My Education In The Complexity of Poverty Within South Africa

southafricaWritten by Brett Anderson

I grew up in South Africa and while I don’t think I would have ever called myself ‘poor’ growing up, i definitely was aware that we had less than most of the people I was at school with. And so ‘relative poverty’ I guess, although with regular meals, more than enough clothes and a comfortable place to live, the word ‘poverty’ there feels starkly out of place.

And is.

We weren’t so much poor as less rich.

Which as a white person in South Africa up to this point, is the likely narrative.

Now, as an adult, trying to be someone who engages with the necessary race conversations and the closely-related socio-economic issue in my country, I cannot call myself a follower of Jesus and ignore the very real poverty that exists around me.

But I come to realise more and more just how complicated it all is. There is no one-size-fits-all paradigm or practice or mindset that is going to work well. Case by case or more importantly person by person, I need to be discerning as to how best to proceed.

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The Power of a Meal, Mindfulness, & Generosity

16649004958_b56b215720_oWritten by Geoff Maddock

It’s Saturday and the finishing touches are placed on the table: a delicate vase of flowers and delicious biscuits straight from the oven. An ease and familiarity radiate around the room. The good company and hearty Irish stew generate warmth. The relaxed banter tapers off as one of our hosts explains the purpose of our gathering. Twelve friends lean in to learn about the needs of some of our neighbors and to carefully make an account of our resources.
Can we help? If so, how?

This is the simple work of a generosity event. We contemplate the dilemma of a friend whose ability to make a living ended when his car stopped. Another elderly neighbor and her partner are sleeping on the floor after their bed, an air mattress, sprung a leak.

If you wandered in on this scene you would notice two things. First, the group is obviously made up of people who know one another. Guests are lightening fast with a quip and equally quick to laugh. Secondly you would witness the good and important work of neighborliness; when geographically connected people pay attention to the needs and resources around them.

The conversation meanders and eventually questions about poverty, injustice, personal responsibility, and public policy beg for our attention. These systematic issues can be overwhelming and paralyzing, robbing us of a sense of agency to make things better. It all seems too much. At this generosity event, however, we are saved from despair by the needs raised. They bring focus and clarity to the conversation. We are back to considering the immobilized car and the deflated mattress.

Can we help alleviate these particular struggles? If so, how? Read more

My Education in The Complexity of Poverty

ccsoupWritten by Sean Gladding

When I first moved to the States two decades ago, I volunteered at a program called ‘Second Helpings’, a community meal served on Saturdays at a large downtown church in Lubbock, Texas. At first I learned who the regulars were by their faces. In time, I learned their names. One Saturday I decided to change sides of the serving line, just to see what it was like. I shuffled along slowly with everyone else, and held out a plate for the servers to fill with reheated brisket from a local bar-b-q joint, and canned veggies from the USDA. Then I sat down and rubbed elbows with my new dining companions. Thus began my six year education in the complexity of poverty, one lunch conversation at a time.

People made their way to Second Helpings for all kinds of reasons. After expanding to serve three days a week, some people came just for the company. Some came because they were hungry. Others came to take food home to family or neighbors who weren’t mobile. The crowd was always bigger at the end of the month. I listened to all kinds of stories and gradually learned to ask better questions. Most days I witnessed evidence of two significant factors in the complexity of poverty: mental illness and addiction. Read more

And This Is Why We Do It… Jill Adams

17269d23-5dfc-4714-836b-89e690bb7936written by Jill Adams

A few weeks ago we received a sibling group of three here at the home. The oldest is a 10-year-old boy and the other two are girls ages 7 and 8. They arrived here illiterate, lice-infested, dirty, underweight, full of rotting teeth, and extremely delayed in their development. It’s unbelievable to see them change in just a few weeks. Now they are receiving an education, medical and dental care, a loving stable home, a clean living environment and 3 meals a day. I have often wondered where these kids would be if they didn’t arrive here or how their lives would turn out. These kids have not had much of a childhood and have suffered abuse and violence. Their parents’ battle with alcohol and drug use and the children have been abandoned for very long periods of time. Their 18 –year-old sister has been trying to care for them and two other siblings, as well as her own baby. She also has never been to school and therefore can’t get any sort of job. She would often beg on the streets for them to have something to eat. She is very relieved that they are being cared for. Read more

My Education in the Complexity of Poverty


Written by Sherry Maddock

We’ve never grown accustomed to the early morning knocks at our backdoor. Sometimes it was Terrence, a little one from the bus stop outside our house, dropped off just a bit too early because his grandfather had to get to work on time. On the darker, colder mornings, he was urged to come to us for brief supervision because, although we didn’t know his family, our light was on and our house seemed safe. Terrence would stay just long enough to get warm, or eat something, or to have company until other children gathered and boarded the school bus. Out of a scarce set of options, this grandparent had to trust what he didn’t know to hold on to what he couldn’t lose, his job. Raising a grandchild with limited resources and working beyond retirement age were not only outside the bounds of our experience, but were far more complicated than we could’ve imagined. Read more