Winter 2019 A publication of Canadian Baptist Ministries
Embrace What You Believe
EMBRACING COMPASSION FIGHTS SUFFERING
hen we do it unto the least of these, we have done it to him. This passage in Matthew 25 makes clear that our faithfulness is judged by the way we act. There are numerous markers that indicate who the “least of these” are. Disparity comes in many forms. However, even if sources of poverty are systemic, endemic and chronic they are still actionable, right-able, and even fight-able. Shake the foundations by embracing compassion.
4 Bringing Good News: A Reflection on Poverty and the Gospel of Jesus Christ 3 Terry Talks: A Call to Action This issue of Mosaic is the first in a multi-part series that features the foundational causes that anchor CBM’s ministries around the world.
erty BUILD THE CHURCH JUSTICE
KIDS AT RISK
[cover] Former students of the Libas Childcare Center in the Philippines. See page 10 to learn more.
10 Casting Their Burdens: A Fishing Community Finds Renewed Hope 12 Just Act: I Care Postcard Campaign 14 Left Behind: How Relational Poverty is Affecting Children in China 18 All is Not Well in the City: A Conversation with Dr. Rick Tobias 22 We Journey Together: Restoring Dignity through Guardians of Hope
7185 Millcreek Drive Mississauga, ON l5n 5r4 Tel: 905.821.3533 email@example.com www.cbmin.org Mosaic is a community forum of local and global voices united by a shared mission. Mosaic will serve as a catalyst to stimulate and encourage passionate discipleship among Canadian Baptists and their partners. Mosaic is published three times a year by Canadian Baptist Ministries. Copies are distributed free of charge. Bulk quantities available by request. Managing Editor Jennifer Lau Editor Nicolette Beharie Art Director Gordon Brew
A Call to Action L
et’s begin with a riddle: The poor have it, the rich need it and if you eat it, you will die. What is it?
While you are thinking about this riddle, the writers of Mosaic want to open your eyes to the troublesome topic of poverty. Perhaps you are reading this while opening your credit card statements after Christmas. “Yup”, you might be thinking, “sounds like a good topic for today.” Or you have seen some of the latest reports on poverty in Canada: 4.9 million Canadians live in poverty. More than 30 per cent of foodbank users in Canada are under 18 years old. One out of two First Nations children live in poverty. One in eight Canadian families struggle to put food on the table. Or, if these statistics don’t affect you, perhaps it’s because you opt for a theological understanding of poverty: Matthew 26:11 – You will always have the poor among you; Luke 6:20 – Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. You accept poverty, in a broken world, as a reality. We live by God’s grace and as his stewards. In this issue of Mosaic, Jonathan Wilson points out that if you are reading this, you likely aren’t poor. You have postal service, so you have some type of housing and shelter. You likely have made a donation to CBM at some point. Or you have internet access, using some type of costly device, either borrowed or owned. Our goal, in addressing poverty in this forum, is to help you dive deeper into God’s mission – not just for information but for transformation. Not just to ask why, but to explore how. It’s our invitation to you, as the Church, to be part of God’s response. The great 18th century American Puritan theologian, Jonathan Edwards, stated in Christian Charity OR The Duty of Charity to the Poor that “the rules of the gospel”, which he considered the pattern of the gospel, “move us to love and help the poor.” The command to give to the poor is an implication of the teaching that all human beings are made in the image of God. Giving to the poor “is especially reasonable, considering our circumstances, under such a dispensation of grace as that of the gospel.” This is the case in Paul’s letter of 2 Corinthians 8:8-9. (May I suggest you read the entirety of chapters 8 and 9.) It is the time of the Great Famine in Jerusalem. Reminding the church in Corinth of their earlier commitment to partnership (koinonia) with the poor, he invites their financial support (diaconia) to assist the church in Jerusalem. Paul establishes the principle of mutuality in partnership; a double equalization process, whereby the deficiency of one was met
by the abundance of the other, and vice versa. The Corinthian abundance is their willingness to give to the church in Jerusalem; the deficiency was in not fully grasping the grace of God in Christ made available to them. The Jerusalem abundance was that they were spiritually rich, understanding their blessing in Christ, and their deficiency was brought on by the circumstances of the famine and their material poverty. The invitation is for sharing in the needs of the poor, bringing relief from the burden of want or famine. The Corinthians should give to the poor in Jerusalem, and in the same way, should the situation ever be reversed, the Jerusalem church should share their possessions with the church in Corinth. The litmus test of Christian discipleship, in this passage, is whether they could follow Christ’s example. “I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” Throughout my years of service with CBM, I have been immensely blessed by the testimony of local churches who take seriously the call to action and are living it out generously and compassionately. I have witnessed this across our country. But, sadly, I have seen little evidence of the type of radical discipleship that challenges the three-headed idol of our time (consumerism, materialism and individualism). Jonathan Wilson calls it Mammon. Rick Tobias wonders if we have lost the sense of justice. As you read through the pages of this Mosaic, we invite you to consider how we, as Canadians, are part of a global system that has allowed such disparity and inequality in our world – and, conversely, how we, as a church, can do something about it. Are we doing what we can to address global hunger, homelessness, powerlessness and injustice? Are we living out of compassion and solidarity with the poor? Oh, and as for the riddle – here is a hint: It can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Terry Smith CBM Executive Director
Bringing Good News A R E F L ECT I O N O N P OV E RT Y AND THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST by Jonathan R. Wilson
ow can I write about poverty with integrity? How can I represent the reality of poverty with words – but not reduce poverty to words?
We’ve all seen pictures of poverty and even now, as you read these words, you may be calling them to mind. Moreover, if you are reading this issue of Mosaic, it’s likely that you are not poor by almost any measure, even though you may feel financially stressed. Many of us may also recall some passages of scripture that shape our understanding of poverty. These passages may come from Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Psalms, the Prophets, the Gospels, Acts or the New Testament letters. But how do these different passages form a coherent, compelling vision of good news in the midst of poverty? And what does Christ call us to do? Somehow, it seems right to encourage faith, hope and love with words on a page. But what do I encourage? How can I write about poverty in such a way that I build up the body of Christ? How do I bear witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ when I turn our eyes toward poverty? How might I invite us to participate in the reality of Christ’s presence and life in the Spirit? Those questions have haunted me and made this article difficult to write. But there is good news.
