Poverty is Relative— Part 1

Many are worried about the economy. Greece is teetering on bankruptcy and other nations have precarious economic situations, which could lead to a domino effect throughout the world. The "Occupy" protests have spread to other cities and are turning violent in some places. Economic indicators continue being dismal, and the presidential campaign stirs more discouragement than hope. BTW, have you seen the new iPhone 4S with Siri? It's incredible how we continue consuming new stuff anyway.

Moonrise @ Rainbow Village (Dumaguete City)

In Dumaguete City, where I'll be the next three months, there are signs of prosperity, yet  poverty continues. When we first moved here in 1990, there were only 6 long distance phone lines going out from the city, and all overseas calls had to go through these 6 lines. Calls were requested through our operators and placed with  operators in a neighboring island—then we would wait for a connection to the outside world. Physical land lines were at a premium and only needed four digit identities. Today, cell phone companies vie for customers, and there's an iStore in a mall selling the newest Apple technology in Dumaguete City...amazing!

What about poverty? It continues as it has for centuries. As Jesus said, "For you always have the poor with you..." (Mark 14:7). Here, the middle class has grown at a strong pace over the past couple decades, but a great disparity between the wealthy and the poor continues. A good half of the population lives day to day, and joblessness is chronic. A college degree is often required for a job at a fast-food restaurant. The greatest export of the Philippines are their people as overseas workers throughout the world, who send money back to their families.

But poverty is relative. It can't be measured in statistics and percentages—it can't be accurately gaged on a grid. And what about quality of life? America has more stress-related illnesses (per capita)—many of them life threatening—than any nation in the world, yet we are one of the wealthiest nations and definitely the greatest consumer nation in the world. Other life-threatening diseases are the product of our over-consumption, but much is said of that elsewhere. Paul the apostle stated, "I've learned to be content in whatever situation I'm in" (Phil 4:11 GWT). Can you say that about your own life?

Quality of life isn't measured by annual income or cost of living statistics—poverty is relative. Abject poverty exists in many places throughout the world, especially in war-torn places like Southern Sudan and Somalia. A recent report came out saying that 1 out of 15 live in "extreme poverty" in America, with an annual income of +/- $ 11,500. How does this stack up with other nations in the world? Countries with similar incomes include—Romania, Iran, Brazil, Serbia—you get the idea. How about those at the bottom of the list? Countries with GDP/PPP under $800/year include— Malawi, Niger, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Burundi and the Congo (all in Africa). [see these links for stats– http://goo.gl/n68Mehttp://goo.gl/G5MR]

Recently, two former Bible college students came back to our island and visited us. Ryan wants work (paid or not) to keep busy while they wait for his wife, Maricel, to deliver their second child. They left their home in Mindanao because of a war going on and a curfew making it difficult to go to the hospital when the time of birth would come. But talking with them I was reminded of how relative poverty really is...but that will have to wait till next week.

Until then, think about the idea of poverty being relative—How poor is poor? How rich is rich? And where does contentment lie within that continuum?