Category Archives: Poverty

The Boy with the Brown Eyes.

I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

I have subscribed to all the usual suspects on Twitter, CNN and BBC and every “breaking news” feed that I could find. A wealth of information at my fingertips, one mindless click away. Daily, I scroll through, growing progressively more numb with each sensational headline. We live in a world where genocide and car bombs are commonplace, where little girls are stolen into tangled jungles and the whole world cries bring them back from the comfort of our air conditioned living rooms. Hunger gnaws, hope wanes, poverty crushes and the whole aching world groans under the suffocating weight of sin. I confess that on far too many days, I turn away. I cannot feel it all.

The more information that I have at my leisurely disposal, the less I am prone to read it. But yesterday, I saw this headline and frozen, I couldn’t look away. Not from him.  “’Invisible’ in India: The story of a disabled boy tied to Mumbai bus stop.”

Tied? I breathe heavy, seething eyes already flashing at the monster who bound a little boy with rope and left him like a dog.

And then I read. I read about Lakhan Kale, a nine year old deaf and mute little boy with cerebral palsy and haunting brown eyes. I read about his Grandma, Sakubai, the only family Lakhan has that hasn’t died or abandoned him. My American eyes widen as the story unfolds, both of them living on the street, Grandma selling this and that to anyone that will stop, desperately trying to scrape together the necessary coins to feed her Grandson. Some days, she is successful. The monster fades as I begin to see a withered, 70 year old woman, pleading red eyes brimming with exhausted tears. Her shoulders defeatedly hunch as she quietly whispers, He can’t hear the traffic. If he ran onto the road he’d get killed. What else can I do?”

And so she would leave him tied to a pole while she went to work.

I feel like the air has been sucked out of the room as the breath catches in my throat and I stare unblinking at my screen, her words echoing in my mind. What else can I do? What are your options when you’re a homeless Grandmother with a disabled Grandson that couldn’t tell a stranger where he lived even if he had a home to be returned to?

I am gutted as I begin to understand that in India, there are no options. Stones fly easily from my air conditioned living room, but as the impossible weight of her every day seeps into my heart and leaks out of my eyes, I am enraged at the unfairness of it all. I am strangely proud of this woman that I had denounced as a monster, proud of her for staying with her disabled Grandson. For doing the very best that she could do. I want to grab her hands and look hard into her weary eyes and tell her I know you really tried.

And I am livid. I understand that the boy with the haunting brown eyes and his withered Grandmother are merely two of the 1.3 billion people in the world living on less than $1.25 a day. Just two of the 1.3 billion people living the raw, aching story of poverty. Living hungry bellies and preventable diseases, living in a world where other children go to school while theirs go to work. Living in a world where they go to bed with a sinking understanding that tomorrow will be just like today, that they and their children will die in the same cycle of poverty that has enslaved their family for generations.

In an age where newsfeeds are flooded with the searing stories of a world crumbing from the decay of sin, God forgive us if we ever become numb to 1.3 billion people with no choices. God forgive us if we stand idly by while 1.3 billion people that weren’t fortunate enough to have their story picked up by CNN stand with their noses pressed hard to the glass window of privilege, begging a watching world to intervene.

I believe that we can change the story of poverty. It’s why I work for HOPE International. A friend of mine often says that Good intentions are not good enough if we believe that people are created in the image of God, and I think he’s right. For so long, in a flurry of good intentions we have tried to solve global need by sending things. Our hearts hemorrhage and throb, and stricken by the headlines that we read we box up food and clothing and medical supplies–sending the unintentional but unmistakable message that the image-bearers on the receiving end are not enough. That they are incapable. That they somehow need us.

What if, instead of sending boxes, we looked at those same men and women and gave them the dignity of investing in their dreams, instead? What if we offered them a small loan and Christ-centered business training, affirming the glorious truth that they too, are image bearers? What if we offered them the tools that they needed to work themselves and their families out of poverty?

Lakhan Kale, his Grandmother and the 1.3 billion precious lives standing behind them  bear the imago Dei. They are creative, entrepreneurial, hard working people–and they are capable. They deserve far more than our pity and charity.

The roots of the issues at play in global poverty are manifold and tightly intertwined, and I am not naïve enough to suggest that there exists a tidy solution that will put all to right. But as men and women that are breathing the same air and walking around the same planet as 1.3 billion of our brothers and sisters that don’t know how they are going to feed their children tonight, we do not have the luxury of simply throwing up our hands and blithely continuing to scroll through our cluttered newsfeeds. There is far too much at stake.

Their stories matter, and I desperately want to be a part of empowering them to rewrite the endings. HOPE is committed to changing the story of poverty. Will you join us?

 

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Filed under HOPE International, Justice, Microfinance, Poverty

Band-Aid Charity.

DSC_0149“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” – Isaiah 58:6-7   

When my husband was in business school, one of his professors told him a story that has marinated in my mind ever since it was relayed to me. The story takes place in an African village near a river. One day, a village woman noticed a baby floating down the river towards her. Horrified, she ran into the swirling waters, and rescued the baby. The very next day, a man passing by noticed yet another baby floating downstream. Horrified, he dashed into the river, and rescued the baby. The same thing happened the next day, and the next day and the next until multiple babies were being rescued out of the rushing waters every day by stricken villagers.

This horrific pattern continued for years, until at long last, one of the villagers decided to walk up stream to find where the babies were coming from.

As the American church, I fear that in our approach to poverty we have so consumed ourselves with the babies in the river, that we have forgotten to walk up stream to the source of the problem.

