Day 4: clarity

April 15, 2010

Today was really good. We were encouraged by some friends, and had great times of prayer and worship.  God is good!

The food wasn’t an issue today, and we felt very refreshed overall.  What a beautiful day outside, too.  🙂

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quick note

August 1, 2009

So I realized from some feedback that the song is a little unclear… it’s about an impoverished child and my own struggles with my response and the response of the church in North America (to generalize).

For those of you who are interested in doing the challenge with us, we’re planning to do it again the week before Canadian Thanksgiving.  I’m also hoping to put together some kind of event on the Saturday (2nd last day) for people to participate in.  I’ll keep you posted!

“…let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”  – Amos 5:24

“Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.”  – Proverbs 21:13

I’d like to share the words for a song I’m in the process of writing.  It’s still quite a work in progress (and it looks a bit funny here on paper without the music), but it’s the best way I can capture what I’m feeling about this whole journey.

For those of you who are non-Christians: “the body of Christ” is a phrase commonly used to describe the church, in part because our calling is to reach out to broken and hurting people in the same way Jesus did — and thus be His hands and feet.

HIDE AND SEEK

(by Vanessa Dyck)

How do I fit you in
To my world of business suits and office chairs
To my two-storey house on a cul-de-sac
And my idea of what is fair
You live so far away
From my chocolate cakes and coffee breaks
But I think of you when my stomach aches
Of your dark eyes and the storms inside
And your tiny hopeful face

And I’m hiding, cause I’m troubled by what I see
But I’m seeking, cause it doesn’t make sense to me

How could we be the body of Christ
And not answer
The cries of a world that’s pleading
for the hope that we can give

How could we be the body of Christ
And not rescue
The widows and the orphans
With the abundance we’ve received

When will we be the body of Christ?

Let’s play hide-and-seek
I’ll hide you in the TV screen and flip the channels aimlessly
Or take a different road when you’re bleeding in the ditch
Sometimes I hear a preacher speak
About your needs and how you’re unreached
But I don’t know what to do
Cause there’s so much stuff I’ve got to lose
And this Good News I have makes me nervous too

So I’m hiding, cause I’m troubled by what I see
But I’m seeking, cause it doesn’t make sense to me

And I wonder will God forgive us for our closets full of clothes
For our overpriced expansion plans and the starving nation’s bones
Will we pray He looks the other way while we build our fancy homes

Or will we be the body of Christ
And answer
The cries of this generation
With the hope that Jesus gives

When will we be the body of Christ
And let go of
Our money and possessions
To find the life we’re made to live

When will we be the body of Christ?

Last night we watched the movie Faith like Potatoes. It’s based on a true story about a Scottish farmer in South Africa (Angus Buchan) who has what most of us would consider ridiculous faith in God. But the problem isn’t with him; it’s with us!

He prays for things and they happen — not because he’s anything great, but because he simply asks God and trusts in Him.  That humble yet courageous faith inspires me.  I think we would see a lot more miracles in our lives if we had two things: true faith in God and true dependence on Him. I’m not saying suffering and difficulties wouldn’t happen — but when they did come, we would see them much differently.

I find it so amazing that God listens to us.  And all we need is “a broken and contrite heart.” Humility. No wonder God loves the poor and the outcasts so much.

Then what?

July 26, 2009

So what happens when these 7 days are done?

Stay tuned on our blog for updates about the challenge, as well as advice, resources, and recipes that can help you if you are interested in joining us.

Eating rice, lentils, oats, and carrots for a week really isn’t that difficult.  Yeah, there are challenging times, but the experience is well worth it.  Worth every dollar. (ha)

Seriously, if you’re at all interested in doing this, let me encourage you to go for it.

Here are a couple simple tips to get you started:

– we realized a few days in that we could have bought less rice and spent the money on other food.  Tomato sauce, salt, and garlic would have been very helpful.  Chicken boullion would have been nice too.  We found that a cup of rice each was enough for lunch and dinner for a day (more than enough for me, but not quite enough for Ben, so it balanced out), and oats in the morning was really cost effective.

