One thing I learned to accept in Honduras was that I can’t make a dent in the poverty epidemic. Not in Honduras— not anywhere. I asked myself this question on many nights as I lay in bed with so many unprocessed sights and stories I couldn't shake.
Why even try to help if it doesn't really make a difference?
But then I realized that just helping one person— although no one will ever notify the UN or award me a nobel peace prize— that is the kind of difference I want to make.
One person at a time.
One heart broken heart. One need.
About 1 billion people live on less than one dollar a day and 2.6 billion (~ 40%) live on less than $2 per day. This compares to the average American that lives on more than $90 dollars per day.
I came back to the States and my compassion seemed to disappear replacing it was a great frustration with the American culture. Statistics like this left me sick to my stomach.
I have spent the past week writing post after post, but each one seemed more like a wandering rant than a humanitarian blog post.
I don't think I want the world to see my heart in those dark moments because it was neither poetic nor beautiful. I wasn't overflowing with hope or compassion. My heart was suffocated beneath frustration, and disgust that came out in the form of angry questions to God.
As I walk through the mall, I hear people talk about money and clothes. I watch commercials that tell me I need their perfume if I want to be attractive and I see signs that tell me I’ll find love in the form of a Fossil brand watch.
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I know there are incredible people in this country, doing serious work for the least of these, spreading the gospel and being real, raw and honest. I am not talking about those people.
But overall, America is a culture defined by the idea that success is reachable for anyone. Opportunity is everywhere, and it's a wonderful thing. Although there are poor in our cities, we are far from being defined as a culture thats laced in poverty. But this idea of success and the “American Dream” becomes more than an idea— it becomes the ultimate goal, it becomes the key to happiness.
I want to run through the malls screaming, “STOPP BUYING MORE THINGS.” I want to ask this culture as a whole, why they can’t understand that this is not the pathway to happiness.
In Honduras, I couldn't look at a mother of 8 who lives in a tiny house scrounging for food why she can’t just go get a job because she lives in poverty. That is what poverty is. Jobs aren't available, especially for someone of her low class.
Instead I would love her as she is. I would ask the Lord to deliver her, and I would take time to help her out of a love and compassion.
In the same way, I cant look at a woman in the mall with perfect nails and bags of designer clothes and tell her to just give it all away if she really wants to find happiness because she is in poverty too. And that is what spiritual poverty is— blindness to the truth and an emptiness, not of the stomach, but of the spirit.
The reality is, both of these women are impoverished— one physically and one spiritually.
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Coming back to the US from a mission trip or any amount of time in another country— especially a country with poverty and pain— is difficult. It’s hard to describe, but if you have been there, you know exactly what I am talking about.
The natural response is to transform into a cynic and a self appointed judge of the lifestyles of everyone else.
My first day back in the States, one look in my closet full of clothes filled me with disgust. It becomes even easier to find someone else that disgusts you just a little more.
But this is my challenge to you and to myself.
Instead of being overwhelmed at a materialistic culture— zero in on that one spiritually impoverished, searching soul. Lets lavish a little bit of that compassion and love on those impoverished of spirit, so that they in turn can go to comfort the impoverished as well.
Every human being is suffering from a poverty of spiritual intimacy, a poverty of being, a poverty of community, and a poverty of stewardship.” -Steve Corbett, When Helping Hurts
HE comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:4