Friday, July 14, 2017

$3.10 Poverty Challenge and Healthcare

It all started by eating a simple chapatti, a small flatbread prepared on a skillet. I love chapatti, which is exactly why the pastor purchased two for me to have at breakfast before the final day of our training in Mwingi. I gladly scarfed down both to the great joy of our host, unknowingly saving the other teammates from impending doom.

Within an hour I knew something was wrong but wrote it off as the usual, “That’s what you get for eating food made by street vendors.” By lunch I was begging Pr Ephantus to make excuses for me to the host pastor because I knew that when lunchtime came I would not be able to eat. In African culture, if you don’t eat the food presented you are considered extremely rude. Even with that pressure, I just knew I couldn’t eat or drink a bite.

Thank the Lord for a great team because by the end of the day I almost had to be carried out. Bless another pastor who had come to the training and, rather than dropping us at the bus station, drove us all four hours to my home away from home in Nairobi. Though I’d not said a single word about the dread I was feeling in taking a bumpy squished hot bus ride for five to six hours to reach there, this pastor took it upon himself to drive the entire team that great distance, perhaps for my benefit alone.

Thinking I’d feel better when everything…um…passed through, I was disappointed when that wasn’t the case. Maybe I’d feel better tomorrow. I kept pushing on believing I would soon be well and instead found that I was more miserable than ever. Thanks to a special donor, I flew home (to coast) rather than bussed and promptly landed myself face down in bed…for the next six weeks.

The sweet local doctor lady examined me and recommended a few of the tried and true tests through which we found typhoid. After purchasing the medicine and heading home, I had spent a grand total of $77.00 to address this illness. Relieved, I eagerly took the prescribed medicine despite what seemed to be almost an overdose. Finally, I would be well or so I thought. After that medicine was long gone, I was still sick. Why? Maybe if I eat something. Not! It took a while to realize that single slice of toast I forced myself to eat every morning was like poison to all that was churning around inside me and my body did everything it could to fight against that and any other food or drink I tried.

Ever mindful of my aversion to hospitals here, especially for something silly like dehydration, I managed to keep down a few bites of Jell-O made with orange juice without a fight against the as yet unknown creatures taking over my body. Eventually I hauled out a box of ultra-stale Cheerios and discovered through lots of trial and error that a small handful every two hours would not produce that harsh reaction and would keep my stomach from growling too much. Day and night, I ate that small handful. Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel better.

Ministry programs came, and ministry programs went. Each morning I woke and thought one more night and I’ll feel better so I can go to the program. Yet that morning where I thought I’d feel better never came. Again, thanks to a great team who carried on as best they could completely without me. Maybe tomorrow I’ll feel better.

Six weeks passed and now the big team meeting and two week-long programs were upon us. Obviously one more night and I’ll feel better wasn’t working out for me. A friend recommended a tropical medicine clinic in Nairobi, which could have easily been on the way to the big team program. Again thanks to that special donor, I few back to Nairobi rather than taking the 12 hour bus, and arrived at that clinic way before time. Sprawled out on their waiting sofa, I did just that. Blood test, no problem and typhoid was indeed gone. Stool test? Don’t you have to eat to poop? Sigh.

Back to my Nairobi home to wait, and wait. Finally and unknowing boda-boda driver carried that special package to the clinic on my behalf and that sweet, compassionate lab technician soon reported Giardia (parasite) and Hylicobactor Pylori (bacteria). Along with typhoid, both have water borne origins (i.e., whoever made that chapatti didn't use clean water). I was given a list of SIX prescriptions. Thank God for another friend who went to the pharmacy for me and returned with a bag full of medicines, some of which I am still taking. By now my total healthcare expenses related to this one long illness ran sky high to just over $200 (not including the flight gifts).


Hylicobactor Pylori
Oh how happy that Wednesday report made me. We finally knew what was wrong, had the meds and I would be well! Thursday? Kill me now!!! Thursday was the day of arrival for the team in Kisumu, a mere six-hour taxi ride from Nairobi. Um, I was quite sure I would soon be in the grave so there was no reason to prepare for that long trip. Having my father’s work ethic, and another gift of flight from that same donor, I was dragged from home by a loving taxi driver and delivered to the airport. Less than an hour later another loving couple picked me from the door, fed me (though I scarcely ate), and delivered me to the hostel where the team was waiting.

