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Ideas for Experiencing Poverty

Poverty is hard to grasp. Living amongst plenty, those seven letters (p-o-v-e-r-t-y) can be like abstract little bubbles floating in the air, not tethered down to anything real or concrete.

Have you ever experienced something here in the States that really made you get it?

Several months ago here at Compassion, we had a speaker at our weekly chapel. He had a pitcher full of 30,000 bbs. He told us about how 30,000 children under 5 die each day of preventable causes. Now, I’m no stranger to numbers. I could rattle off the numbers of poverty till your eyes cross.

But this speaker slowly poured 30,000 bbs into a metal basin as we sat and listened. Each ping that represented a life was like getting stuck by a pin. And they kept coming and coming and coming. Just as you thought there surely couldn’t be any more, that he must be nearing the end of the bbs, they just kept pouring. Ping. Ping. Ping. Ping.

And for all my knowledge of numbers, this left me undone. God used the experience to break through my heart’s armor of cold, sterile numbers to soften it to the reality of human suffering.

I wrote Hope Lives [3] with a prayer that God would use it to soften others’ hearts toward what he cares about so deeply. Now I’m writing a follow-up to this book that will help small groups experience and pray for the needs in this world.

So I need your help! Have you experienced something at your church or with your youth group or with your family that really helped you empathize with those in need or understand what poverty means? For example, I know of some families who have tried to eat for one day spending just $1, the amount millions of families around the world live on each day. I know another Compassion employee who used this photo [4] as the artwork over his dining room table.

What great ideas do you have that you would like to share? How did your experience effect you?

Fine print: OK, my publisher said I need to include this here: By sharing your idea, you’re giving me permission to use this idea in publication without any form of compensation, other than my deepest gratitude and eternal friendship.