Jesus gave us a heads up when he said, “You will always have poor people.” I saw poverty for the first time in South Korea just after the war ended. The country was devastated physically and economically. I remember a small boy at the train station insisting that he shine my perfectly polished shoes for a dime. I didn’t need the shine, he really needed the dime. My second view of poverty was in Panama. I thought at the time I had never seen anything like it. How could a country that received so much help from our government have so many living in abject poverty.
Grace and I had lunch with a family in Belarus who fed us potatoes. It was all they had and it might have been all they had for the rest of the week. I felt so rich and ashamed that I had so much and they so little. I preached for a large church in Ghana and put a $20 bill in the collection. It more than doubled the contribution for the day. They bought and paid for their own block building but it took them over 20 years.
Grace and I ate with an Indian family in Durban and later discovered why the wife an daughter did not eat. We consumed all their rice for the week in that one meal. We felt really bad but they were excited to feed us. I doubt seriously that anyone reading this blog has consumed a weeks worth of groceries in one meal. When we left Durban we gave them a large bag of rice. I was surprised how cheap it was.
We visited a large national park in South Africa and as we waited to enter two small boys came up to the car offering animals molded in clay but unfired. Grace asked them how much and they said $5. Theirs is a bargain base economy and the price they asked was very high for what they were selling. They expected to come down. I told Grace to offer them $2 but she asked them a question, “What will you do with the money?” Their answer, “Buy bread, madam.” She paid the full $10 and shamed me in the process. We still have the animals and they remind me that not everyone has daily bread.
The incident that haunts me the most was at a Zulu camp where we took mutton soup and the gospel. The people lined up with anything that would hold soup. They were so thin and hunger was in their eyes as I had never seen. I was ladling the soup when a small boy with a swollen stomach and the biggest eyes I have every seen held out his cracked cup. His words will never leave me.
“Please sir, a bone.”
My eyes tear up as I write and think about that story. I am so happy to be at a church like Westgate who do remember the poor. I have never been around such generous people. They really are open handed. Will you pray for the people who make the benevolent program possible by their gifts and for the people who volunteer to minister to the hungry in our town?