Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Poverty is Ugly

Poverty is not beautiful.

Poverty is ugly.

It shrivels. It tortures. It wastes. It tears apart.

Photographs of dark-eyed children with white teeth and searching faces may be beautiful. The bright colors, what is exotic, the orphans who were made in the image of their Creator.

But poverty is not beautiful.

Once I found a photograph of a two-year-old girl named Emily who shared my name. She lived in Eldoret, Kenya in utter poverty. Her parents were dead. Her clothes were in tatters. She had nowhere to live, no food to eat. Even as a toddler, hope was removed from Emily's eyes. What was left for her in life? Who wanted her?

With trembling hands, I took the photograph home and compared it with a picture of myself at the same age, nineteen years ago. I was smiling, wearing a brand new dress. My hair was freshly-cut, styled in blonde ringlets. I was well-fed, well-dressed, well-loved. Even as a toddler, hope flooded my future. I wanted to be a doctor, a veterinarian, a writer, a mom, all at the same time. I was confident that all of the world was within my reach. I was wanted. I was cherished. I was heard. 

Kenyan Emily was beautiful, even though her body was wracked with hunger, sickness, and neglect. She was beautiful, even though her face held the sorrow of watching her family die from AIDS. She was beautiful, even though she was stunted by malnutrition. She was beautiful because she was made in the image of God.

Sometimes depictions of trips to third world countries make it all seem so exciting, so beautiful, such an adventure.

But poverty is ugly.

Poverty tears away hope. Poverty destroys families, rips futures to pieces, and forces children to lose their childhood and face fear and desperation.

A hungry child named Fatima lives in a slum in India and has wide, black eyes and a shy smile. Fatima is precious and lovely, but her life has been ravaged by something that is so ugly, so preventable, so unjust.

I never want to make poverty seem beautiful in any way, whether or not it changes the life of every wealthy foreigner who visits on a mission trip for the better. Poverty may give perspective to the rich. Poverty changes the lives of those who endure it and those who watch, and the only reason our Father allows it to have an impact for the good is because that is how He works.

But poverty is ugly.

Poverty is wrong.

Poverty breaks the heart of God and we have been commanded to fight against it.

I intern for Christian Relief Fund. I have been writing promo blurbs for waiting and unsponsored children from Africa. They are beautiful, each one, even those who have never had a bath in their lives or ever felt the comfort of a full belly, even those who have been visibly aged far beyond their years by the ravages of malnutrition, disease, sorrow, and exhaustion.

They are beautiful because something in their faces reflect the face of a God I have not yet met face-to-face. They are beautiful in the way that I am beautiful, in the way that the weary student in my class at university is beautiful, in the way that the man pushing a heavily-burdened shopping cart a block from here is beautiful.

God has created those who live in poverty to be beautiful, cherished, worth loving, whether they know this or not.

And my job is to serve them, to feed them, to love them, to share with them the story of a Father and Son who has called them His own. This is my job and this is your job.

Emily is beautiful. Fatima is beautiful. Shadrach is beautiful. Luis is beautiful. God's children are beautiful.

But poverty is so very ugly.

One year ago: Faithful
Two years ago: I like these songs.
Three years ago: I am so blessed

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Cord of Three Strands

I have been blessed with so many things, like attending the best university in the world (Texas A&M, whoop!), having a shelter over my head, food every meal, and precious friends.  The Lord has also given me the sweetest family.

Like a mom and sister who were willing to drive almost ten hours to spend three days with me.  And a dad who was willing to celebrate Easter with the grandparents out of sacrificial love.  (...Not because spending time with the grandparents requires sacrifice, but rather because he wasn't with the three ladies in his family.)

Last Easter, all of my roommates went home and I wasn't able to travel home because I had tests to study for (as I also do this Easter as well), and two days of driving alone were too much stress for my finals preparation.  So I spent the celebration with Jesus and couldn't help but feel extremely lonely, even though He was tender to me.  I'd never been away from everyone on Easter before.

This year, even though my family was split, we each had someone.  We went to church together, we prayed together, we ate together.  Our Father lavished His sweet mercies on us as we soaked in the beauty of family time.  And we celebrated Christ's rising from the dead in power and in glory.

The three days of girl time were well-spent.  We went summer shopping, made a shady roof for my bunny pen, and watched both Transcendence and 12 Years a Slave (the consensus was that the former was a bit slow and the latter was amazingly done).

Easter Sunday's worship was spent at Deaf Church, surrounded by a community of people that worships with their voices, hearts, and hands. 

We had a photo shoot with my roommates in a field painted with purple wildflowers.

My mom and little sister were huge fans of Sammy's and my baby bunnies.  If Amy went missing, it took no searching to find her sitting cross-legged in front of the rabbit pen with a sleeping rabbit in her lap and another munching on a carrot out of her hand.

Amy is about to graduate from high school next month. 

During the photo shoot, I kept telling Kelsey, "Come closer.  Come a little closer," as she moved from a full-body shot, to a waist-up shot, to a portrait shot of my little sister and me.  Finally, as I urged her to come even closer, she said, "How's this?"  Very funny.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  -Ecclesiastes 4:12

One year ago: Maintaining a Fruitful Quiet Time in Summer (Part I)
Two years ago: Tatters
Three years ago: How Jesus's Sacrifice Can Make Sense to Muslims and Blogging: The Right Name