“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” – Mother Teresa
Most frequently, poverty is defined in either relative or absolute terms. Absolute poverty measures poverty in relation to the amount of money necessary to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. Many of us have seen that type of poverty in our own cities or maybe in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. People who live in a tin-roof shanty or don’t even have a rooftop to protect them from the elements.
As Mother Teresa wisely said, there are other ways of defining poverty, and to me, those are the saddest – being unloved, suffering from broken relationships, and simply being poor in spirit.
Self-sacrifice for the benefit of others is one of the cornerstones of Christian faith. As Christians, we are called to care for the widows and orphans, and to keep ourselves unstained from the world (James 1:27). The U.S. government defines poverty based on annual household income and takes into account the household size. According to data from the Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014 Report, the poverty rate in the United States was 14.8 percent, which means 46.7 million people were living in poverty. We are eradicating poverty at faster rates than economists projected we would be, but even still, there is much to do!
“Self-sacrifice for the benefit of others is one of the cornerstones of Christian faith”
As we seek to assist the vulnerable and marginalized around us, we should have a clear understanding of how to help. We do not want to harm others in the process of helping. It is important to remember that we are all created uniquely and wonderfully – with individual strengths and skills. As we reach out, the desire of our hearts should be to empower others so they maintain their sense of dignity and grace. We do not want to inflict further pain.
Caring for the poor is also more than giving money and fixing people. Rather, at the core of poverty alleviation is building relationships. Jesus loved and cared for the poor, and we should demonstrate His great example. When there is a need, we should help, but we need to look at the big picture and how to train, equip, and empower those we are serving so they have a self-sustainable skill. Otherwise, it becomes an endless cycle.
“At the core of poverty alleviation is building relationships”
Often, when we look at the needs of the world or our city, it can be overwhelming, but if we look at one person or one area at a time, we can make a difference. Many times, reconciling broken relationships, or just giving others the “gift of time,” is a way to glorify our Father and become the church. Starting with your own neighborhood, you can be a catalyst of change by creating a community garden where neighbors share produce and friendships are deepened in the process of sharing the harvest. Bible studies can be formed to help build family values and create community. New families can be welcomed and connected to churches, schools, and community services. To be involved means you have to be willing to sacrifice your time and energy.
“If we look at one person or one area at a time, we can make a difference”
As Christians, we need to take up the call and lead like Jesus. In doing so, we can help transform lives! Let’s leave a legacy of faithfulness and a wake of nurtured and loved people who will love like Jesus!
Pat is a native of Rockville, Maryland, and provides leadership at CIY in her role as an Engage program director. Her primary focus is on initiatives for international trips, which includes research, set-up and logistics for travel to such locations as Cambodia, Romania and Haiti, among others. Pat attended the University of Maryland and Missouri Southern State University. Since an awareness trip to Cambodia in 2007, Pat’s heart has been drawn to the issue of humantrafficking and the fight to end modern-day slavery.
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