Friday, November 4, 2011

Who are the Poor?

For the last week I have been dog-sitting in a very nice neighborhood.  Day after day, I walk the dog down the freshy-swept street looking at the fancy homes, the manicured lawns, and expensive cars.  Part of me wonders if I could ever afford to live here.

Financially, it's a lofty goal for this unemployed recent grad. That's not what I meant.

I mean, could I afford to live here

when some live here?

Can I live here

having been here?

The Bible doesn't say "Don't live in a nice house"... but it does say "give everything you have to the poor."

But who are the poor?

Are the poor the children in a hogar in Guatemala who play with one-armed Barbies but have the joy of the Lord in their hearts and it shows on their faces?

Are the poor the people paying taxes on their 4,000 square-foot homes who are on the brink of divorce, have disrespectful children, and hire someone else to pick up their dog poop?

Part of me says, no way, I will never live in a classy neighborhood. (Especially based on those stereotypes). I've seen too much poverty to be comfortable in a large, neat home.

Perhaps that is true. For just me and the dog, this four-bedroom, three-bath home is way too big. But what if I had a husband and children?

Through trial and error, I have learned some aspects of third-world ministry. I have been to places where hand sanitizer and toilet paper are luxuries. The girls in the photo above aren't just children worlds away with stories that would break your heart. We know each others' names, they are my sisters, and they almost knocked me fifteen feet off that ledge ten seconds after that photo was taken when they tried to all see it simultaneously.

Yet, as I walk through this nice neighborhood and wonder about the people inside of the homes, I wonder about them and their lives. Do they know their neighbors? Do they realize there's more to life than fnancial success? Most importantly, do they know that God loves them?

How can I walk my dog down this street

knowing stray dogs roam down this street?

Easy. On both streets there are people that have never heard the name of Jesus.

How can I limit ministry to the without-money poor without including the without-Jesus poor?

Third world ministry may be teaching people how to brush their teeth, handing out bracelets, and fitting them with eye glasses. It can be loving them, making a fool of yourself, and living the gospel.

Is that not also what is the first world also needs? Love, humor, and (most importantly) Jesus.

First world ministry is greeting neighbors as you pass them on the street, hand-delivering a warm breakfast to the neighbor's housesitter and inviting her over for dinner, or cutting someone else's grass because they're having a busy week. It can be releasing a child from poverty through child sponsorship and telling others about your Fridge Kid. It's loving the way Christ commands us and living the gospel.

He is the God of this city

just as He is of this one.

Can I afford it?

How can I NOT?

The Great Commission commands us to GO and make disciples of ALL nations (Matthew 28:19, emphasis mine). I like to GO to another nation; it has become comfortable to me. But GO can also mean GO to the other side of the shurbery.

No matter where you live, GO and be the missionary you were called to be (Acts 1:8).

It starts with me.

<>< Katie


Joe Bunting said...

Great post Katie. The comparison between the picture of the rich and the poor is so stark, but it's what God is doing underneath that is interesting.

A few years ago, I had a similar experience. I was living in Santa Barbara, among the richest cities in the nation, and about to leave to go on a mission trip for a year. If you're interested, here's the link to a post I wrote that reminds me of where you're at:

Katie said...

Thanks for the comment and corresponding post, Joe. Like you, I grew up in a culture similar to that in the post and would have accepted it as normal had I not been able to see the other side. Did you go back to Santa Barbara after the World Race?

<>< Katie

Anna said...

I absolutely love this! It's something I think about all the time, and you completely put my thoughts into words. You're great :)

Mysterion said...

There are other perspectives.

It's not about the other person, it's about YOU.

"Therefore, did we say, Kalamas, what was said thus, 'Come Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, "The monk is our teacher." Kalamas, when you yourselves know: "These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill," abandon them.'