Poverty Is a Spiritual Issue
In Motion Ministries partners with Convoy of Hope, leading some of their Field Teams on the short-term mission field. I had the privilege of traveling with Convoy of Hope to an island in the Philippines with a mission team who visited a community that resides in the city dump. It was there I first heard the statement: Poverty is a spiritual issue.
As we share the gospel while meeting the physical needs of poverty-stricken people, we are truly the hands and feet of Jesus.
The poverty of soul is so much greater in people than the unbelievable living conditions in which we find them.
When someone hears how much they are loved by an all-knowing God, that they have incredible value in His eyes (as well as in the eyes of the one showing them that love), it changes their whole life; giving them hope and healing. This begins to alleviate the poverty we find in the physical realm, because a person who starts to live as a New Creation in Jesus has a reason to get up in the morning, to provide for their family, to live! This hope and new life begins to affect every area of their life, spreading to others, and has a deep impact on a community.
Here is an excerpt from my Philippine journal:
“As our team walks down the pathway through the shacks built on the dump, we see abject poverty. This is worse than I have seen before. There are 4 levels of poverty here:
- The wealthiest: the trash truck drivers. They go through the trash, retrieving anything of value.
- The pickers: they pick out what the drivers left behind – plastic bottles, glass, anything recyclable.
- The Bulldozer drivers: They point out to the pickers what they see as they push the trash in to piles, and the pickers hand it over to them. 23,000 tons of trash arrives at the dump daily.
- The men, women, and children who go through the rest of the trash that the other three levels have left behind. This is what they build their homes out of, what they eat, and whatever else they can salvage to use or sell.
It is the children of this 4th level – the poorest of the poorest of the poor – that the local church and Convoy of Hope are reaching with the gospel and a children’s feeding program. The feeding program is a wedge into a people group – a way in to share the gospel. If you meet the physical needs, you can have an ear open to hear the answer to the spiritual need.
The local church here operates with the most compassion I have ever seen. They do not demand that the kids behave, no demanding obedience or acting superior to them; only loving, hugging, up-building. Yet, as the children came in to the community center built right in the midst of the dump, they sat quietly and peacefully waited for their food. They were so well behaved. So small and mal-nourished. So happy. So dirty and desperate. So tranquillo.
Why? They know they are loved, and they WILL get fed today. They climb into your lap, wrap their arms around you, smile and laugh…and love. Such a dichotomy. So helpless. So desperate. The problem is too big and overwhelmingly impossible. Yet so filled with the presence of Jesus. I cannot wrap my mind around it. Love truly covers a multitude of depravity.”
As I look back on that experience, it is so clear to me that the presence of our Lord is everywhere, even in the dump. These precious children are tasting and seeing that the Lord is good, and He cares for them in a tangible way. What a joy to introduce them to the lover of their souls, giving them the opportunity to journey with Him forever, discovering the purpose for which they were so lovingly created. We all are blessed to be the bearers of this precious message, whether across the ocean or in our neighborhood.
Poverty is everywhere, whether we see it in the physical realm, or whether it is internal.
You and I get to introduce all those around us to our amazing Provider, inviting them to an encounter with the One who knows them best.
Written by Vicki Brawner
In Motion Ministries
Short-term Missions Director