Urbana Thoughts: Working in poverty

Lord willing, I’m going to be posting a series of entries about my experience at Urbana, a student missions conference I went to at the end of December. I heard a lot of things throughout the week. I gained valuable insights from some things that were said, there were some things that I didn’t agree with, and there were some things that will change the way I do missions.

One of the issues that was discussed in some detail was coming alongside those who live in poverty and working with them rather than just doing things for them. For some time I’ve felt like someday I’ll be living in near-poverty conditions by my own choosing, so this topic was really interesting to me.

I heard Jean-Luc Krieg talk about working in urban slums. He said that a huge problem in Mexico City, where he works, is that the people lack hope. Building healthy local churches that are willing to reach out to the poor is a huge focus of their ministry. What better hope can we give people than that there is a God who cares for them, something greater than themselves to live for?

What interested me much more was hearing Ruth Padilla speak about her mother, Kati, who raised her family in a regular, middle-class neighborhood in Argentina, sent her kids to public schools, opened her home to the poor and oppressed, and went into the dangerous slums (often by herself). This woman was an American who had learned what it meant to live with the poor and see the face of Christ in people, no matter what the looked like. This is how I want to live my life. I want to actually listen to what people have to say, and I want my love for them to flow from the love I receive from God.

I can’t change that I’m white and privileged. That’s who I am, and although I can’t yet say that I’m proud of that, I’m learning to accept that my upper-middle class rural Caucasian heritage has given me something unique to bring to God’s mission of reaching every tribe, tongue and nation for His glory.

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