Poverty, travel and perspective

As I write this I find myself on a boat heading from Bohol back to Cebu (Philippines) and I stand in amazement of where life has taken me recently. Not only did I celebrate my 6th anniversary of ordination yesterday (wow what a ride as a reverend has been!), but in the past less than 60 days, Kevin and I have traveled to three countries in Asia and Africa in which Feed The Children serves. Our lives of late have felt a lot like a long mission trip. Tiring indeed but a lot of fun!

We’ve held babies. We’ve fed sick children. We’ve danced with women. We’ve talked to school children about nutrition and AIDS prevention. We’ve traveled long hours by plane, boat, van, and taxi to see with our eyes what we didn’t know before we left the comfort of our home in Northern Virginia.

Over these past 60 days, we’ve seen the world from the perspective of what it really is like: mothers who work hard to give their kids a better life but as hard as they try they can’t. Communities that take ownership for their prosperity, even though they have little resources. Houses that shouldn’t house even one but are a refuge for many. And, children building friendship with their neighbors with makeshift and homemade ball, cars and soccer fields.

Yes, we’ve seen poverty of the material kind but we’ve also seen the huge accomplishments of those whom so much of the world has written off as part of the “third” or “developing” world.

Yesterday, for example, we met a group of families on a remote island who pulled their resources together to begin a village savings and loan– where their was no bank to help give the financial resources to move the community forward. Feed The Children facilitated the beginning of this livelihood development project, but now takes a very hands off role in its day-to-day management. It is the community’s leadership project to see through.

During our visit, our delegation was allowed to observe, a shareholders meeting, a weekly occurrence, where loans were given and dividends were paid back to share holders. Most impressive, we learned that 10% of the money made in the project goes back to assist the children in the community. Parents said, “We want a better life for kids. We know that begins with us being good stewards of our own resources. We want to be able to do this ourselves.” Over the past year this community– one where it is not commonplace to have toilets in the house or more than one pair of shoes per person– has saved over $3,500 US to reinvest in their children’s school.

Wonderfully surprising isn’t it?

For now, this is what I know: most of the world is not as it seems to us from our lens of privilege in America. The “have-nots” people are not less than human. Change CAN happen as resources and strong leadership are given to make it possible.

I have always known that intellectually as all of you blog readers do too, I’m sure. But when you see it, when you see it with your own eyes in such frequent chunks as we have, you realize that life must change.

Life can no longer be about “that trip” or “out there” but somehow we must find a way to integrate life in such a way that all of life is about being a member of the human family that is full of challenges, yes, but hope. We must do what we can to serve wherever you find yourself. We must never think first of our privilege as an honor but an opportunity to be in a larger community.

It’s such a tall order ahead… I see now why it would be easier to stay at home.

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