Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hope Lives - Week 3 - Guest Post by Aimee Esparaz

Aimee Esparaz is an advocate for Compassion Canada and writes regularly at A Mom on a Mission. Last summer her family traveled to the Philippines to see Compassion's work first hand.

This past week, as I prepared my heart to write this blog post, many thoughts swirled around in my head... I thought to myself, "How do I even start to write about understanding poverty when I don't even think that I fully grasp what poverty truly means and stands for in its entirety?"

How do I even begin? What can I say? Where do I start?
As I began to string thoughts into words, I felt a nudge from inside of me saying, "Start with your story!" So, friends... that is where I will begin this blog post... my story!

You see, there was a time when I didn't understand poverty. 
I looked down on the poor. I thought things like, "They must be lazy, that's why they're poor." or "They should look a little harder for a job so they can dig themselves out of this hole." or "If they don't want to help themselves, then they must deserve to live like that." 

In the midst of my hardheartedness, God started to do a beautiful thing in my heart. Through opportunities to pack Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes each Christmas and through opportunities to make and serve dinner to the homeless community right here in our city, He began to speak to me. 

And, I began to see!
I began to see the causes of poverty {for more on the causes of poverty, please refer to pages 89-90 of Hope Lives}... many of which are beyond one's control... social injustice, a lack of education and opportunity, racism, corruption in government... just to name a few!

Beginning to see was just that, the beginning. Little did I know, God wasn't finished yet! He relentlessly pursued me... in order to do more work in my heart, in order to lead me to more action. Through my girl who wanted nothing else for Christmas one year but a little sister from Compassion International, God plunged us into child sponsorship! For our family, all of a sudden poverty had a face... in the form of a little girl from India and her name is Annu{For more on The Faces of Poverty, please refer to pages 95-100 of Hope Lives.}

Over the last few years, as our Compassion family grew, our understanding of poverty also grew. Last Summer, our family went on a self-guided missions immersion trip to the Philippines. We visited our Compassion daughter, Florianlyn and also our LDP student, Rochelle.

During those visits, we were confronted head-on with the harsh reality of poverty, not just Florianlyn and Rochelle's poverty of too little but also of our own poverty of too much, soul poverty! Needless to say, we all came home changed... each one differently, yet all in a good way{For more on Soul Poverty, please refer to pages 107-112 of Hope Lives.}

One word that kept coming up during our entire trip was HOPE... in the midst of extreme poverty, we always saw hope! What a beautiful truth --- that there is always hope... for those trapped in the poverty of too little and for those of us who find ourselves ensnared in the poverty of too much. 

There is always hope because of the One whose love never ends, whose faithfulness is great, whose mercies begin afresh each morning! {For more on Hope, please refer to pages 102-105 of Hope Lives where you can read an interview the author did with Wess Stafford, President of Compassion International.}

You cannot have a more powerful word to describe the cure for poverty or for empty hearts that should be reaching out to poverty than hope~ Wess Stafford.

So, does my story have an ending?
Thankfully, no. Thankfully, it is a continuing journey... a journey towards more understanding... most days, by God's grace alone, winning the fight against the poverty of too much!

When our family chooses to rebuild two homes instead of buy a new TV, we know God's grace is at work. When we find joy in simply knowing that we've improved Florianlyn's life even by just a tad bit, we know that God continues to do His work in us.

This story is a work-in-progress... as the Potter continues to shape and mold... beautifully crafting this life so that one day it will reflect His radiance.  

I will, however, end this blog post with where Amber Van Schooneveld, the author of Hope Lives, started this chapter, Week 3: Understanding Poverty... and that is, a challenge "for such a time as this."

For such a time as this...
Will you say, "Here I am. Lord, send me."?
Will you join in the fight to eliminate extreme poverty in our lifetime? 

These are unprecedented times! Even though today the number of people living with extreme poverty, defined as living with less than $1.25 a day, has been reduced by half from its 1990 numbers, there are still over 1 billion people in our world today in that category.

Friends, let's join God as He moves to heal, to love and to restore... because Hope lives!
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