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A Response to Pov.ology

By Candice, RMM worker in Thailand

We climb the concrete stairs of the pedestrian bridge, my mind on the long list of items my family needs from the grocery store. On the landing sits a small puddle of humanity, dressed in rags with beseeching eyes, her cup held out to me, holding me with her eyes. Further out on the bridge I find a man cooking eggs over coals; I buy two and some noodles. My daughter runs back to give them to the lady and we continue on our way to fill our cart with groceries. The guilt follows us. How can we be comfortable in our blessed state when there are those with deformities and open sores and hunger and lack sitting on the stairs? Poverty is all around – asking us for a response. What will it be?

This year, our Thailand team completed the video series Pov.ology. The series is made in association with New Life Christian Fellowship and the Evangelical Mennonite Conference located in Ontario, Canada. Pov.ology is a series of six videos “discussing poverty, theology, and the church, and what it all has to do with the individual Christian. It features interviews with folks like Shane Claiborne, Dr. Ronald J. Sider, Bruxy Cavey, and many more." In interviews, these leaders attempt to answer the questions: What is our role in alleviating poverty? What was Jesus’ response to the poor? What does the gospel have to do with it all? Is the church doing more harm than good?

For me, this series opened many doors to thoughts I’d never considered, and it helped our team discuss some of the guilty and dissonant feelings we experience when we consider the needs of the poor in our context here in Bangkok. An important thing is to narrow the gap between what I say I believe and what I do. What I believe is actually shown by my actions toward the poor. Concrete action is expressed in love, justice, and compassion. We all need to be in a transformative relationship, and when I have relationships with poor people both they and I are transformed. The speakers encouraged us to try and to fail – to take positions of service and solidarity, to do things that foster humility – uncomfortable steps, to help the poor to feel dignity and honor, and to help them re-establish a sense of choice and autonomy, empowering them for their own change. The Holy Spirit is our helper in this – listen and be sensitive.

"I want to see the gifts and assets of the poor around me and serve together with them.”As a team, we discussed the many kinds of poverty and the fact that we’re not called to address just one. The rich of Bangkok are suffering from a kind of spiritual poverty. We need to actually get to know the needy person with their hurts and problems and find what kind of poverty they are facing. Our motivation for giving should reflect the great generosity we have been shown by God.

I wrote in my journal, praying that the Lord would increase my compassion: “I don’t want hard-hearted cynicism. I want to feel with people, not pity for people. I want to see the gifts and assets of the poor around me and serve together with them. I want to express solidarity and love.”

My teammates shared:

“I liked the episode ‘The Power of Small Things’ very much. The way that small things can impact people in big ways, for example, dedicating time, understanding, sincere friendship, and respect.” – Jonatan

“I thought that the video creators handled a difficult topic very well and gave us a lot to think about without it being only guilt-inducing. And it was a relevant and practical topic for our team to discuss together.” – Tom

“I remember a part about living life with those with less and trying to truly understand them. The importance of building relationships and giving time instead of only money.” – Karly

“I really appreciated the variety of perspectives and expert interviews included in the series. It was very meaningful for me to hear the voices of experience.” – Anna

The six sessions are called:

• Session 1: Our Homeless Leader
• Session 2: Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is
• Session 3: Responding to Poverty
• Session 4: Do No Harm
• Session 5: What About the Gospel?
• Session 6: The Power of Small Things

If your small group or church is interested in this series, you can find it at www.povology.com, or like we did, on the Conservative Mennonite Conference website.