Now 9 pm, despite having told the team it was ready, the hostel reported that my room was not available. Yes, not available. Now I was to drag myself down the street to another hostel “just for that night.” Oh Lord, I asked, what on earth??? The team made sure I took my meds, tucked me in bed, and left me there alone. The night passed like all the other nights. And then the sun came out!

Friday morning I checked myself as though I had fallen from a great height. Could it be? Could it be that I feel…okay? Was it possible? I carefully dressed and asked the guys to come carry my bag back to the meeting place. I ate more than a small handful of Cheerios (yes, that box lasted forever because I wasn’t eating much). Throughout the day Friday and Saturday I increased my Cheerio intake only as a matter of caution, though I felt quite well. Both days I managed to sit upright for our team meeting (something I hadn’t done for more than 15 minutes at a time while at home) and my brain was somewhat sharp-ish. Sunday, eggs and a slice of toast. Monday, Java House here I come! Our entire 2.5-week program was completely unhindered by my illness and it only took a few days to feel like a new woman---a 25-pound lighter woman.

Throughout this six-week illness, I couldn’t help but reflect on its relationship to the $3.10 Poverty Challenge. Remember that something like 2/3rds of sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than $3.10 per day. If that were my situation, I would have to save my money for 64 days to pay the $200 for doctors and medicines not to mention traveling for that treatment not to mention the small village of people who cared for me in one way or another. That means 64 days without food, shelter, clothing, or anything else. Is that even realistic? Absolutely not; and I think that is exactly the point.

What can you do if you are sick and living on $3.10 per day? Have you ever wondered why the mortality rate in developing countries is so high? Yes sometimes it’s because doctors and healthcare systems are insufficient. More often, I would guess, it’s because people just don’t have the money for treatment and so they lay in the bed until sweet relief comes. Yes, this is what I was thinking about as I lay in my own comfortable bed waiting to see what tomorrow would bring.
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Monday, March 13, 2017

$3.10 Poverty Challenge: Reflections

The purpose of the Poverty Challenge was to give me an experience that more closely emulates the people I serve so that I can better understand their lives and, therefore, bring ministry and teaching that more directly meets their needs.

One of the most important things I learned from this experience is how difficult it is to simulate a poverty situation without going to extremes. I lived on $3.10 each day, yes, but I did so from the comfort of my home, sleeping on my new mattress, and bathing with water that comes from the national system rather than a distant bore hole. Essentially, my experience came down to a choice between diet and exercise. Would I buy food that day (scant though it was) or would I ride the boda the four to five kilometers needed to reach our ministry location? Pick one.

Another glaring reality is that I prepared myself for this experience a week ahead of time by purchasing shoes, Bibles, and other ministry related items so that they wouldn’t come from my daily $3.10 allowance. Further, I knew that after the 10 days I could eat a proper meal and get things done that I otherwise couldn’t have. Those living on less than $3.10 per day don’t plan to be poor—the don’t wake up one day and say, “Honey, this big change is coming, let’s get ready.” Nor can those living on less than $3.10 per day say, “We’ll go see the doctor after we’re done being poor,” or, “Let’s pay school fees after we’re done with poverty.”

Though disappointed in how foolish this exercise seemed to be, I can also say that I learned so much just in the contemplation of these realities. Two big events really brought me pause. My cough was pretty severe and while living on $3.10 per day, I could not afford medicine. This was a very authentic experience—can you imagine having a headache and not being able to take any pain killer? What about watching your children cough up a lung and not being able to provide anything to ease that cough? With my cough came overheating. My body was sweating fiercely because coughing heats the body—that coupled with 90+ degree temperatures really made me extra miserable. The next morning I rose to push forward our ministry appointments despite this misery, but for how long could I sustain this.

