(Post by Kyle LaFerriere)
About two years ago I moved to Manchester--away from the VCU college world and across the river. I ended up about three blocks from Hull Street. Soon my eyes were opened to the amount of different people around Richmond. There were black people, white people, Hispanic people, wealthy people, and poor people. I quickly learned that I had a problem. And though I saw my problem, I thought I was good at hiding my problem.
In March of this year I had an argument with my roommate. It didn't end well, and I saw that my problem wasn't hidden anymore. Jesus showed me that I needed to work on my problem, and He wanted to help.
I struggle with racism. I do a great job at judging, mistreating, and sometimes hating people who look different than I do, people who don't have it all together, or people who are simply just less fortunate that I am.
I went to Chattanooga back in July to serve these people. The only problem was: I went for the wrong reason. I went so I could feel better about myself and try to fix them.
While we were there we got to hear from a college student doing a study on poverty. We often think about poverty as a lack of material things. This student, Blake, explained it much differently. He used an example from his mentor, Dr. Brian Fikkert. Dr. Fikkert says, "When we ask the poor around the world what poverty is, they don't just reply with a lack of material things. To them, it is far more psychological. They may speak of being poor as feeling shame, embarrassment, humiliation, and sometimes unhuman-like."
This came to me as a shock. He was describing me. My life is full of sin. My sin creates those same feelings of shame, embarrassment, and humiliation. These feelings haunt me daily. I learned that I am no different than the people I have so desperately tried to avoid for the past few years. I created a life where I would drive an extra 10 minutes just to go to the really nice Kroger in Carytown--the one where people are pretty and don't wear their "poverty" on their sleeves. I got really good at hiding my poverty and even surrounding myself with people who also hide their poverty well.
I thought I was going to Chattanooga to fix poverty. I went so Jesus could tell me that I can't. If I can't even fix my own problems, how could I possibly fix the problems of other people?
There is good news though. Jesus can fix me and Jesus can fix those surrounded by poverty.
After Chattanooga, I saw that my job as a Christian isn't to fix poverty. My job is grab poverty by the hand say, "You are so broken… but I am just as broken. Lets go see my friend Jesus. He promises to fix us if we are willing."