Eliud is eighteen.
An orphan for ten years, he lives alone in a home made of cardboard, wood and corrugated metal. It’s eight feet long, five and a half feet high and five feet deep.
Because of a sponsor named Nick in Northern California, Eliud has enough – but you and I would call him poor.
Eliud prefers it that way.
We walked together through the second largest slum in Kenya. Past the homes of it’s 800,000 residents.
We sloshed through a mixture of mud and garbage. Two new friends talking in the rain about wealth and poverty.
“I’d like to ask you a difficult question,” I warned. “I’ve been waiting a long time to ask someone this and I’ve finally found someone wise enough to answer it. Are you ready?”
He smiled slightly back at me.
“What does it mean to be ‘rich’ or ‘poor’? How much must a man have to be called rich?”
“Well,” he said, “I think it is true that a rich man has great wealth and a poor man does not have his basic needs. A rich man has new cars and a big house. The poor do not have basic needs.”
We passed a small opening in the sea of rusted metal. Inside, pornography played on a television for men with a few shillings. “Cinema” the sign read.
“In my country,” Eliud said, “to be rich requires corruption. I would rather be poor with God than rich with a corrupted life.”
We turned a corner and walked down a driveway onto church property where lunch was being prepared. Brad and I stopped under an awning and drank in Eliud’s last words of wisdom.
“A poor man can see forward. A rich man becomes blind until he cannot see good and wrong.”
There was a long pause.
“You’re right,” I finally confessed. “I am rich. And it makes me blind sometimes. I once thought I was too poor to share more but then I met my first sponsored child. She showed me how much good $38 can do. You are an amazing young man. Nick is helping you by being your sponsor but you are helping him by being his sponsored child. You are helping him see the good God can do when we share.”
His eyes watered just a little. Payback for all the tears these kids in Kenya have wrung out of me this week.
Even in this recession of ours the average American has a big house, more than one car, spends around $100 every month on soft drinks and more than $50 each month on cable. Not basic needs. We are rich.
There is only one reason more than 800 children from Kenya are still unsponsored at Compassion.com today : Because the wealthiest Christians in the world have become blind. We don’t see the extent of their poverty or our riches. We can’t see the good in sharing and the wrong of being an average American.
I sponsor three children and one leadership development student. Thousands of kids have been sponsored by my blog readers and concert audiences. My family and I simplified our life a few years ago so we’d have more to share. But God’s not through with me.
God is still opening my eyes. I’m dividing my water and electric bills, my fast food and magazine subscriptions by $38 tonight and I’m seeing more good to be done.
I pray your eyes are opened by Eliud’s words too. Please see and sponsor a child.
“Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD ?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.