In less than two weeks I leave for Nicaragua. It was a year ago that I made my first trip there. For the past few years, my church has partnered with Food for the Hungry (FH) in Chinandega, Nicaragua to help with the development of a small community.
Last year we arrived late at night, upon awaking the next morning we headed out into the capital city of Managua before traveling to Chinandega. I was astounded with the extent of poverty and beauty. Nicaragua is called “the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes” and for good reason. Its seems everywhere you look there is a volcano looming in the distance. That first day as we drove those streets with volcanoes all around, I couldn’t peel my eyes away. I kept looking for a break in the poverty. But it seemed unending.
I have traveled to eastern Europe and fed the homeless and visited orphans there. I grew up in Appalachia and have seen the dirty diapered baby standing among trash and a falling down house. But this was different. It was visually and emotionally overwhelming.
As we traveled north to our destination and finally arrived and began to spend time in the community where we served that week, my mind became accustomed to the feel of things. I began to see that actually, not every home is plastic tarps and sheets of metal with dirt floors. I heard stories of entrepreneurs working hard and saving money to slowly add concrete walls and floors and a roof over his family’s and business’ head. I also began to see that those people who are living there, they are strong. They are joyful even with sometimes immense heartbreak and trials. They are working hard to care and love their children and to improve their community. They have some relationships with their neighbors that are rarely seen here with our privacy fences and over scheduled days.
My “developed” mind and eyes, so accustomed to the material wealth in the United States began to see anew and understand that though my day to day looks drastically different, there were many similarities. There are basic things that we all need and desire and hope. We all need clean water, food, clothing and shelter, and an ongoing way to provide for ourselves. Mothers here and there desire and hope for our children to have a good future, though the definitions of that can vary.
I also began to understand that the social and economic issues I saw are not fixed with an annual week long trip. We can provide support and come alongside community members on a special project like the health fair we assisted with last year, but there are systemic changes that need to take place. The FH workers there, who are Nicaraguan and naturally understand the culture and society, are doing so much to support the community throughout the year.
Food for the Hungry works in some of the most impoverished communities around the world in twenty countries. They take a very holistic approach to poverty, by working not just with relief situations, but also on developing communities. I love that they seek out and honor the strengths of the people they are helping. They work alongside the people in the community in their own culturally relevant ways and in areas that they recognize and want help with. The stories truly are inspiring and I would encourage you to check out the blog.
One of the most helpful ways to contribute is by sponsoring a child. For $35/month, this helps not just the child, but the entire community with clean water, medical care, educational assistance and more.
Sponsoring a child has been impactful for our family. Every time we receive a letter, there are tears shed, prayers prayed, and conversations about life around the world; how its different and how its the same. Their photos are in our home and my kids talk about them as if they are members of our family. My sweet six year old, just yesterday said, “Mama, I want to buy two big baskets of food for you to give to Donald & Milagros.” You can imagine what that does to this mama’s heart.
Moments like that are one of the reasons why we have been striving to simplify our lives. I want my kids to know that there is more to this world and life than what they see driving through our beautiful city and see on TV shows. I want them to know that giving, whether its your time, your money, or your efforts, is so much more fulfilling than attempting to fill our homes and lives with stuff.
In her book (affiliate link), 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess Jen Hatmaker says, “Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer. We’re tangled in unmanageable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more. What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can’t manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount?…It says we have too much, and it is ruining us.”
So do we have to travel to a developing country to change our perspective? No. You can visit your local homeless shelter to get a hard look at poverty and brokenness of our own country. If you want to expose yourself and your family to situations around the world, please consider sponsoring a child. There are also a plethora of books, documentaries, and blogs of those serving else where that you can turn to as well.
I know that seeing and reading and hearing about what goes on can be overwhelming. I’ve been there. But doing one thing is better than nothing. Larry Ward, founder of Food for the Hungry, started it all with this premise, “they die one at a time, and so we can help them one at a time.” If you’d like to read further about helping those in poverty whether here or abroad, I highly recommend (affiliate link) When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself. It’s no secret that there is often harm done when trying to help and this book thoroughly unpacks all of that and offers solutions through principles and strategies.
I leave you with this thought and encouragement as you simplify your life.
From Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World
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