Oct 4, 2009

Poverty...it hits close to home.

~ Do not waste your time on Social Questions. What is the matter with the poor is Poverty; what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness. ~ George Bernard Shaw
This is Tom. He is the child we support through WorldHelp. He lives in Uganda. He was one of hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled from villages to refugee camps. In the camps there is little water and no toilets or sanitation. Twenty thousand children have been abducted to be child soldiers in the Lord's Resistance Army. Many others are exploited and subjected to abuse while in the camps. He lives there because his father was killed in an ambush. His mother fled their village with her four children. Because he and his siblings are sponsored, they go to school and have been able to move out of the camp this year.

Why do I write about Tom? Today at church they asked what was it that our heart was broken over. What burdens has God placed on your heart, and then, what are you doing about it?

Usually, my blog is about pretty things. Pretty pictures, my smiling children, craft projects, and little musings. And while I will probably go back to writing those pretty things tomorrow, today's post is not so pretty. However, I cannot turn a blind eye to stark reality. So I write about Tom. I write about what ten percent of my shop proceeds go to, and I write about my city, Fresno.

Have you heard of Blood:Water Mission? They are commited to clean blood and water in Africa. Combatting the HIV pandemic often begins with clean water. I send ten percent of my shop proceeds to them. One dollar gives one African clean water for a year. In seven years, 617 wells have been dug in 11 countries, and clean water has been delivered along with hygiene and sanitation training to 460,000 Africans. Such wonderful dedication makes me want to be a small part of making it happen.
My heart is broken over poverty. But mostly the way it affects families, and especially children who will grow up to repeat the cycle should nothing be done.

We heard some startling statistics today about our city, Fresno. While I live in affluent sunny California, and am solidly middle class with some leisure money to spare, I live in one of the most poverty striken cities. And the "ghetto" area street line is only a few blocks from my house. Let me give you some statistics (I know. I google searched it for myself). In my city, we are #4 in the top ten cities in the United States for total poverty according to the US census bureau. Number 1 for concentrated poverty. Poverty in a concentrated area. Which makes sense because we are actually OVER the national average for those who have a college education. You know what that tells me and what I clearly see around me everyday? There is a great dividing line between those who have and have not in Fresno. There is a stark difference between the affluent streets, and the poorest streets.

So what have I done about it? Not enough I am afraid. Last week I was startled to have a CHILD come up to me at the McDonald's near my house and ask for money for food. I watched him stand near the counter for a long time just watching the people order. He didn't make eye contact with anyone. He chose to approach me. After chatting with him (he was reluctant) I found out he was in 6th grade, lived in the apartments behind the shopping center, his 8th grade brother was watching him, and they didn't have food. I fed him. I was rewarded with a bright smile from both brothers as I left.

Poverty also affects the elderly. They're forgotten. These are patients at a convalescent home just five minutes from my house. Nobody visits.
I have to chuckle everytime I see this photo of Albert. I LOVE the whip cream on the oxygen tubeI often visit a local convalescent home. It was in bad need of paint, landscaping, and love. The patients needed visits. There was not enough money coming in from the state and the home was barely getting by. Our church has painted it inside and out, and landscaped the yard. I visit once a month with my children to do an activity and I also make birthday visits. It still seems so little. Some of the patients don't talk. Many are incoherent. Some love to talk. Some love to hold the children and take them down the halls in their wheelchairs. Some eat the paint on craft day. It's always an interesting experience when I visit. Two friends now go with me and help love on them. It's tempting to think, "what difference does it make?" Do they even remember me? That one just stared at the wall or yelled the whole time. But no one else is visiting them. The staff is dedicated, but I think we bring a lift to them as well. And some patients become favorites and their bodies house the most beautiful souls I have every met. So sweet and endearing. I believe personally, that no one outside the home will ever care whether we are there or not. It's not a very "grand" or "flashy" ministry that's for sure. It feels like it's a very small thing. But I love doing it. I believe loving them is loving "the least of these" that Jesus talked about. They are the forgotten...affected by poverty.

So that's what little I am doing. What are you doing? Let me know. I love to know how others have been burdened with a problem that grieves the heart of God and then DO something about it. I hope what I write encourages you, and that what YOU do encourage others also.

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