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Poverty’s Shame

what is sacrifice Last week a small group of us stood in Juan’s yard in Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua, to learn more about him and his family’s life. This was part of a sponsor tour home visit and seven of us branched off from the rest of the group to visit Juan.

The air was hot and still with some pesky flies and mosquitoes buzzing around. Juan’s wife, Brenda, did most of the talking. They have three children, and all of them were sponsored in the local Compassion child development centers.

Three is the maximum number of children from one family that can be enrolled in our sponsorship program, so that alone told me they were in a desperate situation.

A few from the group sat in some plastic chairs in front of their 12 x 12 single-room house made of scrap boards, cinder blocks and a rusting tin roof.

We asked questions about their kids, their jobs, their hopes and dreams, etc. One of their sons and two other local boys were high above us in the branches of the mamón tree, gathering the small fruit to eat or sell, causing small branches and leaves to fall around us from time to time.

At most homes we visit on these trips we are welcomed inside. It was different here. Brenda was embarrassed about how little they had, ashamed of their poverty.

We all knew that Juan and his family were not less than us; they just have less than us. Despite that, their poverty has begun to work in their minds and hearts to cause feelings of shame and embarrassment over their situation.

juan-and-brenda-ciudad-sandinoWhen we realized this, it was uncomfortable, and we quickly tried to lighten the conversation. We asked how we could pray for them and specifically for Juan — and even then it was Brenda who answered for him.

Not wanting to make the meeting so one-sided, we encouraged them to ask questions of us. Most times, the questions we get are pretty light: does it snow where we live, what church do we attend, etc. I wasn’t prepared for the weight of the question when Juan finally spoke:

“For you, when you help take care of our children, is it easy for you, or is it a sacrifice [3]?”

It’s easy to get caught up in life in America, the richest country and culture in the history of the world.

And by American standards, perhaps I am sacrificing to help children [4] like Juan’s. We don’t have cable, we own and share one car, and we try to curb our desire for new clothes and other things, buying stuff second hand when we can.

But looking at Juan and Brenda and all they have to do to care for their children, the truth, the absolute truth, is that I know nothing of sacrifice.

I have never faced the choices they face daily, and I probably never will.

I don’t have to choose between medicine for a sick child and food for the rest of the family. It wouldn’t even cross my mind to sacrifice my young child’s education to get him out earning money for the family.

I brush up against poverty on these trips, and we sponsor several children and donate in other areas, but looking at their lives it is clear that what we do is easy and requires no true sacrifice on our part.

It is I who should be embarrassed and ashamed, not Juan and Brenda.

Lord Jesus, show me more and more how I can serve you with all that I am, how to truly sacrifice, how to truly lay down my life for others, for You.