Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Poverty: Shelter

Picture your home in your mind.  Count how many rooms are in your house.  When it rains, do you have somewhere to keep you dry?  Are you protected from the cold during the winter and the heat during the summer?  Even if your home is small and needs repair, you are blessed.  There are more than 100 million people who are homeless around the globe and many people who have a home at all are living in devastatingly poor conditions. 

According to UNICEF, one in three children lives without adequate shelter.  The World Bank Key Data and Statistics states that a quarter of the population lives without electricity.  "Electricity isn't that big of a deal," you may be thinking.

Think again.

I'm going to give you a small challenge.  For twenty-four hours, I want you to go without electricity.  That means no heating, lighting, or air conditioning.  No stoves, microwaves or electric can openers.  Any food that comes out of the refrigerator or freezer is off limits.  No warm water, television, or video games.  If your plumbing system runs on electricity, then say goodbye to that as well.  Are you starting to get the idea? 

Let me tell you a true story.  I once knew a little girl who lived in the poor area of my city.  Let's call her "Mary."  Mary's family was very poor and they had no money to pay the electric bill, so they relied on candles to provide lighting and warmth.  One night in November, the family was very cold, so they decided to leave their candles lit through the night to try and heat up their home.  Somehow a candle tipped over and a fire was started in the middle of the night.  It spread rapidly before anyone in the family even woke up.  Everyone managed to escape... except for one person.  Mary was trapped inside her burning house.

Little Mary died in the flames of her home on November 19, 2008.  She was twelve years old.  This story happened in modern day America. 

Lack of proper shelter can be dangerous.  No child deserves to live in a one room shack with twelve other people.  No child deserves to live in a house made of cardboard and tin.  No child deserves to live in a shelter that lets in rain and deadly mosquitoes.  No child deserves to suffer from sweltering heat or frigid cold in their own homes.  But they do.

What can you do to help?  "Well, I sure can't buy someone a house or pay for their electricity bill," you may be thinking.  "There is nothing I can do."  I can think of a few things.

Donate to nonprofit organizations who build homes.  Obviously, Habitat for Humanity is a great choice.  You can donate on their website.  From Houses to Homes is a nonprofit organization that focuses on building homes for the impoverished people of Guatemala.  The Fuller Center for Housing is another great nonprofit organization that focuses on building homes for the needy.  With this organization, you can also sponsor a home, similar to sponsoring a child.  For all of you young people like me, there is an organization called YouthBuild that helps teens reach out to their communities and build houses.
Volunteer your time.  Habitat for Humanity is a worldwide organization that helps provide homes for the needy.  If you live near a college or university, then there is probably a Habitat for Humanity group on campus that you could join.  YouthBuild is another great option.  You can also search around amongst the local ministries, as there are often many people who arrange for a house to be built or remodeled for a needy family.
Open your home.  You may know a college student or an elderly person or a newly divorced woman who is struggling to keep from losing their house.  Pray about this decision, but if you have an open room, then offer it to your friend for a couple of months.  Give someone a break.  In the Bible, Priscilla often opened her home for Paul.  You can share Jesus through such a giving act. 
Pray for those who are without homes. 
Make a note to say a prayer at least once a day for the 100 million homeless and all of those who are suffering with an inadequate home.  Ask God to help them find proper shelter for the night.  When it is pouring rain or snowing outside, say a prayer for those who are sleeping outside.

Appreciate your home. 
You may be tired of the cramped space of your bedroom or the leaky spot on your ceiling or the lousy air conditioning system, but remember to appreciate what God has blessed you with because there are many people who have less.  Instead of complaining about how small or ramshackle your house has become, say a prayer of thanks that you even have a home.

Try to conserve energy.  When you're leaving a room, turn off the lights.  Don't take two hour showers.  Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth.  Don't leave on the sprinklers till your back yard floods.  Respect the gift that you do have and don't waste. 

What do you think?  How do you help those without homes?  Leave your comments below.
I take credit for the pictures used today. 

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