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Bright Hope

One of the most popular terms used amongst our American college culture is “poor college student.” I’m sure that if each of us has not personally used that term, we have at least heard someone else use it to describe their situation as a tuition paying-ramen noodle eating-thrift store shopping-full time college student. But even I used the term time and again, though it really wasn’t a problem for me to go get a $4 latte or see an $8 movie with friends when I wanted to. Now I hear myself say to Darren “we’re poor, so we cannot eat out again because we don’t have an income!” Or sometimes when my stomach is growling and I so desire a meal I exclaim, “I’m starving!!” Are we poor? Can we barely afford to feed ourselves or own just one set of clothes? Am I starving, even just a little bit? No. We aren’t the least bit poor. And I certainly don’t go without a meal. But for some reason many of us use these sort of extreme terms to describe our situations or circumstances. Let’s think about what it means to be poor, really poor. For a billion people in our world, about 1 out of 6, poor means living on less than $1 a day. Less than $365 dollars a year. Some of us make that in a day or two. Try to imagine what it would look like if you made a dollar a day and had to care for your family. The first thing to go out the window is education because it is not free in many countries and because you need to start working and helping out when you are much younger to assist the family. Next is food. You may only get one meal each day and that meal is probably the same thing every single day…rice and beans or something similar. This little exercise is not at all to make us feel guilty, but rather to help us carefully consider the words we use and to increase compassion and love in our hearts for those who really are poor.

Bright Hope exists to help the poorest of the poor, those living in extreme poverty, on less than $1 a day. Their guiding verse is Isaiah 58:10 which reads:
“And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.”

The heart behind this beautifully functioning organization comes from its President, Craig Dyer, whose father founded Bright Hope in 1968. Craig has worked to administer a unique approach to serve our world’s poor, which is done by equipping local, indigenous churches to bring a holistic gospel and ministry. They desire to offer hope for today through immediate relief with food, clothes, shelter, and medical assistance; hope for tomorrow through economic strategies such as microlending/microfinance, job creation programs, education and skill training; and hope for eternity by meeting spiritual needs through local church leadership development and a transformational relationship with Jesus Christ. Bright Hope is able to accomplish this awesome task by working only through trusted relationships, listening well, and not moving too fast in each area or project. In Haiti they spend two years building a relationship with the local church and people starting to really work there because they had witnessed many failed approaches and their desire is not to waste the opportunities they have, but to make the most of each.

Currently there are well over 120,000 people around the world whose lives have been greatly impacted by the work of Bright Hope. Many of these are not even familiar with “Bright Hope,” but only know that their local church offers life-improving help in a variety of ways. What a brilliant picture of the church, functioning to bring good news (truth) and help (action) together for a complete outpouring of love! Bright Hope has partnered with over 530 churches in 10 different countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa, as well as Cuba and Haiti.

One of the stories Craig shared with us that really stuck is the story of Zainabu. We were able to listen to her tell her story through a voice recording. She lives in a massive slum in Kenya, called Mathare, which is home to more than half a million people and has a grand total of 12 toilets. We can only try to imagine what kind of stench surrounds the tiny mud and tin roof “houses” and the extremely low level of hygiene and security found there. But Zainabu chooses to keep her head held high and day after day she works hard toward the goal of escaping this kind of poverty someday. Orphaned at the age of 16, she became head of the household and began taking care of her 3 younger siblings. Her relatives encouraged her to quit school, but her pastor encouraged her to keep going! Because her pastor became like a father to her and because Bright Hope has equipped her local church to care for the needs of the people, she is now attending university on a scholarship from BH. When asked about getting a job in a place with such a high level of unemployment, Zainabu quickly responded “the God who has provided for me as an orphan, and for my education, will provide a job.” She is a shining example to a seemingly hopeless community because of her devotion to God and purity.

There are countless other stories similar to this one and numerous ways you can help and get involved with serving the poorest of the poor through Bright Hope’s many projects. Too many great things to list here, so you must visit their website and find exactly how you would like to partner with them. You’ll be happy to know that they have been given the highest ranking from Charity Navigator charitynavigator.org. One other unique and fantastic thing that they do is an Experience Tour. If you live in the Chicago area it is well worth the time (one hour) to take a Tuesday evening and visit their headquarters for the Experience Tour. Make a reservation! The end of our tour left us with one more verse to meditate on: Psalm 28:27 “He who gives to the poor will never want. But he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.”

www.brighthope.org


4 Comments (Leave a Reply)

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