Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blessed with poverty

If you didn’t get to go to the Costa Rica Mission Trip share time last night, I’m sorry. The youth not only impressed us with the various works they did for the church in Costa Rica, but also moved us with their bold and articulate expressions of what God was doing in them as a result of the trip. I was blessed by their testimonies as I know they were blessed by the trip. Thanks to all the adults who went as leaders, all of you who lifted them up in prayer while they were gone, and all who gave financially to make the trip a possibility.

One of the themes that surfaced in many of the youths’ testimonies was the apparent paradox of joy in poverty. Again and again the youth spoke of how joyful the people they met were despite their apparent lack of material possessions. The youths’ stories reminded me of a song by one of my favorite songwriters, Andrew Peterson. Entitled, “The Land of the Free,” it was written after he had gone on a mission trip to Bolivia. In the first couple of verses of the song he asks a little Bolivian girl named Elba:

Little Elba how’s the sun in South America?
Does it shine upon the faces of the poor?
Do they see in it the brilliance of the place that’s been prepared
And dwell upon the hope of what’s in store?

Or are they just like me?
Do they only see
an opportunity
to complain about the heat?

Little Elba, how’s the rain in South America?
Does it fall upon the rooftops of the sick?
Do they thank the Lord for coming up with such a great idea
And dream about a place beyond all this?

Or are they just like us?
Do they gripe and fuss?
About the rain and mud
When they’ve had too much

‘Cause I’m just a little jealous
Of the nothing that you have
Unfettered by the wealth of
A world that we pretend is gonna last.
They say God blessed us with plenty
I say you’re blessed with poverty
‘Cause you never stop to wonder whether
Earth is just a little better than
The Land of the Free.

Obviously, when we start discussing who’s more blessed, those with wealth or those without, it’s not a simple discussion. Poverty shouldn’t be romanticized. Poverty wreaks havoc upon those who must endure it. Poverty’s existence serves as a constant reminder of the fallen nature of our world. When Jesus got ready to announce his mission on the earth in Luke 4, he declared that God had anointed him to proclaim good news to the poor. That hardly seems like an endorsement of poverty. But Andrew Peterson’s questions to Elba, like those of our youth challenge us to remember that just as poverty shouldn’t be romanticized, neither should wealth be trusted. The hope of all people, both rich and poor rests in one place, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The advantage of being poor, according to both the Bible and our experiences, is that the poor tend to be quicker to recognize that truth.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” Luke 6:20.
The song mentioned above is available on Andrew Peterson's album, Clear to Venus. It's a hidden track so it's not listed on the album notes. Clear to Venus and Andrew's other CDs can be purchased at Andrew's website, http://www.andrew-peterson.com/. While I highly recommend all his CDs, Love and Thunder, is my favorite.

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