– lentils are a GREAT idea.  They are an easy source of protein, and if you’re trying to get a sense of what people eat overseas, lentils or other beans/legumes are often a staple.

– soup is also a great idea.  Some friends of ours recently sent aid packages overseas, and they said each package was a soup mix that included rice, lentils, a teaspoon of dried vegetables, and a teaspoon of chicken boullion.

– the bulk section at the grocery store may become your close friend.

– when rice and lentils start to get a little boring, try boiling about half a cup of dry lentils with lots of water and about 4 chopped carrots.  Then puree the soup mixture, add a tiny bit of salt, and pour the mixture over rice.  On about Day 5, this tastes AMAZING.  Special thanks to Erin for telling me the idea!  We appreciated that a lot.  🙂

– we chose dried foods that don’t need to be refrigerated because we wanted the experience to be as close to people’s experiences overseas as possible.  If you would prefer to choose other foods, though, that’s totally up to you.  A dollar a day will probably get you a lot further than you expect, as long as you use your creativity!

Cheap-yet-satisfying foods:

most of these are pretty obvious, but we wish we had thought of some of them at the time…

– canned tuna or other canned fish

– dried beans and lentils

– pasta, oatmeal, and rice (any food that expands in water is a very exciting concept when you’re living on a small budget)

– tomato sauce/paste/etc.

– garlic

– carrots

– bread

– refried beans and tortillas

DAY 6

July 26, 2009

Almost done! One more day to go…

But this is only the beginning — I can’t go back to my old way of life now and forget what I’ve learned and experienced.  Ben and I are talking about different ideas for how we can live out these lessons in the future.

Still, I am looking forward to eating chicken and fruit and cheese and yogourt again.  🙂

Yesterday (Day 5) was the easiest day so far.  It’s amazing how our bodies adjust.  The hunger pains have subsided quite a bit from what they were in the first few days.  God is giving me strength, and He helped me to get a lot done at work yesterday, which I was really praying about.

The one thing is that I’m feeling a tad moody.  I think that’s the most difficult part right now.  I had a bit of an emotional incident today (should I admit that?).  But God always gives us encouragement right when we need it.  One of our friends who just came back from Swaziland was telling us about his trip and meeting the awesome people there, and how his heart and perspective has been changed by them.  He said impossibilities don’t matter; people pray instead of worry, and God does miracles in their midst.  He also said the orphans there are an inspiration to him.  They are thankful for even one meal a day.

Wow.

Lord, thank You for all that You have given us.  And thank You even more that joy, peace, love and laughter don’t depend on our bank accounts or the food we eat.  Thank You that You have placed beauty and wonder all around us if our eyes are open to see it.

DAY 3

July 22, 2009

Wow, I’m so thankful for the variety of foods we can enjoy in North America.  It has only been 3 days and already I’m realizing how much of a wimp I am!  This is definitely getting challenging for me.

That said, I’m learning a lot.  When food isn’t such a big part of my life, I find it much easier to call out to God and rely on Him for strength.

I’ll write more later — I have to go to bed.  We’re getting tired earlier now.

DAY 2

July 21, 2009

The further in I get with this, the more I realize how little I understand about poverty.  Even though I’m eating small rations of rice, oatmeal, and lentils, I still have access to clean water 24/7 (and I’m drinking a LOT of it, by the way!), I still have a safe place to live, a nice bed, a great job, an education, and an “end” of hunger in sight.

Yesterday was really tough sometimes.  It was quite different eating for survival rather than for enjoyment and flavor.  I’m also getting used to the constant feeling of hunger.  Even when we eat, we don’t have enough food.  That’s a foreign feeling to me.

Today I feel like I’m settling into more of a routine.  I’m eating lunch right now, and rice and lentils have never tasted so good!

On Sunday afternoon Ben and I started the challenge.  We went to the grocery store with $14 cash ($7 each) and walked straight for the bulk section.  We got some oatmeal, rice, lentils, and a small bag of carrots.  I’m normally a fairly careful shopper; I like to compare prices and look for deals.  But it felt different knowing that we didn’t have enough money to buy the amount of food we would normally eat.  So we had to make much more careful decisions. Should we get carrots or tomatoes as our one vegetable?  Even getting carrots meant that we couldn’t get as much rice, which might be more filling.  It sounds really shallow writing about this experience, but I learned a lot from it.