… I have come to realize more than ever the depths and joys of the good news of the redemption of all creation through Jesus Christ.
As I have read and re-read works about poverty and as I have had conversations with people who live with poverty, I have come to realize more than ever the depths and joys of the good news of the redemption of all creation through Jesus Christ. Poverty is a sign of the rebellion against God, the brokenness of relationships, and our enslavement to Mammon. Jesus Christ is good news for our rebellion, brokenness and enslavement.
Poverty is a sign of rebellion The existence of poverty tells us that this world is not the way God intends it to be. “Poverty” is not only or primarily a lack of money. Poverty is a reality that exposes entire systems of inequalities. The presence of poverty tells us that many things are wrong in our world. The prophets of the Old Testament expose the systems and structures of this rebellion when they denounce Israel’s legal system for not protecting “the widow, the orphan and the poor,” (Isaiah 10:1-4) and when they denounce the greed and arrogance of the powerful and rich who “add house to house and field to field.” (Isaiah 5:8) The book of Proverbs reflects this same concern for systems or structures that are used to exploit the poor: “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court.” (Proverbs 22:22) As we learn to see the signs of rebellion exposed by poverty, we can also begin to see how that rebellion has systemic and structural manifestations that entangle people in poverty.
Good News: in Jesus Christ, the rebel forces of this world (what Paul calls “principalities and powers”) have been defeated. In Colossians 2:15, Paul declares that Christ has made a “public spectacle” of them. Our mission is to continue this work. Poverty is still with us because the world does not know that the powers of injustice, greed, lust, covetousness and more have been defeated. But we do know! Our mission is to make that defeat known and bring those enslaved by those powers into the freedom of Christ: the exodus from enslavement that began when YHWH freed the descendants of Abraham from Egypt. Because the rebellion against God will continue until Jesus returns, he warns us in Matthew 26:11 that the poor will always be with us. But Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 15, which goes on to command God’s people to “open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.”
When we join Jesus on this mission, we will work to identify the systems and structures that create and sustain poverty and we will seek God’s wisdom to dismantle them, subvert them or create alternatives.
Even though poverty will be with us until the new creation, our proclamation of good news to the poor is not the clichéd “pie in the sky by and by”; rather, our work is to make real now the fullness that is coming with the return of Christ. This reality – the defeat of the rebel forces of this world in Jesus – is declared by Mary when she sings of the rulers brought down from their thrones and the rich sent away empty, while the humble are lifted up and the hungry filled with good things. (Luke 1:46-55) Mary’s praise is confirmed when Jesus reads from Isaiah and proclaims “good news to the poor … freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, [and] the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-19) When we join Jesus on this mission, we will work to identify the systems and structures that create and sustain poverty and we will seek God’s wisdom to dismantle them, subvert them or create alternatives. Against poverty as a sign of rebellion, our “wordeed” witness to the gospel is a sign that the rebellion has been defeated and God in Christ is redeeming creation and reconciling all things, that is, getting all things in line with God’s life. This is God’s justice.
Good News: Jesus Christ came to restore the image of God in
… poverty is fundamentally a relational problem. We humans are made for four relationships: God, others, the rest of creation and ourselves.
Poverty is a sign of broken relationships The best Christian thinking today, which comes out of many decades of “walking with the poor,” tells us that poverty is fundamentally a relational problem. We humans are made for four relationships: God, others, the rest of creation and ourselves. Here, we may cautiously think of poverty as a symptom. This way of thinking is limited, but it does illuminate a lot of the reality of poverty. So, let’s begin by thinking of poverty like a fever. A fever is a reality that tells us that we are not healthy. But it points us to something else. A fever is a symptom caused by some other, underlying problem. And a proper response, proper treatment of a fever, depends on the proper diagnosis of its cause. For example, if a fever is caused by a bacterial infection, then antibiotics may help the body defeat the bacteria and bring an end to the fever. But if a fever is due to a viral infection, then antibiotics are ineffective. And a fever may be due to a whole range of other conditions – a parasite, a chronic disease and more. Before we turn to thinking about poverty as a symptom, let’s also note that even as medics try to identify the cause of a fever, they also treat the fever directly with fever-reducing medicines, cool baths and lots of fluids. Now, think of poverty as a symptom of broken relationships. Poverty is not a disease to be cured, but a sign of something else that is wrong in the life of communities and individuals. As with a fever, we may take some direct actions to reduce the symptoms of poverty. We may, for example, provide things that are lacking in a situation of poverty – clothing, shelter, food, water or a job. But we cannot be content there if we are to bear the good news of Jesus Christ for those who live in poverty. We want to know and remove the cause of a fever; we want to uncover and remove the relational brokenness that so often causes poverty.
human beings by reconciling us to God, to one another, to the rest of creation and to ourselves. So when we walk with the poor and challenge and change poverty, we are serving as God’s ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5; note how eventually, in chapters 8-9, this ambassadorship is about giving to the poor, especially ch. 8:13-15) If we are to bear witness to the good news of reconciled relationships in conditions of poverty, we need the work of many people with many skills. In carrying out our mission of proclaiming good news to the poor in word and deed, we need the whole range of gifts that are present in the body of Christ: biblical knowledge, historical memory, practical wisdom, hunger for justice, mercy and generosity. But in our zeal, let’s not miss two essential realities. The first reality is that the church must be a reconciled and reconciling people. We have a beautiful portrait of this in the book of Acts, where we are told that “there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time, those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” (Acts 4:34-35) The second reality is that we have often done more harm than good in our attempts to be good news for the poor and overcome poverty, because we have been too quick to bring our “quick solutions” and our “foreign medicine” to circumstances and people we have not taken time to know and understand. We have not been sufficiently concerned with the brokenness of relationships and the work of reconciliation. Diagnosing the cause of a fever may require the work of a phlebotomist, a lab technician, an x-ray specialist, a radiologist, an internist, a specialist in infectious diseases, nurses, pharmacists, and all sorts of people that make their work possible – such as people who did basic research on bacteria and viruses, people who designed and built an x-ray machine or an MRI machine. Likewise, diagnosing the particular causes of poverty in particular times and places in the lives of particular people and embodying the good news requires a wide range of knowledge, skills and gifts. We should not be discouraged by this, but rather encouraged that God’s Spirit builds us up and brings us together in mission. To do this faithfully requires us to be humble and patient: broken relationships are about us – about all of us. To engage in mission to proclaim good news in places marked by poverty means that we will be confronting our own broken relationships. But more than that, we will be discovering the greater depths and greater joy of the gospel. Against poverty as a sign of broken relationships, our wordeed witness to the gospel is a sign that in Christ all things are reconciled: “With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Ephesians 1:8-10) This is God’s shalom.
