21 September 2020 CAROL ROUND
Grove, Oklahoma, USVia ASSIST News Service
Despite the abundance of material goods in Western societies,many remain spiritually empty. PICTURE: Krisztina Papp/Unsplash
Let me sleep a little longer! Sure, just a little more! And as you sleep, poverty creeps upon you like a robber and destroys you; want attacks you in full armour" - Proverbs 6:10-11 (TLB).
In 2008, I went on my first mission trip with 19 others from our church to Rio Bravo, Mexico. It was also the first time Id been out of the country. However, I wasnt prepared for the abject poverty of the people we served on our trip.
A few weeks before leaving, our senior pastor met with the team to offer encouragement as well as mission guidelines. I still recall two things from that meeting: First, he said, Being flexible is important. Although we had plans for the five days wed be in Mexico, we needed to follow the Holy Spirits leading.
Second, because we were travelling to Mexico on our church bus, we could only take one medium suitcase apiece. My response? Define medium". While I said it jokingly, I was contemplating the size of my luggage at home.
After driving almost 1,000 miles, we arrived in Rio Bravo. We had several projects to complete, including the construction of a small casita for a family of five. The young couple with three girls under seven-years-old, were living in a makeshift dwelling smaller than my walk-in closet. No running water, no electricity, all five lived in the one-room abode.
Our group, ranging in age from 49 to 74, completed the concrete block house in three-and-a-half days. The familys new house consisted of two doors, three windows, and a loft where the children would sleep. Still no plumbing, no electricity, just a place for the five to lay their heads at night.
As the construction took shape, the young mothers face radiated excitement. With the finished product, the looks on the faces of the family said it all. It was their mansion. Smiles graced the face of the parents. The children played on the concrete floor of their new home, a step-up from the dirt floor in their previous dwelling. What we take for granted was a luxury for them.
Upon returning home, I realised while unpacking my luggage, that much of what Id packed wasnt a necessity. Remembering the poverty we experienced on our mission, I was struck with how blessed we are in this country. Even the poorest of the poor in America have a safety net with programs, both government and through charitable organisations. That isnt the case in other countries.
On other mission trips overseas, Ive come to realise how much we take our blessings for granted. We turn on the tap and water flows. We flip a switch and light illuminates a room. Many of us have at least two cars in the garage.
The poor we met had few material blessings, but they have something sorely lacking in America today. Assisting with Vacation Bible School in these less fortunate areas made me aware of the spiritual poverty in our country. The children and adults enthusiastically participated in VBS. Each day, they brought more children with them. They sat quietly while we shared stories of Jesus with them. Simple things, like making crafts and playing with bubbles, brought smiles and giggles. Missing were the trappings of an affluent society.
The abundance of material goods in America cannot fill the needs of the soul. Weve become trapped by our desires for the latest and greatest gadgets. Our focus is on the external instead of the eternal. In I John 2:15-16, the apostle writes Do not love the world, or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.
If youve been on this earth more than 60 years, like I have, youve witnessed a revolution of change. A Gallup blog post, dated August, 2019, listed 10 major social changes in the 50 years since Woodstock. Number one on the list was the waning of religious attachment. Two Gallup polls, one in 1965 and a second in 1978, showed a sharp decline in what they termed religiosity". The percentage of Americans saying religion was important to them fell from 70 per cent to 52 per cent. In the last 15 years, church attendance has dropped even more precipitously.
Martin Luther King, Jr, once said: When we look at modern man, we have to face the fact...that modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance; Weve learned to fly the air like birds, weve learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we havent learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters...
Could this account for the decline in civility and intolerance in society? Have we, in our pride, forgotten how much we need God?
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