Another event that stopped me in my tracks was the theft. During one ministry appointment a child stole my wallet which meant a LOT of money was stolen along with my cards. While this was a terrible situation, I had more money in the bank and could have saved myself. However, under the self-imposed guidelines of this challenge I found myself after dark in a faraway church needing to reach the police and then home and yet having no money to do so. Now I began to understand the African collectivist culture for real. When you get stuck, you ask friends to help. I was incredibly humbled that a pastor friend would pay my transportation home and that another friend offered two days’ worth of Poverty Challenge money to help me continue the agenda. According to the challenge, my work afforded me payment each day and so the next morning I was able to receive my $3.10 again. I used that extra gift to reach police again the next morning to receive a report that allows me to be in the country and then headed to the bank to report my stolen card and apply for a new one. None of these things comes without a cost. Imagine losing your bank card and not having the money to report it stolen, or to get a new one. If you are lucky, your money is there but you have no ID which is also required to withdraw and no bank card.

My own fixation on money was a disappointment. I was so concerned with spending only what I was allowed and how exactly that money would be spent that I left behind faith that God would supply my needs, which he did after the theft in abundance. This fixation gave me some insight into the frequency with which I am asked for money and why. I am thankful I didn’t have to ask for help that night, that friends saw the need and filled it. Oh pride. But if I needed to feed my children or take them to the hospital, I’m quite sure I would have had to overcome that pride and ask for help. From these experiences, I can see how someone could be living above the $3.10 poverty challenge line (which is not the same as the American poverty level), and quickly find themselves stuck because of the unavoidable circumstances.

Though the $3.10 Poverty Challenge did not take the shape I expected, I am most certainly humbled by the many lessons and insights afforded through the experience. Please pray with me for the 68% of the world’s population who find themselves living on less than $3.10 per day. Pray for development programs that allow them to raise themselves out of poverty for good and that they would fight against a victim or dependence mentality and for a way of thinking that honors God in every situation.

If you pledged (or would like to pledge) support for this challenge--$3.10 per day for 10 days—please click here and select “One Time Gift” to submit your $31.00 gift via PayPal.

If you would like to read more about what the challenge was, or to learn about each day of the challenge as I progressed, click the links below.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

$3.10 Poverty Challenge: Day 10

Day 10 of the $3.10 Poverty Challenge began with feeding myself on the Word of God with a continued study from Women of the Bible, this week about the mothers of Moses. My devotion time was shorted by the need to prepare for ministry teaching today.

Today’s program began by leaving the house at 8:00 and returning at 6:00 following a full day of ministry-teaching at Faith Revival Center in Malindi. Pr Ephantus did a wonderful job with the majority of the content today. He is ever closer to being ready for independence, though we are still looking to develop more facilitators.

I hardly had time to reflect on anything today except that I had planned to get a few potatoes for dinner and the kiosk nearest home was out, which means no dinner. Today is the last day of the challenge so tomorrow I can eat breakfast.

Left from yesterday $1.65 plus $2.20 for today = $3.85

Tuk tuk to venue                     $1.50
Boda boda home from venue $1.00
SMS                                        $0.20
Nuts                                        $0.25

I finish the challenge with a positive balance of $0.95 only because the kiosk was out of potatoes. So many thoughts are swirling around in my noggin about this experience and I plan to write a reflection post to share the highlights. For now, short and sweet and on to the pile of work before me.
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Thursday, March 9, 2017

$3.10 Poverty Challenge: Day 9

Day 9 of the $3.10 Poverty Challenge began with feeding myself on the Word of God with a continued study from Women of the Bible, this week about the mothers of Moses and God’s promise to be with us regardless of our circumstances. Today’s lesson has me pondering the point of life. If our circumstances are irrelevant to who God is and his faithfulness to us, what is the purpose of life itself. I know the answer, but deeper contemplations ensued.

Praise God, today is a work from home day. Small piles form when I’m serving the Lord away from home and collectively stare at me wantingly. I’ve had some financial records to sort for work being done in Uganda, revisions to our curriculum, review of our recently received video recordings from the Nakuru training, travel booking, preparation for two days of training beginning tomorrow, and oh so much more. I’m thankful for the opportunity to tackle these tasks and feel the relief of their accomplishment.

Without the cost of transportation, I have the opportunity to use my entire $2.20 for food today. Unfortunately tomorrow will require more than my allowance for transportation and so I ought to be frugal once again in my choices for food. I’ve missed fruit and meat these 9 days, though I have not been over hungry, but the light at the end of the tunnel is coming.

As I reflect on the Poverty Challenge, I am once again reminded that I was able to plan for entering this time of feigned poverty and again am able to look forward to certainty that this time will end after 10 days. Those living on less than $3.10 per day don’t have that luxury. They cannot look forward to a meal with meat or a piece of fruit.

