Have You Seen? {October 27, 2019}

Last Week’s Theme: Poverty

Struggling with Guilt in the Face of Poverty by Joy Smalley—”I was in Wal-Mart shortly after getting married, shopping for household necessities. I’d bypassed the paper goods section, as I never buy napkins or paper towels, but found myself staring blankly at the row of trash bags. I couldn’t bring myself to put the trash bags in the cart, the internal guilt was overpowering, ‘You don’t need trash bags,’ I kept repeating in my head until I was so disordered, I turned and walked away. Mongolia was an impoverished country when I moved there and I imagine it still is in many ways. Food was scarce and we often ate expired foods, even going so far as to pick out the mouse droppings from our flour because it was what we had and there were no other options. Stores and restaurants were often open, yet they carried no food, only flat Pepsi and Russian Vodka. For snacks we would mix barley flour and hot water, topped with sugar or simply added some powdered milk to a can of sweet and condensed milk, making a thick and sweet dessert. It was a normal experience for our tongues to swell with sores from malnutrition and vitamin deficiency.”

Named and Known {Book Club} by Sarah Hilkemann—”Do you ever feel nameless? In Cambodia I called everyone by a family name, like sister or auntie or grandfather. It is comforting in a way when your neighbor uses the word for daughter when she talks to you. It can also be a bit confusing, and I’m not sure I ever quite got the hang of it. How do I know when to switch to grandmother from older auntie? I’m sure I offended some people by choosing the wrong label. But I realized after years using and hearing these familial terms that I longed to hear my own name. It matters doesn’t it? It might feel small but there is something powerful about being known in this way. As we read about in chapter four of Glorious Weakness, we can hear or call ourselves names that are not true. These labels or names can fill our hearts with shame, cause us to shrink back in fear or push us to believe our whole identity is formed solely on this one thing.”

Learning to See by RL—”I sat on a wall between the beach and the road in Thailand. To my right, three teens were in conversation with my colleagues. Silently praying, I watched facial expressions and body language. Since I’d just arrived, I understood little, but I could guess the gist of the conversation. To my left, within arm’s reach, a middle-aged woman bargained with a European man over the price of her body for the day. I wanted to shout at him, tell him to go home. But what good would that do? I looked down the wall: dozens more women waited. My colleagues later explained the teen sisters’ story of coming to the city for work. They had been tricked. Too young to be hired anywhere legally, now they were fending for themselves. Meeting those girls rocked me. The center I worked at could not legally take them because of their age. My colleagues promised to stay in touch. Wasn’t there anything else to do? Yet there were hundreds of girls in their situation. I grew overwhelmed, with no idea how to cope. Weekdays were long. By the time weekends came, I needed rest, but it eluded me. Outside, anywhere I went, I saw woman after woman, girl after girl. It seemed so selfish for me to enjoy anything while they suffered. Inside my house, I was tormented. Shouldn’t I be outside trying to help someone, trying to do something about this?”

When the Poor Begin to Bless by Pahtyana Moore—”We were stunned that this was their answer and their perspective, and we knew something had to change then and there. But what? This led us to seek the Lord for his discernment and direction. During one training, we decided to change things up and asked a few volunteers to help us demonstrate what a weekly small group discipleship time could look like. We asked them to pull their chairs into a circle and share a personal need. We knew this was a little risky in a Kenyan context, as it is not culturally appropriate to share your needs outside of your immediate family. But we explained that in the family of God we are called to share our burdens, pray for one another and meet one another’s needs. And so, they began to share.  A woman cried as she revealed that she and her children had run out of money and had not been able to eat for days. She had not openly shared their circumstances before because she had been deeply ashamed and afraid of what the community would think of her.”

The Disempowerment of Charity {The Grove: Poverty} by Lauren Pinkston—”So, then…what do we do? How do we adjust our behaviors among ‘the poor’ to better serve them? While I was living overseas, I learned how important a safe job is for women and men looking to take care of their families. I saw how diligently people were seeking out good employers and how the need for an income put many of my neighbors at risk of being exploited for cheap labor. My route to obedience was leaving the non-profit sector and learning how to start businesses.  I’d never taken a business course in my life, but people needed work and they wanted to work for someone who would protect them. I was called to stand in the gap. Never in a million years would I have expected to launch three companies during my five years on the field. Obedience is upside-down like that. The gap you’re standing in may be similar, but it may look much different. How are you seeking to understand your neighbors in financial hardship? In what ways has living in a developing nation changed your perception of poverty? If you are in a developed country, how have you seen populations threatened by systemic injustice? Do you agree or disagree that there are better ways to serve impoverished communities than charitable aid?”

From Around the Web

4 Myths About Cross-Cultural* Preparation 

The Books I Recommend Over and Over. And Over. 

5 Tips for Newsletter Writing

When You Feel Overwhelmed- Podcast on Rhythms for Life

Noteworthy on Instagram: The Influence of Our Kitchens and Finding Life-giving Activities Overseas

Finally, Good Things are Coming

And Now For Next Week

The theme is…

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It is a privilege, a responsibility, a concern.

We steward the stories of the people around us, caretakers of God’s woven threads throughout their lives. We ask people to pray, share stories of celebration and victory, tragedy and loss.

Our position is so unique as we straddle two worlds, bridging the gap between them. This isn’t easy sometimes, and we struggle with what to share on social media or in newsletters, how to bring attention to needs while maintaining the dignity of all.

How do you tell these stories?

This week we are talking about ethical storytelling, diving into the ways that we tell the stories of the people around us. How have you wrestled with these concepts? We would love to hear from you this week.

Jump in on the conversation in the blog comments and hashtag us on Instagram using #VelvetAshesTellingTheirStory, or #VelvetAshes.

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