Poverty is a sign of our enslavement to Mammon To hear, see and practise the good news, we actually have to work hard, always dependent on grace. Here’s the problem: we live in a time when our views of poverty and wealth are almost completely shaped by our culture not by the gospel. And even more challenging is the presence of false and distorted “gospels,” such as the well-known “prosperity gospel” and the lesser-known “poverty gospel.” Both of these false gospels arise from our enslavement to Mammon.
Here’s the problem: we live in a time when our views of poverty and wealth are almost completely shaped by our culture not by the gospel. We must take seriously Jesus’ warning that we cannot serve God and Mammon. (Matthew 6:24, King James Version) When we commit ourselves to bringing good news to the poor and to challenge and change poverty, we are coming into direct conflict with one of our own masters: money. I suggest that we retain the word “Mammon” in our translations and our thinking. When we translate the word as “money” we can easily make the mistake of thinking that coins and bills are what Jesus is talking about. But what Jesus is talking about is a power that enslaves us. That’s why he talks about “two masters.” Using an unusual word and capitalizing it reminds us that we are often ruled by powers that are antiChrist. At this point, poverty confronts us with an unwelcome, very disturbing truth: when we try to understand poverty, challenge it, and change it, we find ourselves handcuffed and hobbled by Mammon. It is Mammon, not Jesus, that determines our views of poverty. We measure ourselves and others, even our identity in Christ, by standards that Mammon has taught us. (This is the fundamental heresy of the prosperity gospel.) Here, poverty points us not to a cosmic rebellion, nor to a social brokenness, but to our own sin. This is the basic rule of Mammon: the less you have, the less you are. When you “give away” – whatever it is – you are diminished. And when you “give,” you put others in your debt. Our enslavement to Mammon is piercingly exposed by the declaration of theologian René Padilla: “We don’t have a poverty problem in the world, we have a greed problem.”
Good News: in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we learn that life is not a zero-sum game. Jesus reveals climactically that creation and life in creation is sustained by the superabundant life of the Father, Son and Spirit. Even when Jesus gave himself to death, life did not end, because he gave himself in love and in obedience to the Father. When Mammon is our master, we see life as a matter of “taking and keeping,” not giving and receiving. Poverty and those who live in poverty may become a source of fear. We may see poverty as a threat to our own worth and existence. The continuing presence of poverty, as seen through the eyes of Mammon, is a reminder of how fragile our own worth, our own existence is. But when we come to believe in Jesus – that life in creation is not a zero-sum game, that giving up our lives as disciples of Jesus is the way of eternal life – then we are freed from bondage to Mammon (among many other powers that enslave us). The grasping greed that marks so much of our lives is broken when we realize that our lives do not depend on the lies of Mammon. In this freedom, we may enter confidently, generously into a world of poverty and into relationships with the poor – we may walk with them, not just drop in for a visit. And when our walking with the poor seems to threaten our worth or exposes our poverty, we do not run away. We continue to walk with the poor, we continue to challenge poverty and change it because we know that our life and our worth are guaranteed not by Mammon but by Jesus. Against poverty as a sign of our enslavement to Mammon, our wordeed witness to the good news is a sign of the superabundance of God’s creation and eternal life in Christ. This is God’s love.
Our mission as God’s people is to make visible this good news in wordeed, so that lives may be transformed by the work of the Father, Son and Spirit. Bearing Witness As we learn and bear witness to Jesus’ good news to the poor, we have to hold two things in proper tension. First, although poverty has been exposed and defeated in Christ, it will be present with us until Christ returns and makes all things new. Only Christ’s return will “eradicate poverty,” because poverty is rooted in rebellion, brokenness and enslavement. This arms us for endurance and patience in our fight against poverty. We should not be discouraged, and we should not lose hope. Second, in the coming of the kingdom of God through Jesus and the presence of the Spirit, God’s justice, shalom and love have overcome poverty. This is the good news; this is the reality in which we live by faith, hope and love.
In Jesus • God’s justice has rightly aligned this world with God’s purpose for life • God’s shalom has healed the broken relationships that oppose human flourishing • God’s love has freed us from our enslavement to sin Our mission as God’s people is to make visible this good news in wordeed, so that lives may be transformed by the work of the Father, Son and Spirit. So, dear reader, I am glad that you have accompanied me as we have wrestled with the reality of poverty and the good news of Jesus Christ. But this is not the end of our work. It is the beginning. Now we must join the mission of God in the world to bring good news to the poor by making visible God’s justice, shalom and love. This means that we must daily engage in the struggle to obey – to live in right alignment with God’s purposes for creation. We must daily choose to be reconciled to God, to one another, to the rest of creation and to self. And we must daily give our lives away in trust that the Spirit is the guarantee that we have life eternal through Jesus Christ.
Jonathan R. Wilson is Senior Associate for Theological Integration with CBM and a Teaching Fellow at Regent College. For further reading, he suggests When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert; God’s Economy by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove; and Fear of Beggars by Kelly Johnson.
Casting Their Burdens A FISHING COMMUNITY FINDS RENEWED HOPE by Michael Waddell
hen our family arrived in the Philippines in 2016, we were surprised to learn that almost everyone living in Manila was from another province on another island. And they were delighted to tell us about their families, culture and heritage. Consisting of more than 7,100 islands, the Philippines is one of the largest archipelago nations in the world. A diverse nation, rich in culture infused by both Spanish and American influences, the Filipino people are warm, fun loving and hospitable. But life hasn’t been easy for many people in the Philippines. In 2015, the World Bank estimated that more than one fifth of the population – 22 million Filipinos – still lived below the national poverty line. There are many factors that contribute to the ongoing struggles of Filipinos: natural calamities (i.e., typhoons, earthquakes, etc.); low levels of education; high inflation rates during times of crisis and conflict; and failure to develop and support the agricultural and fisheries industries, among other things. Income disparity between the rich and poor is also an ongoing challenge.
