Do you remember the first time you met with Poverty? For many, it is an awkward meeting, when you realize how good you’ve had it all this time but the present moment still demands a decision and an action. Like every bad first impression, the memory of it remains for years and decades to come.
I was in Peru. At nineteen, I was more than excited to be going on my first cross-cultural missions trip. I had seen the slums of Lima blur by from the window of our shiny rental as we rode up into the Andes Mountains. But, God had arranged my first meeting with Poverty to be face-to-face, scheduled for early the following morning. Up until then, the dirt roads; the run-down look of the village; the hints of malnutrition in a dry, rosy complexion on a few of the kids; the scrawny dogs scavenging the garbage in the streets; the smells, all folded neatly into my anticipation of what I had learned of poverty. I felt…prepared.
It was not the poverty, but the beauty of creation that tendered my heart the following morning as we mingled in the morning light that spilled over the mountain range behind us. Two young girls, shy but unable to hide their smiles, curiously climbed up onto the low wall to sit next to me before heading to school. I began to ask them questions with my classroom Spanish. They giggled, then snuck closer. Within moments, one was sitting on my lap, the other playing with my hair, both chatting up a storm. And I, I was overwhelmed. My heart was starting to fill up with love for these people and this place. As I soaked in the simple beauty of the moment, my new little friends squealed with excitement and scrambled away.
It was a candy wrapper.
A corner of it poked up out of the dirt mound behind us. As I put my hand up and tried to form words to say “No! Don’t. It’s dirty! you could get sick…,” Poverty kicked me in the stomach and latched onto my throat. I choked back tears of horror and grief as they shared what was left over, tears of joy in their eyes and excited whispers. Then, a quick hug for me and a promise to come play after school. The dirt roads, the run-down look, the hints of that red rash on all of their faces, the dogs, the smells, all changed. They haunt me still, reminding me of my first meeting with Poverty, reminding me the need is great and urgent.
Many of us at Grace Church are well-acquainted with poverty and the need for relief, locally and abroad. Maybe you haven’t been introduced yet. Whichever it is, there is an incredible opportunity to be immersed in the life of one of those whom we are called to care for and love (Matthew 25:40). From September 19th-22nd, LCBC in Manheim is hosting The Compassion Experience: Change the Story.
“Change the Story will bring you as close to another country and culture as you can get without a passport. This interactive, immersive display allows you to step into the life of a child who has suffered under the crippling weight of poverty.
But the journey does not end there.
In the span of less than 30 minutes, you will travel with that child from hardship to hope. And in the midst of hope, you will see that child’s story transformed through the support of Compassion and the child’s life-giving relationship with a sponsor.”
This is a FREE event. We encourage you to go. Take the kids. Let them see; see for yourself. Reserve your spot here because space is limited. I haven’t forgotten one detail from my first meeting with Poverty. And I pray I never will because God faithfully continues to change me through it, reminding me there is still much to be done.
Written by: Alyssa Weaver