Monday, September 9, 2013


Unless you're living in it, "poverty" probably isn't something you think about very often. Often we develop blinders so we don't have to see what's going on in the world, or even in our own neighborhoods. We trust others- the government, our churches, local charities- to take care of the problem. Maybe we help out a few times a year, by giving to a food pantry or donating school supplies. We scan news stories about poverty in America and in other countries with detachment, and walk away from this information without being changed, without a sense of urgency, without the desire to do something about it. I want that to change. So I'm going to tell you some things about poverty.

We have things pretty good here in the United States. Let me preface my statements by saying that I am in no way putting down the poor in the US. I just need you to know how things are out in the rest of the world. And I want to dispel the idea that we should take care of things at home before helping others in other countries. We should be doing both.

Poverty in the United States means a lot of things. Sometimes it means living in government housing, or adult children moving back home with their parents. In Honduras, poverty means living in a one room "house" made out of cinderblocks and a tarp. In America, poverty sometimes means sending your kids to a school that's not so great. Overcrowded public schools with less-than-great teachers are common. In Uganda, poverty means telling your fourth grade daughter that she can no longer go to school because she has to stay home and work to help support her family. In America, sometimes poverty means kids getting a free or reduced lunch at school. If they're lucky, they go to a school that also offers breakfast. In some parts of Africa and central America, poverty means eating dirt to help stave off hunger. Dirt. Dirt mixed with a little oil and baked into cakes. In America, poverty sometimes means receiving government assistance to help take care of your kids. In Haiti, poverty means moms and dads making the devastating decision to give up their children and have them placed for adoption because they are too poor to care for them. In America, poverty sometimes means having a minimum wage job where you can't get ahead. Sometimes it means unemployment checks. In India, poverty means growing up in a brothel because your mom is forced to prostitute herself in order to make any money at all.

How did the world get this way? There are a lot of reasons. Part of it has to do with the decisions others make. Part of it has to do with governments and the way things are run. Part of it has to do with population growth- sometimes economies simply can't keep up with the number of people living in an area, such as in Kenya's case. And where there's poverty, there is sickness, desperation, and violence. Part of it has to do with cultural ideas. Part of it has to do with health and wellness. Actually, those issues go hand in hand. If you don't have any money, maybe you don't have access to clean water. Then you'll have to deal with the illnesses that come from dirty water. And poverty means not being able to afford the disturbingly inexpensive medications to treat these diseases.

But "poverty" doesn't mean "inescapable", or "unavoidable", or "hopeless." We can change the world, and we don't have to be billionaires or politicians to do it. We mustn't give up. There are so many ways, little ways that have big impact, that we can shake things up. I think the first way is to stop desensitizing ourselves to what's going on in the world. If you see an article or hear a news story about poverty, pay attention. We aren't going to change- or want to change- if we don't open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts. The next step is to change the way we use our own money. We need to stop giving money to companies that take advantage of their employees by paying them unfair wages and keeping them in unsafe conditions. We should also start supporting companies that do more to lift people out of poverty, like the ApParent Project or FreeSet. Christmas is coming up in a few months. This is an excellent time to use your purchasing power for good, help others, and spread the word about organizations like these. A cute headband can provide three meals for a child in Uganda. A bracelet can provide income for a mom who just wants to keep her kids. A beautiful tote can mean a paycheck for a woman rescued from forced prostitution.

One of the most personally fulfilling ways to change the world is through child sponsorship. With sponsorship, you know the name of the life that is being changed. You have a relationship with the human being behind that name. Your words provide encouragement, love, and a sense of value. Your financial commitment makes it possible for kids to get more education, have access to healthcare, learn how to take care of themselves, develop skills and trades, and so much more. And it's not just the kids who are changed. Their families benefit, too. And when the kids get older, they take the skills they learned and the hope they gained and they have a real fighting chance of breaking the cycle of poverty. Then their kids, and grandkids, and great-grandkids benefit. And the world is changed. Don't believe me? Check out this independent study by a guy with way more education and credentials than I have. It works. It really does. And you can be a part of it. What's holding you back? If you're concerned about a long-term financial commitment, choose an older child who doesn't have much time left in the program- send them off into the world with a strong footing. Don't really want to write letters? Ask Compassion to find a correspondence sponsor for your child. Don't think you have enough money to sponsor? Take a look at your finances- a good hard look- and think about the ways you spend your money. My husband and I are saddled with a disturbing amount of student loan debt, medical bills, and a mortgage. I only work part-time and Brandon works his butt off to make what he does. We are not rich by any American standards. But we've made this part of our lives a priority, and we financially sponsor two kids. Hopefully as we pay off our loans and ditch the medical bills we will be able to take on more sponsorships. For almost all of us, finding $38 in our budgets is not as big of a struggle as we first think. $38 is a trip to the movie theater for a family of four- with one small popcorn to share. It's six drinks at Starbucks. It's that purse you saw on sale that you just had to have. It's a season of a TV show on DVD. It's date night at Olive Garden. It's doable. And it's world-changing.

These kids are waiting for sponsors. They all have special needs- a physical or developmental challenge. Will you be the one to change their world?

Sakinatou is 7 years old. She lives in Burkina Faso. She is visually impaired. 

Baraka is 10 years old. He lives in Tanzania. He is crippled in one hand. 

Karen is 10 years old. She lives in Honduras. She is deaf in one ear. 

Pranto is 11 years old. He lives in Bangladesh. He is crippled in both legs. 

Mary Grace is 17 years old. She lives in the Philippines. She has impaired speech. 


  1. What a great reminder that God has not called us to sit by and watch quietly or to assume that others have helping others under control. I also enjoyed all the ways that you shared that we can reach out! Thanks for the post!

  2. I love this and I love your comittment to be the change you want to see. I can just see your expanded sponsor family in a few years....when we paid off our student loans one of the first things we did was sponsor some children - equal to the amount of the loan payment. Because we'd gotten so used to it and knew we didn't need that money for ourselves.


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