This morning during morning prayer we were praying the intercessions, one of the intercessions really summed up what God put on my heart while in Haiti. The prayer as we begin Lent on this ash Wednesday was “may we abstain from what we do not really need, and help our brothers and sisters in distress”. This concept has been sitting very heavy on my heart.
As we were coming back from Haiti and landing in Miami I couldn’t help but look down and see the vast difference of scenery than what I had just scene in Port-au-Prince. This was nothing new, I felt very similar when returning from Ghana, except something about this time was different. The feeling was much deeper, more intense. The feelings just built when we got to Atlanta. Driving through downtown, seeing all the high rises and wealth, and asking myself the question “How is this just?”
The reason it was different this time was because the poverty I encountered struck a new chord with me, this time it was personal, this time it was family. While living here at Covecrest I have been so blessed to grow very close with the families here. One of the families, Chris and Michelle, are trying to adopt two Haitian orphans, David (2yrs) and Olguin (13yrs), whose mother died in the earthquake and the fathers have never really been present. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with David and Olguin while I was in Haiti, and grew to love them very deeply, similar to the rest of Chris and Michelle’s children. This was where the poverty became very personal.
Jesus states that His two greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and the second is to “love your neighbor as yourself”. (Matthew 22: 37-39) I always struggled with the understanding of loving my neighbor as myself, but what helped me understand this more was to think about it as to love my neighbor as I would love my own brother or family. If my own brother was digging through a landfill to find his next meal, something that we encountered last year in Nicaragua, I would go hungry so he didn’t have to do that. The reality is though that my brother and my family are not starving, they are healthy and need very little. So it is still hard to make this real for me. When I met David and Olguin this poverty became very real to me. I for the first time encountered family that was in serious need. My neighbor was now my family, and I loved them as such. Even though their current needs were being met more than the rest of the people of Haiti, David and Olguin, represented all the children and all the people of Haiti that were in need. The reality was they had friends and extended family that were starving and thirsty, which also meant that I had friends and extended family that were starving and thirsty.
When you encounter this type of poverty that is so personal, it’s hard to indulge, it’s hard to even meet your needs. Each day I had an internal struggle, do I eat my fill because I can when I know the people around me are eating nothing. Or do I too go hungry in solidarity with my brothers and sisters. Every single day, multiple times a day I would be approached by children, adults, men and women begging for water or food. How can I eat and be content amidst this suffering? God began placing a hatred in me for poverty and a hatred for greed and overindulgence.
There is no reason for poverty. There is enough wealth in the world to cover everyone’s NEED. It seems so simple. If I was given 4 pieces of bread to feed myself and my brother, I would not eat all 4, nor would I eat three. I would eat two and give two to my brother, it seems so simple. We live in a culture where we eat all 4 and then some. What if we abstained from those things we do not need, and with that excess gave to our brothers and sister in distress? God has convicted me to evaluate my own life and look at areas where I am indulging or consuming things I do not need to consume. Do I need to buy coffee, do I need to buy ice cream, do I need to buy coke when people would do anything just for some water? Do I need to eat out, do I need to eat steak and lobster, do I need to be satisfied all the time when there is a large part of the world, but even more personal, my own family that is in a constant state of hunger ? I’m struggling with these questions and I’m not sure I have the answers. I pray that this lent though, we may abstain from what we do not really need, and help our brothers and sisters in distress and may we live out the two greatest commandments, to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and to truly love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.