When I drove across the country from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Phoenix, Ariz., in January 2008 I knew two things for sure:
- That I was about to start a wild adventure
- Only God knew where this adventure was heading!
My journey with Food for the Hungry (FH) began several months earlier when I volunteered as an intern and was sent to Aceh, Indonesia. For two months I lived and worked with Christian and Muslim staff, figuring out ways to help struggling families following the devastation of the infamous 2004 tsunami. It was the most difficult, yet most rewarding experience I had encountered up till that point. I persevered, had the most amazing summer of my life, and hence heard God’s call to seek out a career in ministry.
Little did I know that God’s call would bring me to Phoenix. Looking back at the past five years, I smile at all God has taught me. Here are the last three of five distinct lessons I’ve learned while working at FH (click here for Part 1):
Lesson 3: Fighting poverty is not a perfect science
Contrary to what many believe, fighting poverty is not a simple equation. You cannot simply insert a variable and expect poverty to be eradicated. If it were as simple as that, organizations like FH would not need to exist. And believe me… our business plan is to work ourselves out of a job!
Instead, the fight against poverty is a process. It involves changing dynamics and hidden variables. The work that must be done to help the most vulnerable is incredibly contextualized. What works in Uganda, might not work in Cambodia. And a program that failed in Peru, might have wild success in Mozambique. And while the brainiacs that cook up the most scientific methods of poverty reduction use all the best empirical evidence and statistical assessments, there’s always a need to recon with the supernatural. At FH, we believe in the power of prayer. We know that the success of our work is in God’s hands. Therefore we should fight poverty the best we know how, and know that God will fill in the blanks!
Lesson 4: Patience is indeed a virtue
I’ve heard this fortune-cookie saying my whole life and have come to find out that it is completely valid. But never more so than when walking with the most vulnerable people around the world.
Patience is not a natural reaction when you see a mother dying of AIDS-related illness.
Patience is not an instinctive choice when you see a father depressed and ashamed because there is no work for him to provide for his family.
Patience is not our heartfelt response when we see a child in need.
But patience is the discipline that we must exhibit if we truly desire to end poverty. It allows us to respond to situations effectively. It magnifies our impact by improving our efficiency. And it allows us to take note of the work God is doing through every person involved. Patience is not a celebrated discipline in our culture today. But time and time again, patience has been a key ingredient for how lives are changed.
Lesson 5: Success is possible!
We can do this. God wants us to try! The most recent example of success in the fight against poverty was on the medical front. A couple weeks ago it was confirmed by doctors that a two year old girl, who was born HIV positive, no longer had any traces of the virus in her system. Due to an aggressive treatment begun shortly after her birth, she beat AIDS!
This does not mean that the war against AIDS is over. But it is a significant battle that has been won. Over the past 100 years we have seen the near-complete eradication of small pox from the planet. We have seen once developing countries transform into thriving democracies (South Korea, Malaysia). And as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs – a set of global human development goals stated and agreed upon by the United Nations) reach their deadline in 2015, we know that several of these critical benchmarks will be met.
That is not to say that all is well on the international development front. Far from it. And that is why as a global poverty solutions partner, FH will labor on. But these five lessons have allowed me to better understand how I can be a part of ending poverty. I hope they are helpful for you as you seek to understand your own role.
I am thankful for the challenges I’ve been confronted with and the lessons God has taught me these past five years. And I look forward to all He has in store for me over the next five years!
If you are interested in working for Food for the Hungry, please visit our website.