How do I respond?

December 27, 2012

I have come back to the States several times since I started living abroad in 2010. I often find myself coming to the US and wondering how to respond the drastic differences in the two worlds I see. Being home during this holiday season, I realize how many “things” that we have in the States. I can have a meal in a matter of seconds at a drive through or find just about anything I need at one shop. When I compare this to the monetary poverty in most of Kenyan and the developing world, I struggle with how to respond. Should I feel guilty for having things or getting new things? Should I sell everything I own? Can I enjoy the things I have?

If you have spent any time abroad or in a place of extreme poverty, you may be able to relate. I am certainly not saying that I have any answers. I definitely don’t claim to exemplify the perfectly balanced way to live, but here a few things I have learned over the years.

  • Having things is not bad. It’s about how you use those resources that matters. The Bible teaches that we are to be stewards of what we have and use those for His Kingdom. Like any blessing we should use it to bless others.
  • Don’t polarize your culture and the one you experienced. Don’t overlook the flaws in outside cultures or exaggerate the flaws in your own culture. Each culture reflects God in a beautiful way, but each culture also has flaws.
  • Sometimes the first and most appropriate response is exemplifying a life of gratefulness, contentment, and thankfulness.
  • While overseas or soon after, don’t make drastic promises to yourself or other people before you have spent time thinking about it first. Take time to process what you have seen and outline one practical thing you can do that will contribute to the needs you saw.
  • Most of all, there is more than monetary poverty. Often we only see cultures in terms of material poverty and overlook other poverties like spiritual and social.

As we continue in celebrating the birth of Christ and look forward to a New Year, here is my simple encouragement for us all:

  1. Be grateful for what God has given you.
  2. Trust that God is working around the world in every community, rich and poor.
  3. Pray about how you can be involved with His work overseas.