could i survive in poverty?By almost
From time to time I post original writings of guests from around the world. In this post, a lover of Jesus, poverty advocate and devoted believer in social justice for the world shares some of her experience in identifying with the impoverished in America.
How can we truly be Jesus’ hands and feet to the poor? What does it look like to truly serve the marginalized, oppressed and lost? Like many of you, I want to make a difference in this world so I went searching for a job with meaning after graduation. I enrolled in a volunteer corps program for one year where I worked at a local non-profit. In my particular program, I received a small stipend that was the equivalent to what a single person in poverty would make. This was the challenge: could I live like a person in poverty lived? Could I survive on $26.00 a day?
The answer is no. If it weren’t for my gracious parents, savings and a lot of free church meals, I wouldn’t have made it. Yet I learned an incredible amount in that year and I began to see a glimpse of what poverty truly looks like from the inside out. I didn’t just read about it, I lived it.
Part of my experience included applying for food stamps. I wanted to better understand the system and personally go through the process, not to mention I was hungry. I never imagined that it would be so difficult. It took a total of four months to receive my benefits.
My breaking point came when I visited the food stamp office for the fourth time. I asked the clerk why I had not received my EBT card in the mail and she informed me that I had been denied. At that moment, I started crying and yelled at her, “You’re telling me that even though I make less than $800 a month, I can’t get on food stamps!?”
It wasn’t my proudest moment, but it was a life changing one. I was frustrated that I would have to reapply for the second time. But even more so, I was heartbroken for my brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends who would never be able to get on food stamps even though they desperately needed them. I watched a system that was designed to help the poor, fail them.
I don’t claim to understand what it truly feels like to be in poverty nor do I claim to understand the agony of going to bed hungry, but from this experience I have come to better understand the challenges the poor face on a daily basis. More importantly, it got me thinking about how I could be an advocate on their behalf as a believer in Christ and a proponent of social justice.
Food security and hunger are growing concerns across the United States. It is no surprise that only 65% of Alabamians who are eligible for food stamps receive them according to the USDA. Additionally, food stamps only provide $3 per person per day for a family of four. That’s simply not enough.
We then must ask ourselves: What is the responsibility of the Church? What role do we have to play? It is time to rethink how we do ministry and find more effective ways to defend the weak and fatherless and uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed (Psalm 82:3.)