“But now as for what is inside of you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.” Luke 11:41
I have never been poor. Sometimes I have felt poor, but I haven’t a clue what really being poor is like. For me,life growing up was spent in middle-class, white, suburbia America. I still live comfortably and am never in want. My stomach has never ever missed a meal. My closet and drawers are overflowing with clean laundry. I’m able to watch TV when I want, have access to the internet, pay for a gym membership, take my kids to fun and exciting places, and do most of the things I want to do just because.
I have no clue what poor is.
I’ve spent about a week in Quito, Ecuador now. What an amazing and beautiful place. The people are so sweet and kind. Quito is an amazingly large city, squeezed in between mountains, with buildings on top of buildings. It is said that there are over 2 million people here, but it seems like there are so many more than that. My time here has been spent with a team of 14 other people from my church and we have worked alongside a ministry called Pan de Vida. The organization seeks to help those in extreme poverty (around $4000 ANNUAL income!) to be able to create a healthy, sustainable life for themselves. The biggest part of what they do is feed the hungry. Then they look to improve the homes of the beneficiaries who get into the program. After that they teach the people (mostly women) a skill that will help them earn an income. All of this is wrapped with the message of Christ.
Our team put on a three-day, taekwondo and Bible camp and each day began with a healthy, home-cooked meal for the kids. I can tell you that I have never seen a small child eat so much food in one sitting. Most would get seconds of the hearty meal that was prepared for them and probably would eat more if it wouldn’t make them sick. The hardest part of that to accept is that these kids, many who took a bus for an hour and a half just to be there, will normally have only three meals a week.
How are your first-world problems?
We also visited the homes of people involved with the mission. Frankly, it was very hard to see how they lived. A dank and smelly 12×12 room for a mom and her 2 kids (the husband died in an accident a year ago) doesn’t seem like enough. The family typically eats about 3 meals a week. The mom has a hard time working because she has to take her one-year-old with her and the bus fare gets expensive when you only make about $20 a month. When she is able to get out, she collects plastic bottles and cardboard to sell for recycling, which doesn’t pay much. What’s mind blowing is that there are those worse off than her. The hardest part of all this is knowing I can’t help them all.
But revolutions only need to start with one.
Oscar Aguirre, the founder of Pan de Vida, started with just one. One child that he was inspired by God to make a difference with. One has now grown to 900+ people being given a bit of hope in this life that someone loves them and cares about the struggle they are in. That someone’s name is Jesus. If you take the opportunity to serve those in economic crisis, you’d understand Jesus’ words when he said, “be generous to the poor.” There is a cleansing of the soul that happens and it is holy. Idols fall. Money’s value changes. The effort you give is greater and surprisingly pure. (At least that’s always been the way it has gone for me.) And I must confess that I don’t put myself in these situations enough. Ecuador is a far off land that has reminded me of such things, but (Lord help me remember) I can certainly make a bigger impact over time at home. Thank you Ecuador and Pan de Vida for reminding me and teaching me what Jesus taught so long ago. Let’s all start a revolution with one.