The "You" in Poverty
By: Joelle Glimp
The building of water wells makes great strides in the problem of poverty for the sweet, little African children. However, it also may have just compounded the existing issue to cost these sweet, little African children their lives.
Poverty is complex. We all know this. However, the complexity of the issue is often thrown to the wayside by putting temporary bandages on gaping wounds and believing the problem is, for at least that week’s particular village, solved. The West has developed a well-intentioned brisk ease to helping out those in need whenever it’s most convenient for the good ‘ol planner and, more importantly, has mistakenly forgotten the importance of follow-up.
A truly benevolent mission trip during spring break with no regard to the ongoing development of this apparent blessing is dangerous. Why? Because we are forgetting that the implementation of a fixture does not begin to fix a crucial element of poverty: crime.
Let me explain. Every time a water well is built, another venue for crime to take place is provided. Bad guys have the opportunity to take over the wells and charge ridiculous amounts of money for people to access this intended gift of free water. Worse, these bad guys kidnap the children, rape the women, and kill anyone and everyone who opposes them.
I’m not saying to eliminate the water wells. Let’s have infinite water wells. More water wells, please. However, I’m proposing a shift of focus on the way we think of poverty and our hand within it.
Many are unaware of the underlying reasons why poverty is still thriving at 2 billion people stuck on $2 a day. Antipoverty programs—Feed the Children, ONE, Save the Children— and child sponsorships are lovely, and needed, but often the root issue is not included in their mission. We give to these programs and believe the world to be a better place after. Which it is, please don’t misread these words. It’s a better place, but it’s not the problem-solved one we often believe it to be.
Temporary solutions are not true solutions.
The poor are still trapped in systems of everyday violence, with 35 million people currently enslaved under the dominion of someone else. The problem is not lack of laws, but lack of law enforcement. Many who need protection the most—let’s say, the vulnerable poor—are left behind because they do not have the privilege of having easily accessible security and safety.
Imagine an ambulance receiving a call from a home in Norman down Flood Avenue. The ambulance arrived with little strain, maybe a honk at the Prius that wasn’t getting over to the right lane fast enough. Now, imagine needing that same ambulance in the middle of an abandoned field. Except, your smart phone suddenly stops being able to make calls. You’re in No Service City. The ambulance is not able to be called for in No Service City. Those out in the middle of No Service City have become out of reach, and are at a higher risk of suffering from their lack of resources, in this case the inability to access a much-needed ambulance. In the developing world, this is not just a singular ambulance call, but an all encompassing every day life that transcends lack of stability across all areas. Without consistent protection from law enforcement and concrete resources reinforcing permanency, violence reigns.
The elimination of violence must be at the forefront of any and everyone’s mind who cares about the poor in order to accurately grasp any notion with how to solve world poverty. If the removal of violence is not in the conversation, the conversation should not exist. Crime perpetuates poverty— let’s not perpetuate conversation that leaves the solution out of the equation.
Referring to the rich being able to have access to safety and the poor being out of protection's reach, Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission, says, “We have to begin to seriously invest resources and share expertise to support the developing world as they fashion new, public systems of justice. Not private security; that we must give everybody a chance to be safe, not just the rich.”
So, if we’re really wanting to help the sweet, little African children, we must first pay attention and then honestly educate ourselves without overreaching and embellishing our previous and current impact. The one-week mission trips and service projects have to be recognized for what they are—a noble start.
There’s many nonprofits and government agencies that are working with the unified goal to transform these third-world countries counter-productive law enforcement systems into peaceful, free nations where the woman at the well can surely obtain her water without fear of attack. By becoming an advocate of policy reform and educating officials on how to properly address criminalization, our world can move forward with the vision of freedom for all, including the poor.
World poverty exists.
But if poverty exists, our hope is found in its converse, the ability for it to be extinguished.
