Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Semana de Pobreza - Dias 4, 5, y 6

Reflections on Poverty Week at El Pozo:

* Thursday – Donate Shoes Day…

Sorry I didn’t get this posted Thursday night. I got nailed by sore throat / sinus issues Wednesday night and spent two days feeling terrible. This happens to me probably three or four times a year – a sinus infection or some kind of virus, that is. And I simply get extra rest and medicine and take care of it. But the fact that it happened this week has caused me to reflect on all of the people out there who don’t have easy access to medicine and doctors, and who are unable to take a sick day off of work for fear of losing their jobs… I am so blessed, even when I feel like junk.

The challenge for Thursday was to clean out your closet of any shoes you don’t, or barely, use, and donate them. I’m excited to report that lots of students brought lots of shoes! Erin gave the Pozomida (devo lunch) talk about Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes. We saw an interview with him at this year’s Willow Creek Leadership Summit and it was quite inspiring. The idea that a small idea, given over to God in order to serve and bless people, can turn into something huge. Immediately after hearing this story, our students listened to a reading of the parable of the mustard seed. We also ate rice and beans and drank only water in keeping with the Poverty Week theme.

Probably the highlight of my week was Thursday night at my student leadership group meeting when several of the group members talked about how much they had been impacted and caused to really think by the activities of Poverty Week. Sometimes I feel like we put all this work and thought into our activities here and the students really don’t get it. I feel like we’re not making a difference. But Thursday night was one of those very encouraging moments when I received confirmation that what we do here is indeed worth the effort. I’m so thankful for these guys who took the challenges of the week seriously and had their eyes and hearts further opened by God as a result.

* Friday and Saturday – A Taste of C.H.E. (Community Health Evangelism)

So on Friday and then again on Saturday we had a five-hour workshop called “A Taste of C.H.E.”. C.H.E. stands for Community Health Evangelism, which is a philosophy of ministry to the poor that we are really getting behind and trying to spread. Our parent organization, C.M.F. (Christian Missionary Fellowship) International has adopted and spread C.H.E. with great success, most notably through their partnership with Missions of Hope in the Mathare slum of Nairobi, Kenya. We’re all hoping to see some similar things happen in Mexico, and are dreaming and scheming and praying a lot about the who/what/when/where of it all.

C.H.E.’s principles are explained very well in a book called “When Helping Hurts”, and of course you can go to C.M.F.’s web site to learn more. It’s basically all about teaching people to fish rather than giving them fish; about coming alongside to help people prioritize their own needs and begin to use their own resources as much as possible to improve their lives. It’s about meeting BOTH physical and spiritual needs in the name of Christ. Great stuff.

We had great attendance at the events from our students, and not-so-great from the local area pastors that we invited. There were some. Friday’s session was over 30 people and Saturday’s over 20. Overall the course could have been a lot better, largely because the leadership of it changed at the last minute. Steve Palich, one of our bosses who was coming down to lead the sessions, had to cancel at the last minute due to his father’s illness. It was a good decision because his dad passed away soon after – so please keep Steve and the entire Palich family in your prayers. We are, of course, grateful for the three ladies who came over from Mexico City to lead us at the last minute, but lack of preparation plus some cultural differences led to a time that, quite honestly, could have been a lot better, more efficient, more interactive, and more in tune with our students. We live and learn, and are thankful that overall the principles of C.H.E. were learned by many of these young leaders. We’ll pray that God will add to that some excitement about what could happen here and a burden for the many poor people in our city, state, and region.

I’ll end with the story of my favorite moment from Friday. All throughout the sessions we were constantly looking up scriptures as a part of the different exercises. Two of my great friends attended even though they are not believers. They asked and I encouraged them to come anyway and learn, and they did because they both have huge hearts for the poor – and because our six years of friendship has helped them to trust us not to pull some kind of bait and switch or force them into any uncomfortable situations. I had already told them that I would give them a Bible soon, in case they ever decided to check it out. After the session, before I even had the chance to give them each a Bible – they asked me for one! Then the same thing happened with ANOTHER girl who has been coming around our ministry a lot and really looking into Jesus and Christianity and the Bible for a long time – she asked for a Bible. Then as icing on the cake a local pastor who attended was admiring the Bibles we give away and I sent him away with one, too. So that’s four Bibles given away, three to non-believers / good friends who actually WANTED THEM and are actually going to read them! Heck they may be reading them right now!

All in all, it was a great week and I’m glad we did it. Also, we’re excited to say that our sister ministry in Chile (El Oasis) is going to do this same thing with their students in November, immediately following a retreat at which Erin and I will be speaking. So that will be fun and hopefully our efforts this week will be a blessing, indirectly, to a bunch of young people in Chile, too.

Thanks for reading and praying! May God bless you to be a blessing to others. I’ll leave you with these excerpts from a speech given by U2’s Bono at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2006, words that have stuck with me ever since:

“Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone. I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may -- may well be with us in all manner of controversial stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree -- all faiths, all ideologies -- is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.
God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.

'If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and the speaking of wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire even in scorched places.'

It’s not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of air time. You know, the only time Jesus Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor. "As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me." [I] believe that's Matthew 25:40.

A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life -- in countless ways, big and small. I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I - I'd be saying, "Look, I've got a new song...Would you look out [for it]. I have a family; I'm going away on tour -- please look after them. I have this crazy idea. Could I have a blessing on it."

And this wise man asked me to stop. He said, "Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing -- because it’s already blessed. Well, let's get involved in what God is doing. God, as I say, is always with the poor. That's what God is doing. That's what He’s calling us to do.”

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