We have talked a lot about philosophies and ideals surrounding poverty, and the need to create sustainable business practices that allow those caught in the cycle of poverty to become the heroes themselves and alleviate poverty from within. We have discussed the model of teaching a man to fish over simply giving a man a fish to eat. We extended beyond that paradigm and added a crucial step in the process – it is not enough to teach a man to fish, but you have to help him establish a stocked and sustainable fishing hole in which to make a living on with the training that he has received.
Now it is time to move out of the fish analogy and move into the world market.
It is time to exchange those fish for something much greater – fidelity.
The word fidelity has some pretty strong connotations backing it up. It speaks of loyalty, a strict observance to the tasks given, and a faithfulness to see the job through to the end. We might talk of systems to bring impoverished communities out of poverty, but without the realization that it will be people doing the work, the plane just won’t get off the ground. We can discuss processes and ordinances in a board room on the 97th floor of a posh office building all day, but nothing will start to change until we turn numbers into names. We must exchange the mindset of “fish” as our goal, and instead, have visions of families dancing in our heads. No longer can poverty have as a figurehead the starving child with a bloated belly with hands outstretched for a hero. Because that is the symptom that manifests from the disease that a lack of infrastructure and sustainability has produced.
If we continue to address the surface of the issue, we will continue to have surface level answers to problems that reach into the very center of the world’s issue on poverty.
Solutions must be addressed so that fidelity can be established with an infrastructure that ensures that communities never reach a point where a journalist would come and be able to take that picture of the starving child. It’s not enough to simply feed that child, the mindset has to be that there will be something created that ensures that that child from birth would never see a day without food, water, shelter, and hope.
And here’s the thing: that structure will not be created in an office building thousands of miles away. It will be created by human beings, in relationship with one another, declaring that “We will not stop until the job is done!”
People will be the prescription that will not just alleviate the symptoms, but will be the cure to the cancer that manifests in the impoverished world.
So, what are some tangible ways that we can start thinking and acting with this people-centered mindset? Where does the conversation shift from philosophy and ideal to on-the-ground solution? A good first step would be to start seeing these individuals that struggle with poverty as just that….people! We must put an end to the vantage point being a group of people that get labeled together as “the poor.” Instead, what if we actually spoke the names of these individuals? What if we started giving them their true description as who they are, what their true identity is in Christ, and we started seeing them through the lens that Christ sees them. For Jesus does not see a man gripped in poverty in Ghana as weak, hopeless, or broken. Jesus sees that man as a vibrant leader of his community that is helping to build a new community center. Jesus doesn’t see the bloated bellied child panning for pennies on the side of the streets of Liberia. He sees the next town councilwoman that will bring a water filtration system to her village that will save the lives of thousands. Jesus sees the best in people, and who they really are…. perhaps we should start doing the same!
How do we see impoverished individuals as Christ does? Here’s a place to start – stop calling them Africans. Too often as I am listening to the conversation of poverty do I hear something along the lines of, “Oh those poor Africans.” The answer to the question, “what is the poorest nation in the world,” is inevitably, “Africa.” Africa is a continent. It is a vast plot of land that can fit the United States, China, India, and all of Europe (eastern and western) into it! Africa is made up of fifty-four unique countries, each with different laws, cultures, lifestyles, religions, and languages. There are 1.6 billion individual souls that live in Africa, and just like you and me, they are made uniquely in the image of God with different gifts and talents, with different outlooks and challenges. It’s time to stop lumping them together and simply referring to them as “Africans.” I guarantee that if you put a person from Egypt in the same room as a person from Nigeria, you will get a very different person. Just as if you took someone from Germany and put them in a room with someone from France. We are talking about vastly different cultures that each have specific needs and challenges. If you want to take the first step to truly eradicating poverty, start by recognizing the individual, not the continent.
The world of fidelity will bring about change, where, in relationship, we start seeing the individual, we start seeing hearts, and we start seeing dreams and hopes.
And once we can take care of the basic necessities of food, water, clothes, and shelter from an infrastructure solution mindset, we will start recognizing that these individuals have greater dreams than simply the next meal.
They have innovations, business plans, building projects, and visions for a life beyond the handout. They have dreams and visions of a bright future of thriving through industry, education, and business that will not only change the face of their specific community, but will, in turn, change the face of the globe! But we can only tap into these goals and aspirations when we start seeing their individual faces and not just another “African.” Instead, he or she will be a specific person that has a dream and who has the means to reach out and grab a hold of that dream.
Narrow Gate Exchange is about exchanging the fish for fidelity – to bring the world’s individuals into relationships that will bring about the call that God has on all of our lives. Through sustainable businesses created through sustainable relationships, communities will begin to individualize and grow to the true potential that God has in store for them. So let’s exchange our preconceived thoughts of a singular continent, and take a deeper look at a single, diverse person and realize the dream that that individual has, and see if we can’t create a structure that allows those dreams to fly free and become a reality.
It can be done, but it will be done together, through relationship, through fidelity.