I need it

August 10, 2009

This weekend has been very humbling.

On Friday Ben was reading through a chapter of John Ortberg’s book, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted,” and he shared a few thoughts from the book with me.  The chapter was about recognizing and celebrating our smallness.

From our conversation I have a better understanding of why we did this challenge.  We did not do this challenge because poor people need our money, or because other people need this challenge.  We did the challenge because we need it.  I need it.  I need to have my eyes opened, to have my heart humbled and broken, to be in a place where God can work on me.

The truth is, God doesn’t need our money, our prayers, or our devotion.  He doesn’t need us at all.  But we need Him.  And He knows that.  We pray, not because God needs our prayers before He can work (after all, Jesus said even “the rocks will cry out” if people don’t praise Him), but because we need to focus our hearts on God and abide in Him before we can hear and respond to His voice.  Because we need to know God hears and responds, not due to our own worthiness, but due to His very nature of love, mercy, and grace.

And here’s another truth.  People in poverty don’t need our money to be happy.  Most of them are, shockingly, happier than the average millionaire.  God can work miracles in their lives whether we are part of them or not. But we need to give to the poor, and we need to love the broken and outcast.  Otherwise our hearts will shrivel and our faith will wither.  Our selfishness and greed will overcome us and choke out any capacity for love.  We will miss out on what God is doing.  We will not be able to call ourselves His followers or even have a basic understanding of what that means.

I am just starting to get this.  I am nothing — worse than nothing — apart from God.  On my own, I cannot supply anyone’s needs, or give anything of value.  But God leads me through the challenges I need in order to make my heart receptive to Him.  Then, when He works, He calls us to have the privilege of being part of it.

Lord, lead us on.  Humble our hearts so we can respond to Your voice.


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

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.  🙂


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…