I spent 6 months in the Philippines a few years ago and was privileged to meet some amazing people, the most physically poor yet spiritually rich i have ever met. The first day i arrived we were taken on 'outreach'; going into the slums, telling people about Jesus and praying for them. The first person i met was a young woman, whose two year old child didn't look any older than six months. Their house, made of sticks and rubbish, was about three square metres, they had no food and her husband was abusive. I was told to give them an 'encouraging message' . . . and promptly burst into tears. I had never witnessed such brutal poverty, and it was utterly heart breaking. We prayed for her, then moved on to the next hut, in which we met more people in similar circumstances. Person after person. With nothing.
Six months later I returned to England, indignant and frustrated with 'Westerners'. How dare they march round shopping centres, spending their hundreds and thousands of pounds on pointless objects, when there were people who could not afford to eat?
Nevertheless, within a few months I was right back there with them. Acquiring more 'stuff' that I 'needed'. It was too easy for me to forget what had broken my heart a few months before when removed from it and immersed in a materialistic culture.
I'm massively challenged by this, because if what i have witnessed on mission trips does not infiltrate my day to day lifestyle, then such trips have simply become yet another form of Western consumerism.
'From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, more will be asked' (Luke 12:48)
So how can my life reflect and acknowledge the responsibility that comes with 'much', when i am part of a culture that is essentially built on the exploitation of the poorest of the poor, the people closest to God's heart? Surely a massive part of this has to involve a lifestyle that stands out and refuses to support such explotation. Yet how often do i just turn a blind eye and buy a t-shirt for £3 from high street retailers, ignoring the real cost involved, even though it completely contradicts what my faith stands for? As a Christian in an economically privileged country, what does it look like to intentionally live my faith in a way that reflects God's heart for humankind, aware of the responsibility I'm going to be held accountable for?