Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Make Poverty Personal by Ash Barker

An overturned cup, an old weathered hand, and a concrete foundation are all you see on Christianity Today’s November cover; that, and big, bold letters that claim “Hunger Isn’t History”. It further states “The world produces more food than ever. So why do nearly a billion people still not have enough to eat?” It goes on to say “The food aid system is inefficient, untrustworthy, and costly. The aid does not reliably get to hungry people.” and “Adeyemo’s call for Western Christians is to not grow “weary” in developing new ways to respond, since food aid alone will never solve these problems.”

It wasn’t too long after reading this article that I stumbled across a blog entry addressing this very issue. The author is a reputable source as he spent time on the street homeless. He writes “Any time I was ever in desperate need of something physical in my life, there was a deeper need for something spiritual. Sometimes I didn't realize it at the time, and other times I did. The times when I did realize it, there wasn't much spiritual guidance to be found. It's pretty sad when you can wander the highway for weeks and weeks and have hundreds of thousands of people pass you by and look and stare….There are many people out there on the highways and byways that would give anything just to know that someone cared. They are out there because nobody cares any more. They have sunk so low that everyone has lost hope and faith in them. That is real despair. How hard would it be to walk over to someone, offer a hug, and say "I don't know what your situation is, or what your need is, but I want you to know that God loves you and I care about you too. Want to talk about it over lunch? This isn't about canned goods or food or a place to sleep, it's about showing some interest in someone and letting them know that someone cares. Sharing a McDonalds meal with them and talking with them and treating them like a human being for once.”

Amazing that Christianity Today and a blog entry underlined what Ash Barker has believed all along-that poverty is a spiritual issue as much as it is about meeting a physical need. In his book Make Poverty Personal (Taking the Poor as seriously as the Bible Does) Barker writes “There is something spiritual about poverty that can’t be sorted out only by cash, economics, medicines or government structures. Surely, despair is an integral part of poverty and the only lasting antidote to despair is the hope that the living Christ can bring.”

Spiritual conflicts are on both sides of the problem though. Christians have issues that hinder them into in-activity and acknowledging those hang-ups and then dealing with them is the only way to start getting involved. Barker uses Moses as a synopsis of how we dismiss our own calling through a series of excuses.

Barker gives an extensive amount of Biblical examples of how we should view poverty, even if viewing it is to our own detriment and makes us uncomfortable. He enlightens on Gods laws designed to prevent the oppressed from becoming the oppressors in Leviticus and Deuteronomy and then gives an overview of how the early church dealt intensively with the poor.

Several years ago, I founded a non-profit organization that assisted low and no income families by providing clothing, food, diapers and personal care products. Although a success because we helped almost a thousand within our first 2 years of operation, I was constantly at odds with myself and the issue of poverty. It didn’t seem as if giving those things was making a difference. It was helping today, but what about the long run? What was I doing to help these families get on their feet so they could graduate and not need our program anymore? That was the million dollar question with no answer until I read Make Poverty Personal. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have taken the time to get to know each and every person that walked through our door. I would have let my compassion allow me to be involved instead of falsely believing giving a days worth of anything was the right answer. I would have talked more freely about the hope we have in Jesus Christ. Psalms 23:1 states, The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need. (NCV) He can bring us to the place of taking care of our emotional and physical deficits.

Make Poverty Personal isn’t going to lay out 101 ways to make it personal. Instead, it ignites the fire to start. Just begin. It doesn’t matter where or what you do, just do something. “After all, when a reporter asked Mother Teresa how she managed to pick up 50,000 folks from the streets of Calcutta, she said, ‘I began with one.’ Here is your invitation to begin with one.”

208 pages
Baker Publishing
released February 2009