Transforming lives on four continents

Riches Poverty, Alligators and slums

Living among the poor or in the richer suburbs? Buying a car or to using public transport? Splashing out and eating at a nice restaurant or cooking at home?

Riches and poverty

These are questions which mission workers often face when making lifestyle choices of how they live in their respective countries. 

These issues can not only determine how their ministry progresses but also local people’s perceptions and judgments about them.  It is these lifestyle choices that Julia Stanbrook reflects upon during the first year of a four year placement in Brazil.

 

Brazil: A tale of two cities

Based in Fortaleza, north-east Brazil, Julia travels around the region working with PEPEs (Programme of Education for Pre-schools).  Upon recently visiting a local city, she writes about the contrasts of wealth and poverty she experienced first-hand, “São Luis can’t hide the contrast.  There are people living in boarded makeshift houses with the low part of a bridge for a roof, plenty of shacks and mud huts.  This in itself is not strange outside the western world; millions of people live in similar conditions across the world.  But when there are people living without running water next door to luxury houses with swimming pools, the stark contrast makes the injustice of life unavoidable.  Fear grips the rich and inferiority grips the poor. The inequality is often the cause for theft and violence which in turn invokes more fear and prejudice.  The walls of the economically rich get higher and cycle starts over.”

 

Alligators and slums

So where should Christian workers choose to live on the social spectrum of the two opposing poles of wealth and poverty?  Julia recently stayed in a house with a swimming pool, a fleet of cars, wireless internet and even a pet alligator!  At the same time as being a guest in this house, she writes, “I was busy visiting the cities PEPEs and seeing some of the areas of town that you would not choose to stay in – crossing a river full of rubbish on a broken wooden slat bridge to get to a PEPE that had been robbed of its chairs and desks on two occasions.”  The house with the alligator belonged to two full time Christian workers – a local pastor and his wife.  Julia reflects, “God has clearly blessed them materially and spiritually, so why should they not enjoy their material possessions?  After all many bible heroes were rich: Abraham, David and Solomon to name a few.”

 

Prejudice and grace

However at the same time Julia is quick to realise that the issues aren’t simple.  She reflects, “To make a difference in Brazil one needs to be able to relate to all without prejudice.  Part of the mission here is breaking down the barriers and being a bridge across two sides.  We need the Lord’s perspective and that is to look beyond the material.  The crucial fact that both the economically poor and rich have in common is that they both need Jesus.”  Whether overseas or in the UK, wisdom and grace are needed every day for Christians as they seek to make lifestyle choices that are compatible with bringing God’s kingdom in their context. 
 

 

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