What Is Poverty?

Guest ColumnistCommunity News

by Michelle Acker

Reflections from Life and Ministry in Guatemala

I think I have often defined poverty as not having enough material things or possessions. While there is obviously some truth to that, I am learning that sometimes poverty is having too much and being too busy and too distracted. There is something that is lost when we live life with too much.

For the past 5 months I have been serving with Mission Impact and learning from the people of Guatemala about my own poverty. It is relatively easy to come serve in a third world country where many people live in extreme poverty; lacking access to clean drinking water, education and basic medical needs. However, I am learning that it is much harder to confront some of my own areas of poverty; a spiritual poverty that makes me falsely believe the myths of self-sufficiency and materialism. Too often I buy into the subtle messages that say, “buy one more thing” and “get one more thing done.” I realize how often my dependence on God is not based on my own spiritual need and humbleness, but rather on my fickle wants and desires in any given moment.

Our culture tends to value productivity, competency and accomplishment, but these three traditional “American” values don’t leave much space for contentment, peace and a joyful spirit. As I have been working at Vida y Esperanza, a K-9th school about 15 minutes outside of Antigua, God has been teaching me that maybe we (North Americans and Guatemalans) need to both acknowledge our brokenness; our poverty, in whatever form it takes.

It has been a privilege to serve in Guatemala because I see God reshaping my life and my understanding of what’s important, but also because I see Guatemalan kids who are already learning these very same things. I am extremely thankful to our church family because you are choosing to support me and the ministry here. Psalm 16:11 declares, you [Lord] will fill me with joy in your presence and I believe that God does just that. No matter where we are living, He fills us with joy when we are in His presence. And I am learning that in order to be in God’s presence we have to acknowledge our own spiritual poverty.

May the God who fills us with joy, fill you today.

Michelle is serving with at Vida y Esperanza in Santa Lucia, Guatemala. She will be teaching English and developing a special education program at the school in the year ahead. To find out more please visit:www.missionimpact.com/Staff_Acker.html