Mostly this is showing me that poverty happens to people just like me.  Their stomachs hurt just like mine does (and actually much worse than mine does).  They get thirsty just like I do.  They would probably enjoy ice-cream just as much as I do; in fact, they would probably even appreciate it much more.

Being in this situation actually makes me want to give more.  I keep thinking, why am I buying all this extra stuff when people are feeling hungry and malnourished every day?  Why am I concerned about being malnourished for a week, but not concerned that they have been malnourished their whole lives?  I’m seeing my own selfishness a LOT more clearly.

At the same time, I also feel God’s presence with increased intensity throughout the day.  It’s amazing.  This morning when Ben and I woke up, we both felt really lethargic and hungry.  But there was a lot less distraction clouding our prayer time.  We felt more desperate for God, and when we cried out to Him for strength, we were overwhelmed with the joy that filled our hearts.  Now I understand why people go on long fasts.

Isaiah 58

Before I read Yohannan’s book, I had a much different view of this question.  I had thought it was arrogant to offer people the hope of Jesus when they were starving and in poverty.  I had thought poverty was primarily a physical need, not a spiritual one.

But Yohannan, who himself grew up in poverty, doesn’t respond the way I’d expected.  Moreover, what he says is so convincing, it changed my set-in-stone opinion.  I’d encourage you to read his book for an in-depth response — you can order a free copy of it from Gospel for Asia’s website: http://www.gfa.org.

By the way, I’d just like to note that I’m not affiliated with GFA; I’ve just been inspired by their ministry and I’d like to encourage you to check it out.

As Yohannan emphasizes, poverty is a spiritual problem.  He has a chapter called “The Real Culprit: Spiritual Darkness.”  Perhaps from an outsider’s view, or a non-Christian viewpoint, this statement seems quite bold.  But he has evidence to back it up.  My own scepticism at first revealed to me that many of us in the Western World are ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, because we ourselves have not understood it.  We are afraid of the words “demonic oppression” and we make light of spiritual warfare and witchcraft.  Yes, those words have been abused in some circles and manipulated and contorted by the media — but you can’t read through any of the 4 Gospels without encountering numerous references to them.  Spiritual darkness runs rampant in our nation, too — and, dare I say it, in our churches.  Our own spiritual darkness comes in the form of selfishness, greed, materialism, and pride.  Maybe that’s why two thirds of the world is starving while we’re buying more stuff.

I also think Yohannan is saying is that it’s time for us to recognize that food and money alone cannot break poverty on a national level.  We have to share the hope and freedom that Jesus brings first, because it is of eternal value.  Then we need to give food and clothing and aid, because it is of value here on earth.  He shares stories of people who have received physical healing from the name of Jesus.  And he shares many stories of a vibrant, active, praying and persecuted church like the one in Acts, where miracles happen daily.

That’s where the rest of GFA’s mission comes in.  They send out missionaries who are native to the area, who live on $1 a day, to reach people in the 10/40 window who have never heard about Jesus.  All of the money designated towards those missionaries goes straight to them, and they are able to communicate with villagers in their own language, through their own culture.  They also face intense obstacles and persecution, and do not raise their standard of living after receiving support through GFA.

I have to go to bed, but here are some statistics for those of you who are numerically inclined:

4,845 of the world’s 6,912 languages are still without a single portion of the Bible.
In India, 40,000 people die every day without hearing the gospel even once.
Only 0.1% of all christian radio and tv programming is directed toward the unevangelized world.
More than 2 billion people have never heard the gospel or had access to it.

That’s why this dollar a day challenge is supporting GFA — because they are reaching the most unreached through the native missionary movement.  GFA has “more than 16,500 national missionaries in the heart of the 10/40 window, operates 54 Bible colleges in several nations, and heads up a church-planting movement that has planted more than 29,000 congregations.”

