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Why don’t you reach out to poor Americans first?

There is an implied criticism for short-term missionaries when would-be supporters sometimes ask this question:”Why do you want to go overseas? There is plenty of poverty right here in the U.S.” Give such critics their due. They may be motivated by compassion or by a sense of stewardshi…
By Seth Barnes

There is an implied criticism for short-term missionaries when would-be supporters sometimes ask this question:”Why do you want to go
overseas? There is plenty of poverty right here in the U.S.”

Give such critics their due. They may be motivated by compassion or by a
sense of stewardship. Who hasn’t seen
the homeless on our cities’ streets and felt as though something needed to be
done? Going overseas can seem like a
costly extravagance when the need is great right here in our backyard.

That said, anyone who has seen
the great swarms of hungry children picking through the mountains of trash
outside Manila or Maputo can’t help but be struck by the thought, “This is a whole
different level of poverty. These people
are just barely surviving.”


When You’re Down in the Dumps from Brady on Vimeo.

At least in America there is a
safety net. There is food. Any large city has multiple homeless
shelters. Emergency rooms will take you
in if you are desperately sick. The
poverty line for a family of four is defined as $21,201.
Contrast that with the 1.2 billion people in the world living on less
than a dollar a day or the 2.5 billion classified as living in extreme poverty. That is a
standard of living that is more than twenty times poorer than those classified as poor in
America.

At its worst, someone asking the
question, “Why don’t you reach out to poor Americans first?” is parochial or
nationalistic. They value a poor human
being in America more than a poor human living elsewhere. Because you’re American, you belong to some
sort of really big club of special people.

God classifies the poor not by
nationality, but by their ability to care for themselves – widows and orphans
being first in line for help.

Perhaps the best response to someone who is just looking for an excuse to not support you is to assume the best and challenge them: “I absolutely agree, we should be doing something about poor Americans first. Let’s start here in our hometown. Let’s find a family and make a difference in their lives – waddya say?”

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