I don’t believe this is too grandiose a plan, and neither do many of the worlds greatest leaders or else we would have stopped caring long ago. It sure is easier not to care, ignorance being bliss and all. Nevertheless, when we look at monumental times in our world’s history, we have had immense, seemingly impossible massive problems to solve. And guess what? Many have been solved. Residue may remain and tensions tend to recirculate, but we will never live in our wishful utopia until the blissful reality of Heaven. However, while we’re still here in our temporary home, we’ll continue to make strides for indispensable freedom that will reach the range of all people, not just the easier, expedient scope.
Are we going to sit on our couches and believe poverty is too complex to solve? Just give up and watch another episode of Greys while we wait around for our spring break trip to Haiti? Get there, build a well, carry some 5-year-olds, post photos after, then get back to our couch and Greys? Or, are we going to believe that Jesus has reign over this earth and wants the best for every single one of His children, no matter the cost? Are we going to stay in a day by day bubble, or are we going to challenge ourselves to experience adventure with Jesus in being a part of His reconciliation for all people, even the seemingly out of reach? We can play a part in bringing peace to the poor, fullness to the empty, and strength to the frail. We can be the ones who history writes about as being the generation that cared enough to do something. The generation that not just said they would pray night-time prayers for the poor, but actually dropped to their knees and did so immediately. Who used the Holy Spirit for discernment on where each of our places in the solution was. Whose thought was met with action. Who found the need and ministered to it.
When Jesus saw the woman at the well, He told her about His living water.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” –John 4:13-14
Drink His water and be filled so you can go and alleviate the thirsty.
“Joelle, that’s great. It makes sense and I really do care. But I’m just one person who has no clue where to start.”
It’s okay to be just one person. Guess who else was just one person? Jesus. Jesus was one person—a divine person—but look at all that He did. His spirit is inside you. For far too long, many churches have neglected to remind the body of what rich and true empowerment we each have with His living, active spirit. You can do the impossible—we’re talking miracles, people— with His strength inside of you. Don’t let culture manipulate you into thinking performing miracles is radical and a thing of the past. I see miracles happen all the time and know they’re of Jesus. I believe the distinct alleviation of this multifaceted concern will be one of His many miracles come true, and I fully believe I will be one of many who help make an end to world poverty, in Jesus’s name. I pray you believe the same.
You don’t have to dedicate your entire life to this one social issue. There’s many populations eagerly on standby, waiting to be impacted by you, whether they’re in your local work place or somewhere overseas. We all feel passionately about different causes. However, on some level, there is already a place for you here. Poverty is the foundational base for majority of the world’s greatest pains and problems, including sex trafficking, homelessness, slavery, substance abuse, sexual violence, property stealing, malnutrition, and overall violence. I would challenge you to not limit yourself to any one issue and begin breaking down the complexity of poverty to best understand it.
The stage is set and the battle is already won.
Now is the time to start believing in the mission.
All my love,
Okay. So… Now What?!
· To better understand much of the whole “crime perpetuates poverty we have to do something about it,” check out my dream job at www.ijm.org. International Justice Mission is, “a global organization that partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen public justice systems.” You can spend hours scrolling through all of their material and resources.
· Give. Especially to a non-profit with a focus of permanent impact, not just temporary solutions.
· Sign petitions. Call members of congress.
· Educate someone else on the hidden reason for poverty. Get honest dialogue started.
· Read material that breaks down the complexity of poverty. There are plenty of reading lists out there.
· Pray for yourself and where you enter this necessary battlefield. Pray the ongoing spirit for the elimination of poverty manifests over hearts here and abroad. Pray for anything and everything you feel inclined to pray for. In the wise words of Chance, “When the praises go up, the blessings come down.”
· If you feel called, begin researching internships and careers in the elimination of poverty. Long-term thinking is good thinking.
· Believe justice for the poor is possible.
Read Somethin’ Crazy.
The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, Gary A. Haugen
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, Steve Corbett
Good God, Lousy World, and Me: The Improbably Journey of a Human Rights Activist from Unbelief to Faith, Holly Burkhalter
For more from Joelle, check out her personal blog at: http://www.joelleglimp.com/blog/