DEPLETED RESOURCES Known locally as the “Seafood Capital of the Philippines,” Capiz is a small province located on Panay Island in the central part of the Philippines. Situated in the Western Visayas region, Capiz is home to nearly 1 million people, according to the most recent census data. Unfortunately, many communities wrestle with poverty in this densely populated province. Libas is a poor area located on the western shore of Roxas city in Capiz. Despite their hard work and determination, life is difficult for families in Libas. Many residents are fishermen who work on small privately-owned boats for long hours in rough and dangerous conditions at sea. Their wages are based on the size of the catch that day. But the catch is often less than desired, leaving fisherman with little to take home. This is in large part due to the overharvesting of the waters by foreign and Filipino commercial fishing boats, and the fact that there are so many small “fisherfolk” who are trying to earn a living from fishing in waters that have depleting fish stocks. Besides fishing, there are few employment opportunities in Libas – many families struggle to put food on their table each day. The community also lacks the necessary infrastructure to provide clean drinking water and basic plumbing for bathrooms. In fact, it is not uncommon to see human waste being disposed of in shallow ditches running through the community. As a result, many residents suffer from waterborne illnesses.
[right] Celeste Martinez (top, left) is a teacher at the Libas Childcare Center in Capiz, Philippines. The centre provides early childhood education to impoverished children living in this fishing community.
A BEACON OF LIGHT In 2015, KPM decided to expand its mission program into Libas to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ through word and deed. After several community meetings and organizing activities were conducted, it was determined that the starting point for community development in Libas should be with the growing number of poor and vulnerable children. In 2016, CBM partnered with KPM to build a small child care centre on a donated plot of land in the middle of Libas. Canadian volunteers from Penticton, B.C., helped construct the centre through CBM’s SENT program, which provides Canadians with hands-on global discipleship experiences. This child care centre has become a beacon of light in the Libas community. Today, preschool children are receiving quality early childhood education and are experiencing tremendous growth on many levels.
PARTNERING FOR CHANGE CBM recently began working in Capiz through an exciting new partnership with Kabuganaan Philippines Ministries, Inc. (KPM). This community development ministry is recognized by both the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches, Inc. and the local association of Baptist churches in Capiz. Although CBM’s partnership with KPM is new, the connection to Canadian Baptists goes back many years. During the ministry of Rev. Rob and Norma Coe (former CBM Strategic Associates), KPM (formerly known as Kipling Philippines Ministries) was founded with the support of Kipling Avenue Baptist Church in Toronto. At the time, KPM was established to support the church’s mission work in Lucero, a poor rural community in Capiz. In 2010, Rev. Job Santiago, along with his wife Phoebe, became the administrators of KPM. They began to expand KPM’s ministry into other poor communities with a focus on engaging in integral mission – sharing the love of God in both word and deed. At that time, the name was changed to Kabuganaan Philippines Ministries to better align with their mandate. Kabuganaan is a local Hiligaynon (their vernacular language) word meaning “abundance” and better reflects their commitment to help vulnerable communities live abundantly in Jesus Christ. Today, CBM is partnering with KPM in various ways that aim to alleviate poverty. Together, we are 1) supporting early childhood education for preschool-aged children in poor communities, 2) providing youth development programs, which include spiritual and leadership formation training, to help poor students complete a post-secondary education, 3) providing training in organic and integrated farming methods to secure an adequate supply of nutritious food for families and communities, and 4) facilitating livelihood projects to help augment family incomes. In addition to these activities, we are also in the process of launching several new programs that will address the needs of the poor.
Finding qualified teachers who are willing to work in Libas is not an easy task. After the first teacher at Libas Childcare Center was forced to retire when she suffered a stroke, KPM was worried they would not find a suitable replacement. Thankfully, a vibrant and capable young woman answered the call. Celeste Martinez, a 24-year-old pastor with a heart for children and a desire to see them grow in their faith and knowledge of Jesus, began working at the centre three mornings each week, while continuing to serve as a solo pastor at a rural church 45 minutes away. Celeste has grown in her sense of calling to these children and to the community of Libas. She has since resigned from her church, moved to Libas and is now serving full-time in the community – both as the child care teacher and a community development worker for KPM. Thanks to her commitment to these children and their families, God is using her ministry to build his church in Libas. Last July, Celeste began a Sunday afternoon children’s worship program in Libas. More than 50 children gather each week to worship God, pray and learn more about Jesus. She was also asked by several women in the community to lead a Bible study, which Celeste is now providing on Friday afternoons. It has been amazing to watch how God has used this little child care centre to reach an entire community with the love and hope of Jesus Christ. Issues of poverty are not easily overcome, but thanks to CBM’s partnership with KPM, social and spiritual transformation is taking place in communities like Libas.
Michael Waddell is CBM Field Staff based in Capiz, Philippines. Along with his wife Melanie, he serves in the area of Marketplace Ministry with local partners.
A POSTCARD? REALLY?! These pages are usually reserved for JUST THINK. Typically, it’s an illustration of a statistic related to the issue’s theme – a little food for thought. However, in this issue of Mosaic we want you to go beyond just thinking and challenge you to JUST ACT. We are asking you to engage in an act of advocacy on behalf of others. Dare we even challenge you to act politically? It comes as no surprise that our faith is meant to inform our actions, the way we move in the world, engage with it, and even challenge it. As such, we’re asking you to perform an act of social and political advocacy – to speak up on behalf of the 821 million people who are going to bed hungry every night while Canadian aid continues to decline.