We’re well intentioned, aren’t we? We see pictures of hungry children rifling through mountains of trash for scraps, of mothers with hopeless eyes and outstretched hands begging for help and fathers cradling tired heads in withered hands, unable to provide—and we are broken. We are broken, and rightly so; brokenness is a correct first response to a world crumbling from the decay of sin. Our God-given thirst for justice leaps to the surface, and we cry ME! I will provide what you do not have. You matter to God and you matter to me, I will give you what you need.

And so we box up our old clothes and ship them to developing countries where families can’t afford to buy their own. We throw a pair of TOMS into our shopping carts and happily picture a matching pair on a little African child. We send backpacks and cans of food and bars of soap—and we are so well intentioned.

But what if?

What if in our well intentioned displays of compassion, we actually did more harm than good? What if the message that we unintentionally and unmistakably communicated to those parents is that they are not enough? That they are incapable of fulfilling the God-given role as provider that they have been entrusted with? What if our boxes of hand-me-downs and shoes put the local shoemakers and dress makers out of business? And what if the temporary Band-Aid of charity eased the sting of lack for a time, but weeks or months later when the shoes had worn out and the dull ache of hunger had returned, that family found themselves right back where they started?

What if there were a better way?

Please understand that I am not denouncing charity. There is a time and a place for it. But if there were a way to provide for that family in a sustainable manner that offered them dignity and respect, and changed the course of their family for generations to come, wouldn’t we all be for that?

Enter microfinance. The beauty of microfinance is that it allows that family the dignity of providing for themselves. Through loans as small as $100.00, men and women that desperately want to work hard are offered the opportunity to do just that! HOPE has seen families that have been trapped under the crushing weight of poverty for generations break free, and become small business owners that go on to employ others in their community. What a thrilling picture of redemption!

Church, God Himself has tasked us with the thrilling work of displaying the gospel throughout the world. Our good works put shape to an invisible God that desperately cares about every single one of His children. Let’s examine our methodology, and partner with our brothers and sisters trapped in poverty to fight poverty well.

For more information, visit www.uncharity.org. 

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Filed under Hope, Microfinance, Poverty

The End of Unemployment. [HOPE.]

“I wondered if the American church was like well-mannered nice-talkers, sitting in a living room sipping coffee, talking about choir practice, while the world burns down outside our windows. While the richest people on earth pray to get richer, the rest of the world begs for intervention with their faces pressed to the window, watching us drink our coffee, unruffled by their suffering.” –Jen Hatmaker

My Albany job search started with a whiteboard, a LinkedIn profile [still can’t talk about it] and one very large glass of Spanish white wine. My darkest days were spent perusing want ads on CraigsList, and channeling my inner Nancy Drew in an effort to determine if the alleged jobs I was looking at would result in actual employment, or me getting chopped up into a thousand tiny pieces and scattered about the woods.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. [But let’s be real: mostly the worst.]

As I considered what sort of thing I wanted to invest my life in, one of my favorite challenges from Paul David Tripp resounded over and over again in my heart:

“We are called to put flesh and bones on who Christ is, and what he came to do.” 

The common thread of Jesus’ miracles during his time on earth was that they were all restorative. Jesus walked into the midst of a really broken world, and it broke him. He looked at a world where people were hungry and sick—and it wasn’t at all what he’d intended. And so, Jesus began to restore pieces of the brokenness. Our compassionate God looked at hungry people, and fed them. He saw a lame man helplessly lying on a mat, and he told him to get up and walk. He walked by a blind man anxiously holding his hand out for a small coin, and healed his eyes. And as Jesus restored what had been broken, he put the gospel on brilliant, irrefutable display.

The idea of putting the gospel on display for the world’s most broken makes my heart beat faster. In places where poverty crushes and hunger gnaws, the idea of a good God can become muddied. It’s why I wrote this a couple of months ago:

“To whom much has been given, much is required. Those who are free must advocate for those who are not, or I fear that we will look nothing like the Jesus that we claim to follow. Those who have been given a voice must speak for those who have none, because freedom rings hollow when the bell tolls for a precious, privileged few. It is our solemn responsibility and sacred privilege to intercede for the broken, and to beg God to move for the orphan, the trafficked, the homeless, the hungry.  We must beg God for justice and then fight for it with our lives. Over the past several months, God has been breaking my heart with the idea that we do not get to call a world full of hurting people our “brothers and sisters” as long as we do nothing. Not when we’d never allow our biological brothers and sisters to go hungry…” –Let Freedom [Really] Ring

In a world where 1.3 billion people are desperately trying to survive on less than a dollar a day, it’s easy to see how so much of the brokenness that we see stems from the bitter roots of rampant poverty. If these are the people that break God’s heart, they must break ours as well.

Enter HOPE. HOPE is a Christian microfinance organization that goes into the world’s very hardest countries—places where generations of poverty have trapped families in a cycle that feels unbreakable—and they offer hard working people a chance to lift themselves out of poverty. Through loans as small as $100.00, people that want to work hard are given a chance to build a business that will allow them the dignity of  providing for themselves and their families. Check this out:

Yes. YES YES YES.

I am unspeakably thrilled  to share that starting October 1rst, I’m going to be joining HOPE as a regional representative in the New England area! Y’all, I get to spend my time telling stories like the one you just saw, and giving people in the US a chance to be a part of ending global poverty by investing in the dreams of the poor. Did you know you could get paid to be a storyteller? It was never a good thing when my Mama called me a storyteller when I was a little girl, and all I have to say now is THIS SURE SHOWS HER.

I’m deeply thankful for the chance to get to be a part of this. What a gracious gift!

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Filed under Hope, Microfinance, Poverty