Living in the Philippines has given us a lot of opportunities to see poverty up close. We have a community living next door to our house who most Americans would classify as extremely poor. We see the poor daily. There is a woman and her child who lives out of a wheelchair that she pushes around the neighborhoods near our house (the child walks, the wheelchair just holds all that they own). We sometimes see them walking down the street, sometimes eating rice on the street that people have given to them, sometimes looking through garbage bins for things to sell for money.
The view from our back window.
But we have also learned that alleviating poverty is not a simple problem, even if we had unlimited funds at our disposal. So often, except in the case of emergencies, simply giving money to the poor can foster dependence upon the giver as opposed to freeing the poor from the cycle of poverty. In fact, giving sometimes does more damage than good if it is given unwisely.
To help many of us understand these issues, another missionary and myself have started a small group dealing with the issue of poverty. We are using materials from Food for the Hungry that give a broad overview of what poverty alleviation looks like from a biblical perspective. Between 20 and 30 people have been coming to each meeting so far, many of them missionaries and some of them Filipinos who are working with the poor. Everyone is hungry for a better way to help the poor, for a better way to make a real lasting impact in the lives of the poor.
We are asking for your prayers. Poverty for us is "in your face" and very real. It does not go away easily. Yet, as Christians we know that we are called to address the issue because we are called to care like God himself cares. We want to help the poor -- but real help is often harder than it looks. Pray that we may put what we are learning into real, practical help for the poor.