no butter – just my 10 foods as much as I can control (I did need a bit of oil in my frying pan, but I didn’t count that).
- Only 1 outfit (6 pieces: scarf, tank, tee, cardigan, sweater, jeans), 2 pairs of footwear (Blundstones, Mary-Jane flats), and 1 raincoat. Considering I have everything from church to shopping to work to an outside work day to potentially a wedding – and the fact that I do live in a First-World country, I decided to go with 2 pairs of shoes. But I’m under 10 items, so I’m still limited to say the least.
I’m already so much more thankful for my washer and dryer.
- No household lights. Thankfully my house has a lot of natural light during the day, and in the evening I navigate around by candles, my phone light, or by simply adjusting to the darkness.
- No movies. How many living in poverty can afford a TV?
- No activities that cost. No going to the movies or crazy fun adventures if it’s going to take money out of my pocket – again, so many people can’t afford these luxuries.
- No shopping. I should explain – I will be shopping for groceries, essentials (toilet paper is kind-of important), and anything related to volunteering overseas as needed. What I mean by “no shopping” is no frivolous shopping. Many people pay for absolute needs and that’s it; this is what I’m trying to mimic.
- No make-up. Because this is not a necessity and for many of the poor, make-up would probably seem like a wasteful use of limited cash.
This is my challenge. It’s small and nothing amazing, but it is shaking me from apathy. Already, I’ve been learning a lot about myself, my needs, my relationship with God, and my heart for others. If this challenge accomplishes nothing else, it will – and has been – teaching me a lot about self-control, contentment, and compassion.
But this post is already long enough (I broke my rule to try to keep this short and sweet), so I will talk more about these lessons in a future post.