By Allie Pohlmeier
Last week, my friend and mother figure when I lived in Kenya, had an AK-47 thrust in her face as carjackers surrounded her car on a busy highway. She and her mother, the passenger, were shot in the head. Shot. Dead.
Bill Bryson, a popular travel author describes Kibera, Kenya as:
…a sea of tin roofs filling a mile or so of steamy hillside on the south side of the city. Kibera is the biggest slum in Nairobi, possibly the biggest in Africa. Nobody knows how many people live in there. Its at lease 700,000, but it may be as many as a million, perhaps more. At least 50,000 of Kiberas children are AIDS orphans. At least a fifth of the residents are HIV positive, but it could be as high as 50 percent. Nobody knows. Nothing about Kibera is certain and official, including its existence. It appears on no maps. It just is. You cant just go to Kibera if you are an outsider. Well, you can, but you wont come out again.
I was nauseated by Zeldas sudden death and reminded of my time living in Kibera. I also suddenly grew nauseated by a certain phrase that I have heard and found myself saying on countless occasions, and maybe you have uttered as well.
I was at a Christian college recruiting for upcoming mission trips several weeks ago. Student after student would come and talk to us, look at the price, and say, “I am a poor college student. I really need to work this summer.” Some didn’t even go so far as to use an excuse of work. They were simply “too poor.”
I am convinced that this stomach-churning phrase “poor college student” hinders living the abundant life God has for us. I began to think of this western college student standing in the midst of the slums of Kenya or India or the inner city of America. Maybe he wouldnt be so quick to say that he was a “poor college student.”
Maybe if we realized the vast resources that we have and stopped living by the paralyzing lie, then the kingdom of God would come into our hearts, our campuses, and our world.
Maybe poverty isnt found in the slums of Kenya. Maybe poverty starts in our own hearts.
In the same moment of giving myself a hard time for judging, my heart began to well up with the thought of what it would look like if young people across the world were living in the truth that they are actually rich.
We have so many resources at our fingertips. Unfortunately, these resources are staying at our fingertips and not being used. It is as if our hands are full of fireflies, and instead of opening our hands to show our friends, we are keeping our hands clenched and letting the little bugs die.
If we just came together to give to the kingdom, I am convinced drastic change would happen. Imagine if our generation not only said, but lived out the reality that nothing is impossible with God.
Louie Giglio, the Passion Conferences founder and director said, “Individually, we can make a difference in the world, but collectively, we are a mighty force. Moving together, small sacrifices from each of us can make a huge difference in the lives of people around the globe.”
I was at the Passion conference in Atlanta, Georgia this past January. Lou Gigilio challenged the 23,000 students present to give financially. Amazing things happened. The students raised enough money to build 52 wells in African villages ($3,000 each), sponsored 124 surgeries in South America (each surgery costing $1,000), sent 20 African students to college, translated the New Testament in 6 different languages (over $450,000), raised $109,000 to help build a Christ-focused community center in northern Iraq, and raised $250,000 for Passion to minister internationally. Was that a room of “poor college students?” That weekend the group broke free from the lie. They realized that “poor college students” meant those who have never sacrificed for the kingdom.
Bill Bryson says, “Every time you flush a toilet you use more water than the average person in the developing world for all purposes in a day: cooking, cleaning, drinking, everything. Its very tough.”
Maybe what we think is “tough” really isn’t tough. Maybe living in a place where you have an AK-47 to your head isnt tough. Maybe what is tough is when God sees His children squelching fire-flies.
You aren’t a poor college student. You aren’t a poor college graduate. You are beloved. You were created with global purposes in mind. You were meant to live a life where risks really are risks, and the outcome is unknown.
Next time we flush our toilets, perhaps we should remind ourselves that we are full of resources and integral kingdom players. Then, let’s start living like it.
Allie Pohlmeier has recently returned to the states from work in Kibera, Kenya. Allie formerly worked as a teacher and is a graduate of Judson College.
If you are looking to further involve yourself with organizations that assist those in a situation of poverty, you can start here: