Embracing global poverty

Published 10:34 pm Friday, September 19, 2014

By Chris Surber

You can’t fix poverty. I can’t fix poverty. The desperate poverty that nearly two thirds of the world lives in has been created by complexities even the smartest economists and sociologists can barely begin to fathom.

For those who care about global poverty, we need a perspective that goes beyond the fantasy of quick fix.


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World Vision’s Richard Sterns said recently, “Eighth-grade youth groups cannot fix poverty.” His point wasn’t to minimize the value of youth trips. His point seems to be that we need a more robust perspective on global poverty than to assume that a middle school mission trip from a local church to Uganda is going to solve the HIV epidemic or lead a continent to Christ in a week of passing out Gospel tracts.

We need to go a lot deeper in order to avoid two extremes. There are those delusional people who think they can solve the world’s problems. There are others filled with despair because they know they cannot. Very often the people filled with despair started out filled with delusions.

We don’t need a balanced approach. The world needs radicals. We don’t need to meet in the middle. The world is already filled with a surplus of reluctant compromise.

We need to embrace poverty. We need to accept that it has been and always will be a part of the human dynamic in this world. But acceptance doesn’t imply acquiescence.

We need to embrace poverty while doing what we can to lift others into a place of dignity. “Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.” (Deuteronomy 15:10 NLT)

An eighth-grade youth group can do that. In fact, every eighth-grader in America needs to do that before they become jaded like so many of their parents, who are often buttressing the walls of their own magic kingdom, while ignoring their global citizenship and the plight of impoverished children all over the globe.

Young people need to know there is a human exactly like them living on a dusty hill in a poverty-stricken land who has something to teach them about the common human experience simply by being a friend.

That is what moves us out of the paradigm of delusion and despair — acceptance without acquiescence. Extreme poverty exists and isn’t going away. I can’t fix it all, but I should care and do something to help.

Most of us live in a fantasy land where we pretend there are not millions of children going to bed hungry tonight around the world. We convince ourselves that we can do nothing, because if we believed we could do something, then we couldn’t sleep at night.

The cure for both of these extremes is to accept poverty. It exists. And then ask God how you can help, seek out a way to help, and then act. You can’t fix poverty. I can’t fix poverty. But together we can embrace one suffering child and make a difference in his life.

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at www.chrissurber.com.