Will you do it? You may protest, “Whoa, slow your roll, Mosaic! I don’t get involved in politics.” But that simply isn’t true. It’s actually nearly impossible. If you turned on a light, brushed your teeth with running water or travelled on a road today... you were politically involved. There isn’t a moment in our day that isn’t politically impacted. That’s not a bad thing. It is a shared thing. Polis is the Greek word for “city.” It’s where we get the word “politics,” which translates to “of the city.” Right now there are fellow citizens, elected by other citizens, who sit on committees about roads or water or air or taxes, and participate in determining the welfare of the polis. These decisions shape our cities, provinces and country. Our life together is shaped by politics. We may not always like the decisions or agree with policies, but we are thankful that in this country our votes and voices can affect, change and reshape our collective. Together, we create our common good and suffer our common ills. You may say “Christians should just stay out of politics!” Tell that to a young Baptist pastor who was a passionate advocate for our shared, even sacred, life together. He would become the father of universal health care in Canada – a citizen committed to “building a society and building institutions that would uplift mankind.” The next time you go to the doctor, thank Tommy Douglas, a politically-active Baptist pastor!
So... will you do it? It’s simple. Sign the attached postcard, add your name and postal code, then drop it in the nearest mailbox. That’s it. No postage required. If you do it along with the 15,999 other Mosaic readers, we will collectively be expressing our shared political life together as Baptists, on behalf of those living in poverty globally. If you choose to leave this postcard where it is, you forfeit your voice and influence. If we all do that, who will speak up for the marginalized and those who don’t have the opportunity to be heard? When you watch the news about famine and you think Canada should be demonstrating leadership on the global stage on behalf of the poor, just think back to this postcard sitting silently in the folds of these pages.
But... will you do it?
THE STORY BEHIND THE POSTCARD On page 17 of the Fall 2018 issue of Mosaic, there is a picture of Elisi, a Rwandan farmer. She is one of the people who benefit from CBM’s membership in the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. That’s because all
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is
of our agricultural projects in South Sudan, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and India funded through the Foodgrains Bank receive matching grants from Global Affairs Canada. More funding means more farmers like Elisi get the assistance they need to prevent starvation, malnutrition and preventable illnesses. Care about ending global poverty and hunger and want Canada to
help create a better world for all? Tell the Prime Minister that you
Food Security, Rwanda
care about Canada’s commitment to help feed the hungry around
Offering seeds, tools and training to small-scale subsistence farmers who struggle to feed their families.
the world. Say I CARE today.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” ~ Proverbs 31:8-9
Left Behind H O W R E L AT I O N A L P OV E RT Y I S AFFECTING CHILDREN IN RURAL CHINA by Nicolette Beharie
10 years old, Yang spends most of her time pondering things that no fourth grader should ever have to consider.
“I’m afraid my grandmother will get sick,” admits Yang, who lives in a rural area of central China. Pressing past any fondness towards her a-po, she comes to this abrupt conclusion: “Then she can’t take care of me anymore.” At first, her reasoning seems callous. But Yang knows more than anybody how devastating this would be for her struggling family. “My parents can’t work outside anymore, and then my family will be poor.”
[above] CBM partners with local Christians in China to provide meals to children of migrant workers. Known as left-behind children, they stay home while their parents live and work in urban centres.
Yang is among the millions of left-behind children in China – minors who stay home with a grandparent or caregiver while one or both parents migrate to urban areas to find work. Although this helps rural families to alleviate their material poverty, it comes at a cost. Separated from their parents for long periods of time, left-behind children experience another form of deprivation: relational poverty. Described as a lack of communication, interaction and affection, relational poverty increases the vulnerability of growing children. This significantly impacts the psychological well-being, academic development and social integration of leftbehind children.
RAPID CHANGE Since 1978, China has initiated market reforms that have led to unprecedented economic growth. In fact, China – the second largest economy in the world – has the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history, says information from the World Bank. Now considered an upper middle-income country, China’s success has helped lift millions out of extreme poverty. But despite this rapid increase in wealth, many in China still remain poor – particularly in rural areas. Based on China’s poverty standard, the World Bank says there were 55 million poor in rural areas in 2015. With urban households earning more than 2.7 times that of rural homes, China’s wealth gap is evident. Living in the countryside, Yang’s parents found it difficult to survive on their meager income. Most families in their village have small plots of land that only yield enough for their basic needs. If they harvest enough to sell, the money they earn is not enough to pay for the rising costs of essentials like medicine, clothing and school supplies. CBM Field Staff Ella T.* is based in East Asia and has seen firsthand how families in rural areas struggle to make ends meet. “When they sell their crops, the buying power of that money is really low. It’s much lower than in the past,” Ella explains. “That’s the reason why they don’t have enough money – because of urbanization and the growth of the economy in the cities, everything is now much more expensive.” In Yang’s village, there are few alternatives to farming. To better support their family, her parents migrated to another province and found work in an urban factory. With limited education and training, rural dwellers often secure labour-intensive jobs in cities, working on construction sites and production lines.
Described as a lack of communication, interaction and affection, relational poverty increases the vulnerability of growing children. This significantly impacts the psychological well-being, academic development and social integration of left-behind children.
Over the years, rapid urbanization has fuelled the demand for these jobs – causing rural dwellers to flock to urban areas in record-breaking numbers. Information from the World Health Organization (WHO) says there were 274 million rural-tourban migrants in 2014, leaving a quarter of the country’s children left behind by their parents that year. But the promise of job opportunities and higher wages doesn’t come without its challenges. “They don’t know how dangerous the job is,” Ella says of the precarious jobs often available to migrant workers. “Many of them get hurt or injured. In such cases, they will really be in poverty because they can no longer work.” Last year, more than 40 per cent of workers around the world were in vulnerable forms of employment, says information from the International Labour Organization (ILO). By 2019, there could be an additional 35 million people in vulnerable employment. “Although there are fewer workers living in poverty, especially in emerging countries,” the ILO warns, “the rate of decline in these numbers is slowing.”
mosaic— winter 2019
PSYCHOLOGICAL CHALLENGES John Chan, CBM’s Director of International Partnerships, has seen the effects of urbanization on migrant workers. “Most of them have to work at least six days a week,” he says. They work for long hours in poor conditions, so they can send money home to their families. But with the demands of working in the city, these marginalized labourers rarely get time to visit their children. In many cases, parents can only travel home once a year during the Lunar New Year. With good intentions, migrant workers hope that moving away will be a short-term solution to their material poverty. “Their target is not to stay in the city their whole life,” Ella says. “Their target is to save enough money in the fastest way, so they can come back.” But the high cost of living, job instability and the temptations of city life quickly throw their plans off course. When they finally return home, Ella says, their children are already grown up. Separated from their parents at an early age, some left-behind children lose the emotional connection to their parents and face psychological challenges. In China, these children are at a greater risk of insecurity, depression and anxiety, says information from WHO. Compared to children living with their parents, research has also shown that left-behind children are 60 per cent more likely to consider suicide.
