Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Poverty Tourism

What? ANOTHER blog post? I know, crazy, right? Or maybe it would seem that I have too much time on my hands? False. I can assure you, I most certainly do not. There have just been so many "bloggable" things happening lately.

Yesterday we had a community activist come and speak to us (aka me, Kiva, Potts & Krista) on the topic of "poverty tourism". Sadly, I cannot remember her name. Yikes! It is an interesting topic- one that I quite honestly had not really thought of before this year. Poverty tourism is basically the idea that people come to experience the poverty of a specific neighborhood and then return to their middle-class or upper-class home. That is a very general, open-ended, and vague description. Hopefully you get the point.

Specifically, this topic is very applicable to the Discover groups that DOOR hosts in the summer. Most of them come from average-ville, white America and have come to educate their children on poverty. But is it ok to use someone else's home to do that?

She (our speaker) referred to Isaiah 61:1-4 as a frame of reference for this conversation. Here is is from the CEB (which I have grown to love over the year!)

   The LORD God’s spirit is upon me,because the LORD has anointed me.He has sent meto bring good news to the poor,to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim release for captives,and liberation for prisoners,2 to proclaim the year of the LORD ’s favorand a day of vindication for our God,to comfort all who mourn,3to provide for Zion’s mourners,to give them a crown in place of ashes,oil of joy in place of mourning,a mantle of praise in place of discouragement.They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,planted by the LORD to glorify himself.4They will rebuild the ancient ruins;they will restore formerly deserted places;they will renew ruined cities,places deserted in generations past.

If you look at the text grammatically, the people who will rebuild the cities are the ones who are living in them. Using this lens to read the passage, we are supposed to help stir up the residents and give them resources. But we are not supposed to do the work ourselves. I am not sure exactly what my opinion of this is. I will get back to you on that one. But I think the main point is a good one-- in order to change these "ruined cities, places deserted in generations past", we need the help of the ones living there.

Our speaker raised 3 good questions that I still need to process. Unfortunately, I will not be able to meet with my house and Krista when they discuss this month's book (When Helping Hurts) and the questions raised during our discussion yesterday. I will be in Kentucky on a workcamp with the senior high group. These questions were put forth to us, as year-long service people, living in an economically-depressed neighborhood, surrounded by people who might not have the same background as us. (My background for this would be as a middle-class, white girl from a small town in Texas. I am college educated, was raised by both of my parents and in a church.) The questions were:

1. What does it look like to the people living in the neighborhood when you come to the neighborhood?
2. What does it say to the people living in the neighborhood when you come to the neighborhood?
3. What does it say to the people from where you are from when you come to this neighborhood?

These questions have come to me at a particularly interesting time as I am getting ready to be a leader on the Senior High Workcamp next week and as I finish the final planning stages of the Elevation Workcamp in July. Like I said before, I am still processing what I believe on this topic.  I have more questions than answers. What do you think?Have you gone on a workcamp or mission trip and felt like you were more of a hindrance than a help? What does it look like to "proclaim the year of the LORD's favor" but not actually help them rebuild the cities? What does this mean for our church? Should our youth ignore the needs of the community outside their own? Should we just be preaching in the streets instead of climbing on top of roofs and fixing houses? 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!! :)