Jen quotes Jeffery Sachs, the author of The End of Poverty:
"If economic development is a ladder with higher rungs representing steps up the path to economic well-being, there are roughly one billion people around the world, one sixth of humanity, who [are] . . . too ill, hungry, or destitute even to get a foot on the first rung of the developmental ladder. These people are the “poorest of the poor,” or the “extreme poor” of the planet. "
Jen continues: "This bottom layer of destitution will never be alleviated without intervention. The majority of the extreme poor are caught in a poverty trap, unable to escape from deprivation because of disease, physical isolation, climate stress, environmental degradation, and poverty itself. Lifesaving solutions exist, and most are inexpensive and available—but these families and their governments lack the financial means to obtain them."
Living here in Ghana, and starting our Impact One Family Assistance Program, we see this on a daily basis. We see the families that struggle to even make it meal to meal, sometimes missing out on meal after meal because they just didn't have enough. They are not able to meet medical needs that, if taken care of, would enable them to get healthy enough to work and in turn care for the needs of their family. We see others survive on their income, but cannot save for the future. We see other families who are making it and their children will be able to rise out of poverty because of the hard work of their parents.
One of these families has been part of the CORM heart for the past three years, the mother riddled by disease, widowed and taken advantage of, taking care of her 4 children and 2 grandchildren. They are in a place where they cannot even seem to get their foot on the bottom rung.
A week ago, when meeting with the mother about family matters, one look in her eyes told her whole story. You could feel the hopelessness.
We met with her boys, who attend our school, and in our conversation, they struggled to even maintain eye contact, let alone have enough confidence to express themselves.
And there is no help. The oldest children, adults with families of their own, are struggling themselves and find it difficult to come and help. Family of her deceased husband have taken advantage of her and her situation, in more ways than one.
While we struggle to maintain the boundaries of our new program, wanting to help people learn to help themselves (you know the age-old adage...teach a man to fish), we also see some cases where there is simply no strength left to pick themselves up and start to climb.
And so we pray. And we seek God. And we find the little ways we can serve while we begin to dream bigger things with this family.
We find mentors for the boys.
We provide breakfast at our house before school starts.
We get them on health insurance and help them know where to start to answer some of the health questions.
We provide after school tutoring.
And maybe someday soon, some of the strength she used to have will return.
And maybe when she sees the love, some of the hope she used to have will begin to shine once again in her eyes.
And maybe, sometime down the road, we will stand with a woman and her children, healthy and happy and able to provide for themselves.
And even if all these dreams don't come to pass, and the real fact of the matter is that they may not if the mother remains so sick, we will still be walking beside them. Because they are part of CORM's heart. And they are part of God's heart.
And God's heart is for this...to care for the orphaned and widowed, the vulnerable, the down trodden, the hopeless, the broken. God's heart is simply to be there when it is hard and uncomfortable and when the answers aren't easy.
For us here in Ghana, poverty is out in the open and very visible. You cannot escape it. You cannot turn a blind eye. I see it everyday in the faces of my students, in the homes they run to after school, in the worry on their mother's faces when they come to pay school fees.
You can hide from it in the Western world. But, the truth of the matter is, it still exists. Poverty, in it's truest and darkest form, is alive and well.
When you see that the leading cause of death in Ghana for those 5 and under is malaria, a virus which can be easily treated by medicines costing around $10 or prevented with a net that costs around the same amount, you have to know that poverty is really the leading cause of death.
And Jen is right, the answers are inexpensive and available, but when you have to choose to feed a family of 7 or treat one child with a temperature, the answers aren't so clear cut anymore.
So, the challenge is, what do we do with this? The problem of poverty is huge and overwhelming and how can we even make a drop in the bucket?
There are people already doing the work. Open your heart. Be willing to step out of your comfortable places, and begin to open your eyes to ways you can partner with the millions working to elleviate poverty around the world. Step into the problem.
Research ways to partner in ministries both locally and globally, because really, it's a worldwide issue, and if it is an issue the whole world faces, that means it's an issue that unites us together.
If you are interested in partnering with City of Refuge Ministries and our Impact One program, check out our website at www.cityofrefugeoutreach.com.
If you are interested in Jen's story of how God inturruped her life, check out her website at www.jenhatmaker.com.