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What Is Poverty?

Following is a post from PovRes supporter and 2015 medical team volunteer Tyler Wiggs:

By most people’s definition, poverty is having a lack of money and material possessions. We see this poverty all around us, from commercials involving starving children in Africa to homeless veterans pleading for change on street corners. It was this poverty that led many to Haiti following a devastating earthquake in 2010. More than one out of every two Haitians live on one dollar each day.

It should come as no surprise that Andrew and Matt Jones felt called to Haiti in light of the widespread poverty the country experiences. Since their initial trip, God has utilized them in some extraordinary ways. Most importantly, He has formed relationships between Matt, Andrew, and the rest of the Poverty Resolutions staff and countless Haitians. Rather than coming into the country from a place of material privilege, Poverty Resolutions has truly come alongside the native population, to walk with them and to assist them in making a difference in their own lives. Not only has this approach allowed Poverty Resolutions and short-term mission teams to appreciate the radiant beauty of the country and the people, but it has also permitted us to recognize our own poverty.

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While many of us who participate in a short-term missions team are not materially poor by global standards, we are all broken in our own ways. For some of us, our poverty comes in the form of doubting ourselves and our abilities. For others, poverty means a lack of education or skills. All of us are trapped in a cycle of poverty in some form or another, whether it is material, spiritual, emotional, psychological, social, or otherwise.

As a result of my experience in Haiti, my eyes were opened to see the relational poverty in my own life. The first indication of this poverty was the uneasy feeling I felt while waiting to load up the vans at 3 am Friday morning. Despite the fact that my wife and I have been regularly attending E-Free for nearly a year, I realized there is a significant number of people I do not know and few people I can say I know beyond a simple hello. While I was relieved to discover that most of the medical team felt similarly as they did not know members of the youth group, I was equally surprised. In hindsight, I suppose I should not have been, given the individualistic culture in which we find ourselves.

IMG_0568Our culture stands in stark contrast with the Haitians. In the U.S., we are separated by our cars, our homes, our jobs, and our individual responsibilities. The Haitians, on the other hand, are much more reliant on one another. They are frequently outside, interacting with their neighbors. They work hand-in-hand. They worship together in passionate church services. They buy and sell from one another in the marketplace. In many cases, they have a shared experience.

For one week, we were able to partake in this type of social lifestyle. With the exception of our individual quiet time, we were constantly around each other, and because of this, we got to know our neighbors and bond with them. We were able to relate to one another as we experienced some of the same things together. We began to see another way to live.

My hope and prayer is for us to be able to continue to build upon what we started in Haiti. To help keep me focused and to grow in these areas, I have established three important goals.

First, I want to respond to God’s call to support Poverty Resolutions in their mission. God has entrusted my wife and I with financial resources, which He expects us to share with those who have not received the same resources. Likewise, He has entrusted the materially poor with different abundances – whether love, industriousness, community, or other blessings – in hopes they will share with us. The Haitians have already shared a great deal with me, and I know a continued relationship with Poverty Resolutions translates into a mutual relationship rather than simply a charitable one.

Second, my experience with the youth group this week has reawakened a passion to serve with the youth. Being able to observe the youth’s perseverance and willingness to love others was truly an inspiration. I want to be able to help serve alongside and develop deeper relationships with the youth as they discover God’s calling in their lives. They are sure to do magnificent things!

FinallIMG_0625y, I want to learn and invest time into better understanding the numerous causes of material poverty and how I might be able to assist in poverty alleviation. God has blessed each of us with our own unique resources, talents, knowledge, and insights. I hope to be able to harness those gifts and answer the call to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. As Andy Stanley said, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” Together, we can make a difference!

Although our small medical team was able to serve well over 500 patients in a week, the true transformative power of the experience will occur in the weeks and months ahead. We took the first step. We built foundations for future relationships. Now, it is time for us to continue on the journey God has in store for each of us.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:9-10

Tyler Wiggs is a husband, father and part of the mission team at E-Free Church of Bloomington Normal (IL). A former police officer, Tyler manages Habitat for Humanity’s Bloomington ReStore.