Archive for the category “Poverty”

Left with nothing

Is your congregation involved deeply enough with the poor in your community to know who is preying on them?

nothingMichael Sallah, Debbie Cenziper, and Steven Rich report for the Washington Post:

On the day Bennie Coleman lost his house, the day armed U.S. marshals came to his door and ordered him off the property, he slumped in a folding chair across the street and watched the vestiges of his 76 years hauled to the curb.

Movers carted out his easy chair, his clothes, his television. Next came the things that were closest to his heart: his Marine Corps medals and photographs of his dead wife, Martha. The duplex in Northeast Washington that Coleman bought with cash two decades earlier was emptied and shuttered. By sundown, he had nowhere to go.

All because he didn’t pay a $134 property tax bill.

The retired Marine sergeant lost his house on that summer day two years ago through a tax lien sale — an obscure program run by D.C. government that enlists private investors to help the city recover unpaid taxes.

For decades, the District placed liens on properties when homeowners failed to pay their bills, then sold those liens at public auctions to mom-and-pop investors who drew a profit by charging owners interest on top of the tax debt until the money was repaid.

But under the watch of local leaders, the program has morphed into a predatory system of debt collection for well-financed, out-of-town companies that turned $500 delinquencies into $5,000 debts — then foreclosed on homes when families couldn’t pay, a Washington Post investigation found.

Read the full text of this provocative story by clicking here.

A Light of Hope for impoverished girls

lohc daughter 2Pamela Swithin writes for BGR:

BANGLADESH — The small, ramshackle “home” sits just feet from the edge of railroad tracks. The house made of corrugated tin, bamboo, plastic tarps and wood is one small room shared by a family of six. The roof leaks when it rains and looks in danger of collapsing.

But this home is all 10-year-old Farjana’s family can — barely — afford.

Farjana and her youngest brother, 8-year-old Shukor Ali, must beg to help their family survive. Nearly every day, the children can be found begging at a busy intersection in their city that’s surrounded by shops, restaurants and businesses.

“When I was very young, my father died,” Farjana says. “My mom was unable to manage our family by providing food and other needs for us. … The last six years I have been going to the [intersection] for begging and earning money for my family.”

Farjana’s family is doing what they can to make it. Farajana and her four siblings live with their mother, 50-year-old Khotija, in the one-room shack. Her eldest brother is 20 and divorced, living back home, and works in a garment factory — but doesn’t always share the money with his family. Her next brother is 17 and unemployed. Farjana’s 15-year-old sister works in a color factory and “sometimes she provides [money], and sometimes she does not,” her mother says. Khotija doesn’t have a job or beg because of her ill health.

Farjana and her sister are the breadwinners for this family — but it’s not enough.

Farjana isn’t able to attend school because of her family’s lack of resources and her role as breadwinner. She cannot read or write. But she wants to go to school someday because “without education, there is no significance in life,” she says.

‘THE SHELTER’

Farjana is just one of Bangladesh’s estimated 700,000 beggars. Girls from low-income families like Farjana face many obstacles and dangers in their life — including potentially being trafficked and exploited, says Christian worker Geri Hennerman.*

“They are seen as nobodies and only good for cleaning, cooking, sex and child-bearing,” Hennerman says. “They are often beaten verbally and physically. They have little — if any — encouragement, love, correct discipline or teaching. They do not have good female role models to follow. Many are given for marriage at extremely young ages.

“They are seen as objects instead of real people.”

But impoverished girls can have the chance to avoid this dark future through the Light of Hope Learning Center, which Geri and another Christian worker started more than six years ago.

Click here to read the rest of this marvelous story — and find out how to help.

California evangelizes lottery: ‘Believe in something bigger’

believe

Angela Lu writes for World magazine:

The ad starts with a soft choral singing of “California Dreaming,” and small white balls falling out of the sky like snowflakes onto sequoia forests, the Golden Gate bridge, downtown Los Angeles, the beach. Regular folks look up in wonder, enjoying the “snowfall” until one man joyously finds a red ball in his hand. The screen cuts away to the pseudo-religious phrase “Believe in something bigger,” and the purpose of the ad: California Lottery Powerball with jackpots starting at $40 million.

The TV spot, along with billboards that include moving images of the woman’s suffrage movement, the moon landing, and the fall of the Berlin wall with just the word “Believe” in the corner, has been criticized by commentators as tricking citizens—especially the poor—into believing a lie. The odds of hitting the Powerball’s 6-number jackpot are more than 175 million to one.

Ad agency David&Goliath expands on its campaign saying the phrase “isn’t just a tagline, it’s a mindset—one that inspires people to think beyond what’s possible. To be part of a movement of optimism and larger-than-life dreams, and to serve as a filter for the Lottery and the people who play.”

And often those who fall for this optimism are those who need the money the most. A PBS report last year found that households that earn less than $13,000 a year spend 9 percent of their income on lottery tickets. Those who feel poor buy twice as many lottery tickets.

Read the rest of this excellent article by clicking here.

It says a lot about a society — none of it good — when it is willing to raise revenue by selling false hope to the desperate poor, and the middle class shrugs off the exploitation by saying, “Hey, it’s only a game, and I enjoy playing.” How selfish is a society in which “believe in something bigger” means realizing the ultimate narcissistic fantasy of sudden “something for nothing” wealth? Who can show them what a life of faith in something bigger actually looks like?

The author’s conclusion is spot-on: God redeems the poor, and that includes “the poor, ordinary things in our lives, including ourselves” that are of greater value than all the world’s wealth. Let us walk in his paths — and teach others his ways as well.

Watch the California Lottery ad by clicking here.
Learn more about a Christian response to gambling by clicking here.

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