SMS    0.35
Nuts    0.20

Balance $2.20 – 0.55 = $1.65. Hoping that plus tomorrow’s allowance are enough to get us to our destination.
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

$3.10 Poverty Challenge: Day 8

Day 8 of the $3.10 Poverty Challenge began with feeding myself on the Word of God with a continued study from Women of the Bible. I was challenged to imagine what it would have been like to be the mother of Moses and the choices I’d make in her place. As I experience this $3.10 Poverty Challenge trying to imagine myself in the place of the poor, I am reminded of how difficult it really is to put yourself in anyone else’s place.

Today’s ministry appointment was with Magareni Preachers Organization. This group of village pastors formally organized themselves with the hope that they could accomplish more together than apart. Pr Ephantus serves as the secretary and has been telling them about Surprised by Hope for some time. Today I was invited to join him in introducing our ministry. These pastors were very appreciative of our offer and commented, “I’ve never heard of any ministry like this before” in a way that was a bit like a joyful exclamation. Their one question, “When will you come?” I thank God for the many opportunities he provides to serve his people.

I began the day with $2.20 and spent $1.70 on transportation and 0.18 on SMS messages. I remain with 0.32 for today’s dinner. I have a handful of flour leftover that might not quite reach 0.32 and when coupled with water can make a crude chapatti. I still have two tomatoes and two onions from several days ago that will make a nice katchumbari salad. Yum.
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

$3.10 Poverty Challenge: Day 7

Day 7 of the $3.10 Poverty Challenge began with feeding myself on the Word of God with a continued study from Women of the Bible, this week about the mothers of Moses.

Given yesterday’s events, I headed back to the police to receive my letter verifying that indeed I had lost certain properties including my alien card, which verifies my right to be in the country. After receiving that letter I moved to Barclays where I reported my ATM card stolen and applied for a new one. 

 Today’s ministry program brought Pr Ephantus and me to the outskirts of Malindi town to a small mud church called Neema Church (Grace Church). Pr Ephantus met Pr Ngala while in Bible school and I met him when teaching in Ganda. This dear pastor eagerly arranged for 12 of his church members to receive the Word of God from Pr Ephantus as well as to receive a new Kiswahili Bible. Pr Ephantus is a gifted preacher and teacher and the people were very happy to receive their first Bible. Can you imagine being well into adulthood and not having your own Bible?


 An additional blessing today came in the form of dollies. Many of you know that when a woman loses her husband, I sponsor a dolly in his memory. In this case, three have gone to be with Jesus and someone else joined me in that sponsoring. Add to that a dear sweet little lady is now also rejoicing in heaven and I felt moved to give on her behalf as well.

Dear Pat, we grieve for the loss of your husband, Gary.

Oh Mrs. Helen, you were the most precious little old woman I know.
Thank you for many fervent prayers on my behalf.

Dear Pat, we grieve for the loss of your husband, Gary.

Aunt Mary, we grieve for the loss of Uncle Jim. We love you and you
are always on our hearts.

Neither Pr Ephantus nor I had been to Pr Ngala’s church before and we significantly underestimated the cost to reach there. Having tried to book only those ministry opportunities that fit in my $3.10 Poverty Challenge budget, we completely blew it with this one. But look what the Lord has done!

Today’s work allowance                                 $2.20
Unexpected gift following the theft               $6.00 (now I’m rich, I can eat all week)
Repay last night transportation           $1.00
Police and Barclays                             $1.00
To Neema Church                               $2.00
From Neema Church                          $2.00
Materials for Friday teaching             $1.90
Potatoes                                              $0.30              
Balance                                                           $0.00

Okay so I wasn’t as rich as I thought, but we were able to cover the added cost of ministry transportation today without any discomfort and purchase the perishable goods needed for our program Friday which would have forced me to walk about 6 km one way, praise God!

Today I reflect on the gift of work once again, I realize how thankful I am that I could “reset” today. After all that happened with the theft, I was theoretically able to go back to work and earn my $3.10 for the next day and basically remain in an unchanged state. So many of God’s people don’t know from one day to the next if work will be there. They cannot simply reset. They must ask the Lord to wake up the next day and find the work is available for pay. And how many times can they wake up and find no work, and not begin to wonder where God is?
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$3.10 Poverty Challenge: Day 6 The Real Challenge

Day 6 of the $3.10 Poverty Challenge was a beautiful day loving on kids with Sensible Shoes, but it wasn’t without its challenges.

