My cousin Tara Wawelo worked years in Africa, particularly Uganda. She is married to Ivan Wawelo, who was born and raised in Uganda, and was even one of Compassion International's sponsor children. Their recent transition into the United States has been difficult, but full of wonderfully profound insights about American culture. Ivan, especially, offers a really valuable contrasting perspective to the common American worldview.
"Why are there so many missionaries to the poor in Uganda?" he asks. "We need more missionaries to the rich!”
That is not the typical call for missions in Africa. Ivan continues, “So many Americans come back from Africa and say ‘The African believers
really challenged me. They have so little and yet they have so much
faith.’ Why? Does that mean if those Americans had nothing, they would
lose their faith in God? Is faith in God dependent on material
possessions?. . . God is still
God, whether we are rich or poor.” Social justice is important. Serving the poor and widows is the calling of the Church. But do the Church and mission agencies need to reform their approach to the subject?
So what is poverty? It is an elusive concept. There is relative
poverty and absolute poverty. Relative poverty means you are poor
compared to those who live next to you. Absolute poverty means you
don’t have food to eat or water to drink and your life is actually in
danger. To put this in perspective, to be considered impoverished by
U.S. standards, you are still richer than 85% of the world’s population. (Tara Wawelo)
I encourage you to read the rest of Tara's recent blog, "Poverty?"
Ivan and Tara, thank you