No, no need to be concerned about our lack of funds. It’s not our poverty I’m starting to understand. indeed, we are truly rich in all the ways that matter.
We have been living in Aranui for 8 months, the poorest suburb in Christchurch, as the newspapers delight in telling us, along with shots of rusty playground equipment and fast-food signs. We have been getting to know people, mainly through our kids’ friends, and I’m starting to understand what poverty can be. Many of the families I meet have money for toys – their children have x-boxes, drifter bikes, the latest smartphones, and anything else shiny in the junk mail. They don’t go without the toys. The adults have toys too- they have computer games, they also have tobacco, alcohol, tattoos, fireworks, flash wheels for their cars…
What I’m starting to understand is a long-term lack of hope. Many of these families don’t know Christ. We went to the Christmas day service in Aranui at St Ambrose, and there were about 12 people there.I’m not trying to suggest that the only way to know Christ is to attend the local Anglican church, but it is a start. Maybe there were a few more at the Presbyterian across the road. Maybe a few more at the Pentecostal churches.
I’m seeing an emptiness in peoples’ lives that they are filling with Things, with Stuff. Each day is a struggle to get through, the next one is just the same. They fill in the gap they feel with Stuff, with smokes, anything to make them feel that they are still a part of the pulsating life on the big city. I’m noticing that people in this area seem to have very little resistance to the picture of happy Life the New Zealand Way that we see on TV every day – the parties, the trips to the beach with all the Stuff… and when we know we cannot participate in this life that the media are trying to tell us is the real deal, we get depressed, and demoralised. We lack hope. We can’t see that it will be any better tomorrow.
That’s what poverty is. Not knowing Hope. Not knowing that God’s mercies are new every morning. That each dawn is a gift.
I have planted poppies all down my driveway. Yesterday was a stonker of a Nor-wester, which blew all the petals off, and when I came home in the evening they were completely bare. But I have hope – I know that if I go outside now and check, there will be flowers.
I also have Hope in God, that God is with me through all the turns and trials, all the joys and challenges of today. God’s challenge for me is to share that hope, to show my neighbours that there is more than just Stuff to fill the gap.
May you share that Hope this New Year with everyone you meet too.