Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Poverty, Trees and God Calling

Recently the world has been made aware of the poverty of Haiti after such devastation. Sometimes we can't put our thoughts on hold to forget about those who have so little while we rush about having so much. We try to push those God-given thoughts about poverty to the recesses of our heart, but when tragedy hits so severely we are simply compelled to be part of the restoration work.

I've had a passion for the poor for a very long time. I know God gave it to me because my nature would be to spend all my money on me ... to keep my want list long enough that I don't have any money to share. But God changes our hearts and gives us spiritual gifts and we choose to use them. One of the ones He gave me a long time ago was a desire to change the circumstances for those living in poverty. Making somebody else's life a bit more meaningful after being able to provide food and basic needs.

Living more simply ... so others may simply live.

There are so many great Christian organizations doing good work out there. Providing micro-loans so people can be self-reliant. God gives brilliant ideas to those who are poor, the same as to those who have wealth. They just don't get the few dollars it takes to fulfill dreams and provide for their families.

Recently we discovered Plant With Purpose (previously Floresta) and wanted to be part of their work. Here's some information about them from their website:o

For us, the breakthrough came when we saw first-hand the connection between poverty and the environment. Many people think of poverty and the environment as separate issues, but in fact they are hugely interdependent.

Most of the world’s poor are rural poor. Many are subsistence farmers, completely dependent on their environment for survival. But as a result of widespread deforestation, the land isn’t providing like it used to. Land that once bore bountiful crops that could be sold or eaten, isn’t producing. Streams that used to provide water to drink, now run dry. Out of desperation, the poor cut down more trees to sell as firewood, even though doing so means further destroying their one chance of survival.

By reversing deforestation, Plant With Purpose helps the poor restore productivity to their land to create economic opportunity out of environmental restoration. Since 1984 we have helped more than 100,000 people in some 230 villages lift themselves out of poverty through our holistic approach to sustainable development.

We hear a lot about environmental issues, but we don't understand how it all relates to us as Christians. We don't understand the big picture and that it's not just about clean air and water. It's about starvation and death for many.

I encourage you to read Scott C. Sabin's book, Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God's People. Open your heart and seek to understand what God really wants from us regarding His command to "tend the Garden" and how we can take small steps to do so. Those small steps will make a bigger difference than you can ever imagine!

About the book:

Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God's People offers a global perspective on the theological foundation for caring for the earth and its people. Throughout the book, Plant With Purpose Executive Director Scott Sabin recounts his personal journey of helping the poor and the environment and brings the reader into poor rural communities in Haiti, Mexico, Tanzania, Burundi, the Dominican Republic, and Thailand through compelling language and eloquent story telling. The book also includes a creation care study guide.

"Port-au-Prince loomed all around us, as if the tide had come in over the cinderblock-and-iron architecture and stranded garbage and rubble on every horizontal surface. Human beings spilled out onto the broken streets, in every sort of dress imaginable. A naked man walked past a gentleman in a pinstriped suit, who was picking his way through the debris. People filled each alley and turned every sidewalk into an impromptu market. Rotting fruit and raw sewage odors combined with the smell of frying meat and exhaust. UN convoys of white SUVs and armored personnel carriers pass frequently… Today I know those mountains, and I know the people who live in them. I’ve developed a deep love and a great deal of respect for these people. I know their dreams, their courage, and the incredible persistence with which they work to take care of their families. I know the lack of opportunity that has made the destruction of this land inevitable." — from the Preface

Here's a few excerpts from the book:

The lie of the world, reinforced by the media and believed by millions, is that the poor are worthless. The global economic system measures worth in dollars—you are paid according to how society values your contribution. The message is that as a Haitian farmer, no matter how bright you are, and no matter how hard you work, you will never be worth more than a few hundred dollars a year.

We need to defeat the lie that says worth is measured in dollars. Sadly, the poor and many of those who try to help them have unknowingly bought into this lie. For the poor, it is manifested in a lack of self-confidence, self-esteem, and initiative. For those seeking to help, it manifests itself in condescension and patronizing attitudes.

Unfortunately, when outsiders offer help, whether through foreign aid, short-term missions, or donations, we often reinforce this lie. We bring used clothes that put local tailors out of business and give away free food that undercuts the local farmers. We construct buildings for people, putting local masons and carpenters out of work and implicitly sending the message that it takes outsiders to get things done. We may even encourage small businesses based on models that work in the United States, but because we don’t understand the culture and local economics, these businesses fail. And that failure reinforces the lie that the local people are incapable of succeeding.

I don’t mean to disparage anyone who gives to the poor. We are commanded to do so. There are times when a handout is the most important thing a person can receive. People need assistance when they are sick, or after a disaster, or helpless. Children who have no families clearly need someone to care for them. But if we do for others what they can and should do for themselves, we rob them of their dignity and reinforce the lie that they have nothing to offer. We create dependency.

A story is told of travelers who come into a community during a famine and ask for something to eat. They are told there is nothing. The travelers take out a pot and begin to make soup by boiling some stones. When asked about it, they explain that they are making “stone soup” and only need a bit of garnish to improve it. One by one everyone in the village brings something to contribute. In the end a fine stew is made, with everyone eating their fill.

Similarly, the members of a community often have the materials and resources needed to change their situation. Sometimes people just need a catalyst and a little organization to create something far better than any of them could have imagined.

– from pages 26 to 28 in Tending to Eden by Scott C. Sabin, Executive Director of Plant With Purpose

Purchase the book, Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God's People, at now and even your purchase will benefit the organization.  Visit the Plant With Purpose website to see what other opportunities there are for you to make a difference in our world.

This website is sponsored by The Herbs Place, distributor of Nature's Sunshine herbs, supplements, essential oils and more at wholesale prices.

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