As all the tiny children posed for a group photo, a local child unknown to the pastor or teachers helped himself to my wallet containing a LOT of money and all my important cards. Discouraged doesn’t quite describe how I was feeling, and I have yet to sleep from that event that occurred 12 hours ago, but I want to share more specifically what followed.

Once Pr Unda realized I was not joking—neither of us could imagine such a thing—he and the teachers sorted through a few stories and identified the likely culprits. He then called the village elders who did some of their own sorting. While these elders were at work and the sky grew dark, the teachers and a few of the church ladies gathered in the church and began singing and interceding with prayer on my behalf. For me, they were earnestly calling out to God for me! Humbled doesn’t describe how I felt.

The range of emotions flooding my mind was ridiculous: stupid, sad, disappointed, discouraged, responsible…can’t think of any good emotions passing through me at that point though I did manage to say a few prayers as I walked around the church building.

Eventually we went to the police who sorted things with a big stick (literally). However, our lack of evidence (the wallet was likely hidden at the boy’s home and his mother was likely rejoicing as she didn’t bother to appear at police) left us unable to proceed. Pr Unda had the foresight to call his bishop, another good friend of mine, and so I was surrounded by long-time friends and pastors (Pr Unda, Bishop Tsofa, and Pr Njuguna) throughout the ordeal. Though they were all speaking in Kiswahili and I could only pick parts of conversations, I had confidence that they all had my best interests at heart. I am so thankful for these men and their taking seriously the problem and simply dealing with it on my behalf. Truly blessed.

I find myself reflecting on this boy, this boy who will likely live a life of thieving given the absence of his parents. I think about his soul. I wonder who will love him as Christ loves us (Ephesians 5:1-2). I want to hate him and think that he deserves what he received from that big stick, and yet I find myself wanting to hold him and teach him to fear the Lord. I reflect on so many children who grow up in this way, and do not know the love of the Father. Oh Lord, what can I even do!

I was given some few shillings to at least reach home safely, again humbled that these pastors who have so little would extend themselves to me in that way. And there lies the $3.10 Poverty Challenge. The reality of life for so many. The truth is, if this happened to someone in poverty that would be the end of them without the financial support and encouragement from friends and family…and that is exactly what I received. Not only did I receive enough to reach home, but I also received enough money to go to Barclays and cancel my bank card and return to the police again to get documentation that my alien card was stolen.

Boda to church                        $1.00
Loss                                        A LOT of money, my cards, my wallet
Boda home from church         $1.00 (paid by someone else)
Glass of Juice                          $1.00 (also paid by someone else)                                         

Tomorrow is a new day.
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Monday, March 6, 2017

$3.10 Poverty Challenge: Day 6

Day 6 of the $3.10 Poverty Challenge began with feeding myself on the Word of God with a continued study from Women of the Bible, this week about the mothers of Moses.

Today was an exciting day of Sensible Shoes ministry at Jesus Gathering Centre in Malindi with Pr Unda. So many people have given to prepare us for this ministry and the day finally arrived that I could love on these kids with their gifts. We brought 100 pair of shoes and needed 150 (which we will deliver today)! Wow, Pr Unda did a wonderful job investing in his relationship with New Beginnings school and bringing the children into his church.

These tiny ones were singing when Pr Ephantus and I reached the church. A joy to behold! After sharing our child-sized message about walking in the way of love (Ephesians 5:1-2), the children found it easy to describe ways to love their neighbor (as they swatted at each other given the close quarters). The teachers blessed us by helping fit the children with their Sensible Shoes according to class grade and we took many pictures of these silly, happy children.

Our overall purpose in focusing Sensible Shoes ministry in the coastal area is to pray into reality the future of these children as God fearing future leaders of the coastal province. We pray long life, spiritual strength, healthy marriages, resisting corruption, supernatural gifts, and so on. We believe that 30 years from now this community will be changed because we continue sowing prayers through Sensible Shoes. This part of ministry is one of my favorite, for sure!


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