You glance out of the taxi and she catches your eye, motioning her dirty hand to her mouth and then holding it out to you. He sits there on the sidelines of your soccer camp, too hungry to play. Tired eyes peer out the window of a broken shanty wrapped in a fraying blue tarp.
In that moment, what do you know? How do you feel? What do you believe? What can you DO?
Before that moment, how can you prepare to answer those questions and encounter poverty?
One of the key benefits for any short-term mission participant is gaining a greater understanding of the world, especially regarding the physical and spiritual poverty of the people you will meet. Hopefully, another outcome is the participant’s transformed heart that desires to see all people living in the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One way to prepare for that transformation on your short term mission trip is to gain greater awareness of the needs of people living in poverty before you go.
A live virtual tour or visit to an interactive exhibit, such as Poverty Encounter, is a rich way to start your individual or team journey even before you pack your bags. Sponsored by Children’s Hunger Fund and located in Sylmar, California (northern Los Angeles County), Poverty Encounter is a multi-sensory experience that plunges visitors into the lives of children impacted by poverty. Guests will visit a home inside a dump in Guatemala City, walk the earthquake-damaged streets of Haiti, feel the glare of a brickyard owner in Nepal, and visit the sewers of Romania. Interviews with pastors in the United States remind visitors that poverty impacts millions of families, even in America. Rejoice to see how God is at work through the faithfulness of local churches delivering hope to meet the physical and spiritual needs of children with food and the Good News of Jesus. You will find your mind impacted with information about material and spiritual poverty, have your hearts touched with the needs of the world, and employ your hands to serve, before ever going on your mission trip.
Pre-field experiences like this will challenge you with information about the root causes and realities of poverty in the lives of families around the world. You will be confronted with both your own blessings and your ability to engage in delivering hope. Consider a poverty encounter trip, whether in person or online, to help you prepare for what God will do in and through you or your team!
For other similar poverty immersions, check out more STM.com resources here.