Poverty? What Do You Mean By That?

Within Reach Global

“God’s Spirit is on me; He’s chosen Me to preach the message of good news to the poor.” 

It’s one of those Jesus statements that inspires, making you squint as you listen, contemplating doing something marvelous alongside God.

I mean, that’s who the heart of God beats for, right? Jesus was constantly talking about the poor, rubbing elbows with outcasts, smearing dirt and spit in the eyes of the blind. He not only loved those struggling in poverty; He liked them too. That was true religion for Jesus: to take care of the poor by being a voice for the voiceless.

But living in the West, we sometimes forget what true poverty is.

I saw the front page of a newspaper recently. The headline read: “50 Million Americans Are Living In Poverty.” But can we be honest about this? Let’s define poverty not only on the United States’ standard, but in the light of the global situation. Who knows, we may just end up feeling like we live in the Disneyland of the world.

Southeast Asia is home to the poorest of the poor. Walk down most streets and you will know what I mean.

Leaning squatter shanties in Myanmar are erected with wood, cardboard and tin. It’s raining, wet outside and in. A little girl with dirt-smeared cheeks pokes her head out between cardboard paneling, smiles, and waves to you. That makes most people uncomfortable.

In the taxi back to your Manila hotel, the driver pulls up to a stoplight. The vehicle is swarmed with shirtless boys with outstretched hands, tapping the window of your cab. “Sir,” they call, “give me coins.” Your taxi driver honks his horn to shoo them away. A little girl leading a blind man with a cane and a tin can disappears in the distance. You feel your stomach turn.

The sun is setting with pinks and golds over the quiet Chinese village. On the rice terraces to your right, an elderly man with innumerable wrinkles steers his water buffalo along a narrow mountain path. You notice his tattered navy blue pants and ripped t-shirt as he dissolves into the hues of pink and gold. Tonight his wife will boil the last scoop of rice for his family’s humble meal.

But the stories don’t need to end in hopelessness and disaster.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” 

God’s heart is filled with love for the poor. He longs for them to experience the richness of salvation. But what a boring story it would be if He didn’t include us in this epic narrative.

That’s our cue. Are we ready to join God in helping the poor?

But I think most people don’t give to the poor because poverty is like a disease that cannot be cured. It’s only $100. What about $50? Can you do $25? $10? “But my tiny amount won’t really make a difference,” we think, and so we spend it on Starbucks instead.

Ready for the gruesome lie to be exposed? Yes, your $10 does make a difference. True, it may not end all poverty in the world. That will never happen, and that’s not the point. But as little as $10 is to you, convert it to the local currency in Myanmar, Philippines or China, and it will be worth a lot more than you think. Plus it’s not just about giving cash. It’s about giving a part of yourself, something dear to you, a little piece of your heart for the poor.

Within Reach Global has been working among the poor in Southeast Asia for over 10 years. Learn more about the projects in our training centers, Pilot, The Edge, 26 Tribes, and Bamboo. We are now partnering with other ministries to expand to the Philippines through the Ako Ay Pilipino Movement, and helping other non-profit organizations help the poor through inspirational short films.

So in the end, Within Reach Global is not asking for more of your money. We’re asking you to be a part of God’s epic story of redemption in Southeast Asia. How? Get involved in reaching to the poor with the love of Jesus one person at a time. Who knows, maybe you can become the only Jesus they will ever notice.

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David Joannes

David is the founder of Within Reach Global, Inc. He is a Missional Starter and an Artistic Creative. He is an observer. He is passionate about assembling the many moving parts of life and art to depict unique global stories. David has a heart to be an articulate voice, composing stories of justice and social concern, especially among the poor. Visit David's website at davidjoannes.com

All stories by: David Joannes