My Poverty Immersion Experience: Beginning Thoughts

For the next several days, for as long as it takes, I’m going to relay to all of you the best that I can my experience on a Poverty Immersion weekend in Toledo, Ohio.

It’s hard to know where to begin…this weekend was all-around amazing.  So let me give you some context about the weekend.  From Thursday afternoon to Monday evening, 8 high school students and 9 leaders stayed in what used to be a convent facility.  Since some people wondered if I had slept on the streets in the dead of winter, you should know that that was not a part of the experience.  We also ate pretty well, but it appears starving wouldn’t have been true to the Toledo poverty experience either.  You’ll come to find through my account what a homeless man told me, “In Toledo if you go hungry it’s your own fault.”  This is a good thing, and it leads me to think that the goal of all of this is that one day there’s no need for a poverty immersion experience at all.

The central idea of the weekend was people.  I know people aren’t really an idea, but people are (or aren’t) a focal point…a target of wonder and compassion.  And so I embarked on this weekend ready to pour into people.  Now I want to be clear, this is not the kind of philanthropic care for others that any greasy-haired celebrity can superficially sell at a telethon.  There’s a difference, I learned, between being for someone and being with someone.  Being with someone reaches into new depths.  It causes any white collar to discover their own poverty inside.  It sheds any adjective and reduces our vernacular to simply say: “We’re just people, you know.”  So through this little series of posts I hope you know that the greatest accomplishment of the weekend was not what I did for others, but what God did in me through others.

Stay tuned…

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