Separated from their parents at an early age, some left-behind children lose the emotional connection to their parents and face psychological challenges … Compared to children living with their parents, research has also shown that left-behind children are 60 per cent more likely to consider suicide.
[above] Through CBM’s after-school project, left-behind children can access tutoring, emotional support, and a safe place to play and learn.
Three years ago, a mass suicide of left-behind children in China shocked the nation. Local news media reported that the four siblings – between the ages of five and 13 – were left alone to fend for themselves while their father worked away from home. Their mother did not live with the children at the time, and their grandparents were too ill to care for them. Distressed and unable to cope, the teenage boy and his three younger sisters swallowed pesticide and later died in hospital.
When left-behind children connect with the tutors and interact with other children, “it provides a sense of family,” Ella says of CBM’s project. “There are people caring for them, so it’s like home for them.”
A LEARNING CURVE
Although migrant parents are aware of the risks associated with leaving their children at home, many feel they have no choice. China’s household registration system, hukou, makes it challenging for migrant workers to settle in a city and care for their children there. Without urban documentation, rural children have limited access to quality education and health care when they are away from home. Migrant workers also struggle to find safe and affordable housing while living in the city. As a result, many parents decide to leave their children at home.
Many of the children who benefit from CBM’s project find it difficult to socialize with others at first. Some are shy and reserved, while others have outbursts of anger and misbehave. Information from WHO suggests that parent-child separation has a direct and immediate impact on a child’s physical, cognitive, mental and emotional well-being.
“The parents really care about the schooling of their children,” says Ella. “They hope that their children can get a higher academic level, so they can get a better job and not have to live like them.” Yang and her brother attend school in their village, but they lack the care and guidance they need to thrive. With limited strength and energy, their grandmother can barely manage the household and prepare their daily meals. And she doesn’t have the ability to help them with their homework. “Many grandparents are illiterate,” John explains. “They cannot help with schoolwork and they don’t understand how to raise the children of this generation.” For some left-behind children, the lack of support and interaction at home hinders their development and performance at school. This can also lead to increased drop-out rates in rural areas. Without a proper education, left-behind children have little hope of breaking the cycle of poverty in their lives. Four years ago, CBM launched a project** to support left-behind children in central China. Partnering with local Christians, the project offers after-school tutoring, emotional support, and a safe place to play and learn. Through this project, Yang was able to access computers, books and a variety of educational supplies. Working alongside a tutor, she was able to improve her learning abilities and integrate well with other children.
New children participating in CBM’s project usually require a lot of one-on-one time with a tutor to build trust. “After a few months, the children start to change,” Ella says. “They grow more attached to people and are willing to open up and share what’s happening with them.” When left-behind children connect with the tutors and interact with other children, “it provides a sense of family,” Ella says of CBM’s project. “There are people caring for them, so it’s like home for them.” It’s hard to believe that Yang was once a shy girl who struggled to connect with others. Today, she is more confident and enjoys learning. She even hopes to be an actress one day. But whatever path she chooses to follow, Yang knows one thing for sure: “I will also help others when I grow up.” *Not her real name **Due to recent government regulations, CBM is currently restructuring this project.
All is Not Well in the City A C O N V E R S AT I O N O N U R B A N P O V E R T Y, C O M PA S S I O N & J U S T I C E
by Laurena Zondo
Mosaic is delighted to have Dr. Rick Tobias, a well-known advocate for the poor and marginalized in Canada, share some of his experience and learning. His early years of life and ministry were in Atlantic Canada, where he was mentored by Rev. Dr. Bob Berry, a former CBM General Secretary. Rick has spent the past 35 years working with Yonge Street Mission in Toronto. In 2012, he took on a new role as Community Advocate. He has a prophetic word and challenge for the church in Canada today.
MOSAIC: HOW HAS THE FACE OF POVERTY CHANGED IN URBAN CANADA, PARTICULARLY IN THE CONTEXT OF TORONTO, OVER THE PAST 35 YEARS?
RICK: Overall, I think that things have gotten worse, and what’s happening to the middle class may be the most important thing in terms of our understanding of poverty and where we are going in the future. In Toronto, over 60% of neighbourhoods were middle class in the 1970s; by 2005, it was under 30%.
… what’s happening to the middle class may be the most important thing in terms of our understanding of poverty and where we are going in the future. In Toronto, over 60% of neighbourhoods were middle class in the 1970s; by 2005, it was under 30%. A study a few years ago (The Three Cities Within Toronto) really paints a picture of Toronto as neither poor nor middle class – that the majority of Torontonians are hanging in that space between poor and middle class. They are the kind of people we talk about as being “one pay cheque away from problems.” This study, among others, shows that the city is dividing along geographical, economic, cultural and racial lines. I believe that there is fear in both the poor and the middle class. They fear slipping deeper into poverty or slipping into it in the first place. If that’s the bulk of Torontonians, we will have problems going into the future. This would suggest that partnership, sustainability and community development must be central to the church’s response to these changing realities. And we must expand our theological understanding of unity, hope, stewardship and human dignity, to name but a few.
MOSAIC: WOW, THAT’S SURPRISING TO LEARN ABOUT THE SHRINKING MIDDLE CLASS. photos: Ruby Gatiera
WHAT ELSE CONCERNS YOU?
RICK: One of the big things that concerns me after 35 years is our failure to deal with child poverty. In Toronto, over 26% of children live in poverty – that’s the highest urban child poverty rate in the country. Over 80% of First Nations children in Toronto live in poverty. And if you happen to be from observable visible minorities, your child poverty rate may easily be 50% or higher.
