It's an urban mission trip. One designed to open the eyes of the insulated to urban poverty, the homeless and refugees - the world at our doorstep.
Really, I couldn't say no. I've wanted to do a mission for years - ever since my parents began leading teams to the Dominican Republic on construction missions. So a mission trip in my own backyard, for one weekend, at a very affordable price...well, any excuse for not doing would just be an excuse.
This week, to gear myself up for the trip, I'll be sharing information and resources related to the issues of urban poverty, homelessness and the plight of refugees. Think of it as a mini-mini-series.
I hope you'll join me on this venture and begin to see your neck of the woods with new eyes as I already am experiencing. And I'll post about my experience sometime next week.
Part of the requirements for this trip was to attend an urban poverty seminar which I did this past Saturday. It was amazing and intense.
If, like me, you are a relative foreigner to these issues, here is some information I learned this weekend that may open your eyes as wide as it did mine:
- The currency of poverty is relationships, it's what people in poverty value and center many of their choices around. The middle-class? All about achievement and it's probably no surprise that money drives this circle and our decisions.
- There are many answers to the question, "What causes poverty?" I can sum it all up in two words: WE do. We, all of us, cause poverty. It's a mix of personal choices, unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances (does anyone ask for mental illness or a debilitating injury?), legislation & politics and structures we, the "haves," put in place to protect us from the "have nots."
- Scary thought: like many of our institutions, the church largely emulates middle-class values and structures. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as many of these values keeps things from descending into chaos. But it becomes a problem when the church is meant to be a body cohesive and inclusive and if one part of the body (the poor) feels it doesn't belong because these structures are intimidating, then we have some walls to tear down.
- In poverty, power and respect cannot be separated, but they are separated in the middle class. For example, an impoverished person will leave a job if they do not feel respected by their boss. Someone in the middle class would stick that job out, especially if it's a stepping stone to the next rung of the ladder.