This post is an excerpt from my new e-book entitled The Unlikely Missionary: From Pew Warmer to Poverty Fighter. The book is the story of how an average, everyday Christian who was willing to be used by a big God discovered a passion and purpose that took him half-way around the world on a poverty-fighting mission trip. The book is also filled with practical ideas and activities that can help you discover the same kind of passion and purpose.
Several years ago, I was digging around for opportunities to be inspired by a topic and to share my writing with other like-minded bloggers when I stumbled on Blog Action Day (http://blogactionday.org). On October 15th of every year (since 2007) bloggers from around the world write about the same topic. Registered bloggers then have their contributions become a part of the massive collection of perspectives on a single issue.
It’s really pretty incredible… so many voices all singing the same song like a giant choir that’s determined to make sure the whole world feels the ripple.
I know that I felt it.
Blog Action Day 2008 was on the topic of poverty. Now that’s a topic that I knew that I wanted to write about!
After all, I’m a Christian, and Christians are supposed to care about poor people and stuff, right?
I’m pretty sure Jesus talked about that kind of stuff, and the more I dig into the Old Testament I see some references back there too. In fact, the Bible talks about poverty all over the place, so I figure I should probably be talking about it more.
I thought of that one verse at the beginning of a sermon where Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor…” Then I looked it up in Matthew 5:3. Oh snap, that’s referring to “the poor in spirit.”
Now I was on a mission. I stare at the screen of the computer that costs as much as some people make in an entire year and rub my eyes because I’m up way too late for me to be completely coherent at work the next day. But I had to get to the bottom of this issue.
Let’s see, there’s that story where Jesus tells about the poor widow and her two coins. (My handy dandy BibleGateway.com helped me find it in Mark 12 by searching for the word “widow”). But Jesus doesn’t say what we should do about poverty. He just talks about what the poor widow gave. Still, I’m on to something. God seems to look after those who have very little.
Hmm… what else? That’s right, Jesus told some rich guy to sell everything he had and give it to the poor, and then follow him (in Mark 10). I knew all about this one. Jesus is saying we shouldn’t be so connected to our self-made, earthly wealth. It’s the rich guy’s bad attitude more than hungry poor people. Right? Regardless, I think I’m getting on the right track. There’s definitely some stuff in the Bible about the poor, and it’s certainly clear that God cares about them, and not so much about the comforts we tend to cling to.
By this time, Blog Action Day was only a few days away. I wouldn’t have time to iron out an entire theology of poverty. That would have to wait. I had enough to know that poverty is important, so now I needed to figure out what Christians should be doing about it.
Except I didn’t know anyone personally who was doing anything about the problem.
I didn’t even know how widespread the problem is. So a little research was in order.
I did a little poking around, mostly by surfing the Internet on poorly designed webpages that seemed to have good information, but looked like they had been created by some kid in the 5th grade trying to earn extra credit. I’m floored by the numbers that I find. Did you know that half of the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 per day? UNICEF reports that 22,000 children die every day due to poverty. I was shocked by the news that one billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their name.
But the problems don’t stop with poor people. The rest of us are getting richer and fatter every day. Yeah, I said fatter. I get angry when I learn that the poorest 20% of the world accounts for 1.5% of total consumption, while the richest 20% accounts for over 76% of total consumption. Then I look around and see obesity becoming a bigger problem every day in the United States, not to mention my own ever-increasing waistline.
Yeah… theological reasons aside, a little bit of Google activity looking for poverty statistics reveals the world’s self-made epidemic.
Now what to do with my new found rage? Who’s fighting poverty? And more importantly, who in the church (if anyone) is fighting poverty? If the church should be leading the charge since God cared so much about it, right?
Of course, I run into some crackpot solutions that’ll never fly. One guy says that all of the world’s wealthiest people should develop a moral conscience and give everything they have too the poor. (Hey, that sounds like what Jesus challenged someone to do, and we know how that turned out). People simply won’t give everything away to the poor, and people who blame the wealthy for the problem never seem to recognize their own wealth. The wealthy people who should be doing taking on the issue of poverty always seem to be just a little wealthier than they are.
But I found people who were doing some interesting work…
For more of this story, you can check out TheUnlikelyMissionary.com or purchase it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and E-junkie.
Also, Blog Action Day this year is on Sunday, October 16th. It coincides with World Food Day, and therefore will focus on the topic of food. If you decide to participate, I’d love to see a link to your post and hear about your experience of writing on this topic. How can an event like this help you find passion and purpose for your faith?