MOSAIC: PEOPLE OFTEN THINK THAT POVERTY IS REALLY
MOSAIC: I LIVE DOWNTOWN AND SEE A LOT OF PEOPLE
JUST ABOUT THE LACK OF MONEY. HOW WOULD YOU
LIVING ON THE STREET. I ALSO SEE PARENTS WALKING
RESPOND TO THIS?
BY WITH THEIR KIDS, UNCOMFORTABLE. WE ARE ALL NOT SURE WHAT TO SAY OR DO. SOMETIMES YOU GIVE
RICK: The word most used in scripture to describe the poor is defined as “the oppressed, the victimized or violated poor” … there are biblical words for economic oppression, political oppression and violent victimization. This concept of the poor being beat up or held down is the strongest image of the poor in the Bible. One day it hit me. While I was standing on the steps of our community centre, I saw a whole line up of people waiting for groceries at our food bank. As I looked through the line, everybody I knew had been victimized by somebody. I remember thinking how interesting it is that scripture says the number one reason for being poor is that somebody has beaten you up. And there I was, standing on the community centre steps, thousands of years later, saying the same thing. Some of the other images of poverty in the Bible refer to “the infirm or the sick.” And, certainly, my experience has told me that we work with a lot of unhealthy people … I think of the story of Lazarus, the lame man who lay at the rich man’s gate. Did his lameness make him poor or was he lame because he was poor? It could go either way. My assumption was that he was lame, therefore he was poor – until I came to Toronto and started seeing old guys on the street. All of a sudden, I realized they are poor, therefore they are lame ... like the homeless individuals whose legs are so covered with sores and festering wounds that they can hardly walk. These situations lead to mental illness or break down. There are also individuals who are emotionally disabled but have been dumped onto the street without adequate support. I actually believe that one of the great judgements against Canada will be around how we have treated people with mental and emotional disabilities. We have provided very little care. We were right to empty our psychiatric hospitals. That was a brilliant move. But like most of the things we do, we don’t seem to think three steps ahead. We released people into group homes, except there weren’t enough group homes. And we released people into boarding houses, except they weren’t received by trained staff and they became preyed on. This abandonment itself is a great act of violence. And so violence – whether it’s physical, sexual or political violence – is a huge factor in poverty. In fact, if you could end domestic violence in Canada, I personally believe you would make a serious impact on poverty within one generation. Domestic violence is not a question of class. Middle class families frequently implode, often leaving a wake of emotional, spiritual and physical violence. So one question might be, “When is the last time you heard a sermon focused on the violence against women or children? And if we, the church, can’t touch it, who will touch it?”
MONEY, SOMETIMES NOT. SOMETIMES SOME OF YOUR LUNCH. BUT, MOSTLY, YOU FEEL HELPLESS. WHAT IS AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE?
RICK: I think your first response should be a prayer of blessing. Whether you say it out loud, “God bless you,” or whether you quietly say it to yourself, “God, this person is in a horrific situation. Bless their day.” I think your first response should always be prayerful. I think your second response is to ask, “Why?” We don’t ask this nearly enough. So, the guy’s on the corner, obviously addicted, and your first reaction is, “If I give money to him, he’s going to waste it on drugs.” The question that should come after that is, “Why?” Why is he crackaddicted? How did this happen? What went wrong in his life? It’s way too simple to say that he just made all the wrong choices. It goes against all the sociology we have and against all the scripture we have. The most likely answer is that something went terribly wrong in his life. It was probably beyond his control. I think asking why gives us more compassion. I’m generally of the attitude that unless there is a reason why not, give them a quarter, a loonie. Jesus very bluntly said to give to all who ask. Begging goes all the way back to biblical times as a way for the poor to care for themselves. In scripture, it says that when we give to the poor, we lend to God.
And so violence – whether it’s physical, sexual or political violence – is a huge factor in poverty. In fact, if you could end domestic violence in Canada, I personally believe you would make a serious impact on poverty within one generation.
MOSAIC: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE DEVELOPMENT, GENTRIFICATION,
MOSAIC: WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED
THAT WE ARE SEEING IN THE DOWNTOWN CORE. ALL THE NEW
WORKING ON POVERTY, YOU SAID IT WAS
CONDOS GOING UP, NEW RESTAURANTS, ETC. WHAT IS THE IMPACT
AT THE FRINGE OF THE CHURCH’S INTEREST
ON THE POOR? WHERE WILL THEY LIVE?
AND ACTIVITY. WHAT IS THE FRINGE NOW?
RICK: People working in the historic “inner cities” have known about gentrification and its effects since the 70s. Currently in Toronto, we talk about the suburbanization of the city core as the new middle class emerging as a force. People known as the “urban pioneers” were the middle class who arrived in the 70s and 80s. They were generally comfortable living beside the poor, as was the case with Cabbagetown. They shopped in the same shops in the community and, for the most part, sent their children to the same schools as other social groups.
RICK: It was Dom Helder Camara (well known for advocating on behalf of the poor) who said, “When I feed the poor, people call me a saint, when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.” What he’s saying is true. When you work compassionately with people long enough, the justice issue comes up. Justice looks for root causes. That is the next phase … the new fringe for us in the church.
The new suburban middle class are more fearful of the poor and bring with them their suburban or downtown business core supports – high-end coffee shops, banks, food chains, etc. In Toronto, if you had asked us 20 years ago where will the poor (people who are one pay cheque away from problems) go, we would have said Hamilton, Oshawa, Pickering, Brampton, and such. To a degree, we were right. In fact, we would have bet against the old post-World War II inner suburbs. We would have guessed the housing stock was too valuable. But huge numbers of people settled in such places. Also, a lot of single-family homes became converted into rooming houses (legal and illegal). As legal downtown rooming houses were closed or gentrified, new, often illegal, houses popped up within the old inner suburbs. (See the report Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty for more on the poverty increase in high-rise apartments in the inner city.) Back in the 60s and 70s, when things got tough in the inner city, denominations divested of city core church holdings. If we divest and run now, where do we go to … to the outer suburbs (like Markham, Richmond Hill or Oakville), which are already experiencing an increase in poverty levels? To quote Ray Bakke, we may be discovering “there is no such place as away.” It is not that poverty is coming to a community near you; it has already arrived on the doorsteps of most of our suburban churches. In Psalm 72, we learn that the blood (the life) of the poor is precious to the King (God). Maybe if the poor were precious to us, we might make more of an effort.