Peace out.  🙂

DAY 1

July 20, 2009

So here we are on day 1 of our first “one dollar a day” week. Many of you are probably wondering what I mean by that.  It’s a long story, but I’ll try to explain.

The challenge is to live on a dollar a day for one week, and give the rest of the money that we earn this week to support Gospel for Asia. Obviously we still have to pay our phone bill, rent, and car insurance, so we’re going to take those expenses from the other weeks of our monthly income.  (I’m not sharing this with you to make us sound good, so please don’t take it that way. We have a LONG way to go, and we have nothing to boast about.) Normally I would not talk about this with others, because I think giving is a private matter, but my hope in sharing this with you is that you will be inspired by the need, take the challenge yourself, and encourage all of your friends to do the same. I hear many people talking about the situation overseas and not knowing how to respond. Here’s one way you can respond. This is not the “solution” to the problem, but it is a tangible first step.

How did the idea start? Last month I was reading a book called Revolution in World Missions, by K.P. Yohannan, and it opened my eyes to how extreme the poverty gap is in the world — on so many levels.  Actually, it broke my heart.

I am a Christian; I believe Jesus Christ is Lord, and I have seen Him do amazing things in my life and the lives of others around me.  He is so real, and I see that more and more everyday.  Yet I’m realizing that when I say, “I surrender all,” or “I will follow You,” or “I love you Lord,” I really have no idea what I am talking about.

We live in a country where we (the so-called “average” or “middle class” people) gorge ourselves on food, entertainment, and resources.  That is our norm.  For the most part, we are well fed, well clothed, well educated, well entertained, well informed, well housed, well medicated, well insured, well transported, well employed, well paid, well guarded, well furnished, well accessorized, and, well, incredibly ungrateful.  It’s a bad day if we have to wait 20 minutes in a grocery store line, or if the barista at the coffee shop is out of our favorite kind of syrup.  And we think we’re pretty generous people if we give a homeless person five bucks as we walk past or have some friends over for dinner.

But we are so blind to the deep pain of the world around us, as K.P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia points out.  He writes that two thirds of the world’s population lives on less than $1 a day. In his book, Yohannan quotes economist Robert Heilbroner’s description of what that looks like:

“We begin by invading the house of our imaginary American family to strip it of its furniture. Everything goes: beds, chairs, tables, television sets, lamps. We will leave the family with a few old blankets, a kitchen table, a wooden chair. Along with the bureaus go the clothes. Each member of the family may keep in his wardrobe his oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. We will permit a pair of shoes for the head of the family, but none for the wife or children.

“We move to the kitchen. The appliances have already been taken out, so we turn to the cupboards. . . . The box of matches may stay, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt. A few moldy potatoes, already in the garbage can, must be rescued, for they will provide much of tonight’s meal. We will leave a handful of onions and a dish of dried beans. All the rest we take away: the meat, the fresh vegetables, the canned goods, the crackers, the candy.

“Now we have stripped the house: the bathroom has been dismantled, the running water shut off, the electric wires taken out. Next we take away the house. The family can move to the tool shed. . . . Communications must go next. No more newspapers, magazines, books — not that they are missed, since we must take away our family’s literacy as well. Instead, in our shantytown we will allow one radio. . .

“Now government services must go next. No more postmen, no more firemen. There is a school, but it is three miles away and consists of two classrooms. . . . There are, of course, no hospitals or doctors nearby. The nearest clinic is ten miles away and is tended by a midwife. It can be reached by bicycle, provided the family has a bicycle, which is unlikely. . . .

“Finally, money. We will allow our family a cash hoard of five dollars. This will prevent our breadwinner from experiencing the tragedy of an Iranian peasant who went blind because he could not raise the $3.94 which he mistakenly thought he needed to receive admission to a hospital where he could have been cured.”  (Revolution in World Missions, p. 40)

This kind of situation is completely unfathomable to me.  Yes, I have seen poverty. For a week or two I’ve even had the opportunity to live among people who are poor. But I’ve never lived in poverty day in and day out, with no end in sight, and no fallback plan.

So after reading this, I felt almost paralyzed. How do we even start to respond? If you’re interested, keep reading…