You are able to change lives by getting involved with people in your own world. While Mission Resource International is focused on reducing poverty in Africa, the United States and other developing countries are seeing poverty rates dramatically increase. Working with the poor is all about relationships and very little about money.
With that in mind, we offer 5 ways you and your family can increase your poverty fighting skills.
Be a Listener
Everyone has a story. Everyone has poor places in their lives. Every poor person has a story and needs to learn from their story to make changes. In our culture of hyper-frenetic communication listening is a lost art and science of deep communication. Hone your listening skills and spend time with someone. They may exaggerate some problems, overestimate the difficulty of something and underestimate themselves. Their story will reveal that to you as you ask open ended questions. When they hear themselves tell their story, they will learn something too.
You can find a way to give money to people to serve the poor for you and that is good. However, there is nothing that replaces living a season of your life getting to know people battling poverty. You may need to volunteer in a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, a food pantry, a special outreach your church makes or some other venue. There are a lot of ways to meet people—say “Hi,” get ready to listen and find a way to serve. Meeting people will increase the value of the time you volunteer 1000%. Go for it!
Consult Matthew 25—And Do It
Jesus laid out some great ways to serve and love those who need love and compassion. This is a short list, but it involves us getting involved with meeting people and being there for them.
Give Food and Water to The Hungry
Give Shelter to the Stranger
Give Clothes to the Needy
Visit Prisoners and the Sick
Notice how each of these require that we meet people. Notice also how we can deal with our own poverty as we serve those in need.
Carefully Make a Relationship Commitment
Making promises is important business. When we make promises to those who do not have much and are counting on us to deliver it is even more important. I've been learning this lesson with my kids. Anna and I provide everything for our kids including physical needs (food and shelter), education, health care, emotional stability and wrestling matches. The same is true for people in poverty who are dependent on others and need encouragement & guidance to become independent. Look for an end result of interdependent living where we can all learn from and serve one another. Make the right promises.
Be a Coach
All of us need a coach to help us move forward in areas of our life. Good coaches find teach us new skills, new ways to work with others, push us to perform beyond our own expectations and give us opportunities to win. Your calling and capacity in life may limit you to coach just one person rather infrequently, but commit to that person and help them move forward.
Andy Stanley's message “One, Not Everyone” was an important part of helping me get involved in service and ministry again. The line that still sticks with me was, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” Coach one person at a time. Be with one person at a time. You need special attention for areas where you are poor--others do too.
Give Generously & Get Going
This 4:36 video from Global Frontier Missions should challenge the way we Christians contemplate giving. This video shows the need for aligning our giving with areas of the world where it is unlikely for people to see and hear the message of Jesus. Mission Resource International's business initiatives are directly related to practically demonstrating the values of Jesus in these areas of the world.
In a nutshell, as a whole Christians do not give much of our wealth to expanding discipleship and development opportunities to the poor. That is especially true of our efforts to sharing our abundance with others who are not already Christians. All of us can look at living more simply and giving more of our resources to others.
Don't just talk about social justice, feeding the poor and having compassion without actually doing it. Reading about a need on Facebook and feeling bad doesn't do anyone any good. Change a life—starting with your life—and get involved.