I think your second response is to ask, “Why?”… I think asking why gives us more compassion.
See the upcoming Justice issue of Mosaic for part two of the conversation with Dr. Rick Tobias.
We Journey Together
RESTORING DIGNITY THROUGH GUARDIANS OF HOPE by André Sibomana
live in a country where many people lack the support and resources they need to thrive. Based in Rwanda as CBM Field Staff, I work among the most poor and vulnerable in our society. But I don’t like to think of them as “the poor” and those of us who help as “the benefactor.” We need a new way of thinking, a new attitude. The poor are not empty-handed; they have much to offer. They do not wish to just sit there, waiting for someone to help. They have energy, skills and dreams. The only thing they may be missing is an opportunity to develop or explore their capabilities. Many face social injustices that deny them the chance or access to things that improve life, such as education or health care. Although “the poor” may lack some basic things, God has given each person gifts and talents to develop and share. In some cases, they also have natural resources that they can start with, to build upon. In the Bible, God performed miracles using simple items that people had on hand. In the Old Testament, God used Moses’ staff to part the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16) and Elisha’s salt to purify the contaminated water (2 Kings 2:19-21). In the New Testament, we also see a similar pattern. Jesus used five loaves and two fish from a young boy to feed a multitude (John 6:9-11). We are on a journey together – one where there is neither donor nor beneficiary. Instead, we are both at the table. We are both eager
to learn, bringing something to offer. This approach empowers individuals and entire communities to become self-sufficient over time. It is about capacity-building – and help comes in ways that bring dignity. It can be access to education or skills training, or loans and materials to start businesses or improve farming; personal or family counselling; peacebuilding to solve conflicts; encouragement that boosts self-esteem. It is raising people up to where they can make improvements and sustain themselves for the long-term, impacting future generations. In this process, we need to be humble and loving as we walk alongside. But we also need to be patient, as it takes time for people to recover their dignity and become empowered. Since 2004, CBM has partnered with the Association of Baptist Churches of Rwanda to walk alongside widows, orphans and other family members impacted by HIV and AIDS through the Guardians of Hope (GOH) project. Before we launched this project, infected people were dying because they struggled to access anti-retroviral drugs, which can improve health and extend life. It was a time of hopelessness and much fear that caused a lot of stigma for those infected as well as their families. While great change has happened with more funding for treatment from the government and other agencies, people still suffer. In addition to medical treatment, they need
the support of their communities, and the skills and resources needed to help improve their quality of life. This provides a sense of hope, peace of mind and encouragement. GOH provides a source of strength and comfort – emotional, physical and spiritual. Together, we started support groups that meet at local churches and offer counsel, prayer and encouragement. We also provided specialized training on home-based care for caregivers helping people at the end of life phase of the disease, and educational support (such as school fees, books, uniforms, vocational skills training, and other resources) for the orphans whose parents died from the disease. We have now started a new phase – entrepreneurship and incomegeneration activities. In June 2017, we introduced and trained GOH groups in the savings and loans model called VSLA (Village Savings and Loans Association), where groups meet every week to save money and eventually give out small loans. They also have a social fund that each member contributes to, along with the shares that they buy as savings. This fund is used to help each other in times of great need, such as when a group member gets sick and needs to pay a hospital bill, or another family emergency occurs. I want to introduce you to some of these Guardians of Hope who inspire me with their courage and perseverance. Drocella is 55 years old. Her husband died five years ago, leaving her alone to care for their three children. Many become desperate in this kind of circumstance. Fortunately, Drocella lives in a region where one of our Baptist churches offers a GOH support group. There are 48 members in her group. They call themselves Girubuzima (“be healthier”). They have started savings and loans. At their weekly meeting, they put their savings in the group’s metal box and record the amount each member contributes in the group’s book as well as in the individual’s booklet. But the impact of their savings and loans go beyond money. “As a group, we feel now life has a direction [hope for the future],” says Drocella. “We have access to loans without facing the bank’s higher interest rate. And I have a dividend from the overall interest because my savings are also my shares. If we share out at the end of the year, I can afford to buy a pig [for future earnings] and I will have money to buy good food for my children on Christmas.” Drocella grows tomatoes and other vegetables to earn money. She hopes to build her farm business. “Coming together in savings and loans increased the trust between us as group members. It helped me to be a good steward because I set up saving funds as a priority in my household weekly expenses. Hence, I think twice before spending any coin. Next year, I will increase my weekly saving [to invest more in my tomato farm business].”
André Sibomana is CBM’s Africa Deputy Team Leader, based in Rwanda. André has served in various capacities with CBM and the Association of Baptist Churches of Rwanda, from facilitating short-term mission teams to overseeing community development projects.
[above] CBM’s Guardians of Hope project supports widows, orphans and families impacted by HIV and AIDS in Rwanda.
The leader of her GOH group is Mussa, who attends a local mosque. Mussa and his wife Amina both live with HIV. They have three grown children, and they decided to adopt three more young children who are orphans. They run a small business of buying and selling dry tobacco leaves that are used in local medicines. Their business makes good returns that allow the couple to have a weekly savings fund. From their savings, they can afford the school fees needed to keep two of their children in high school. These developments are all significant steps. Through CBM’s partnership with local communities, we were able to find the most effective ways to bring about lasting change in this community. Before launching the GOH project, we consulted with the community and used the resources available to them. As a result, the need for our involvement has decreased over time. It gives me great joy to see people like Drocella, Mussa and Amina with restored dignity and hope – working together and helping each other. This is what true success looks like when we walk alongside communities in need: They are empowered to help themselves. Together, we have much to celebrate. Our journey continues.
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When we do it unto the least of these, we have done it to him. This passage in Matthew 25 makes clear that our faithfulness is judged by the...
Published on Jan 24, 2019
When we do it unto the least of these, we have done it to him. This passage in Matthew 25 makes clear that our faithfulness is judged by the...