Poverty is poverty

July 30th 2017

Guest speaker: Randy Mortensen

Randy Mortensen Guest Speaker "Poverty is Poverty".

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God break my heart with what breaks yours……a dangerous and audacious prayer that I pray each morning. Quickly followed by…..God let me just not screw up your plan for me today!


A few questions for you to ponder this morning…..

  • Could you afford your current lifestyle if you only ever made minimum wage?
  • What would happen to you and your family if you suddenly lost your job and were unemployed for a long period of time?
  • Who do you know that has had, or still has, an alcohol addiction or drug habit? How has this affected their economic status or their ability to keep a job?
  • What about a friend, co-worker or family member who’s had an unexpected medical condition or emergency? How did those medical bills affect them financially? 

Tough questions but very relevant to the hardships many are experiencing as a result of the fundamentals of Poverty today


We are going to take a diversion this morning from the “Rescue Series” that Pastor David has been doing this summer, using the Book of Exodus. Just want to pause for a moment.


Not sure you realize how blessed you all are to have Pastor David here as your pastor – there are four pastors I faithfully listen to every week online – (1) Pastor Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington, DC (2) Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, (3) Pastor Mark Ragsdale of our home church, the Church of Viera, in Central Florida, and Pastor David. David is certainly in the upper echelon of gifted and anointed teachers in this country. My wife and I were part of the team from enCompass Church in Roseville, along with Grace Fellowship in Brooklyn Park that actually birthed this awesome church family in late 2009. And, with an amazing 35% growth in attendance in the last year and with 19 people being obedient to the leading of Jesus and professing their faith in him two weeks ago by being baptized…..God clearly has huge plans for Renovation!


By the way, David mentioned last week in his message that Exodus 14:14 is a verse often seen on the TapTaps in Haiti – I wasn’t able to find that particular verse on a TapTap but was able to find this photo with “PEACE and LOVE, along with THANKS JESUS” on the front of a colorful public transportation vehicle in Haiti, otherwise known as a TapTap. If you ever wondered where all the Chevy S-10s end up at the end of life in the USA – now you know.


There’s a few facts I’d like to share with you about Haiti and some differences between living there vs here in the north metro:


If Haiti were your home……

            You would spend 99.41% less money on health care annually

            Per capita public and private health expenditures in Haiti are $52.60 while in the U.S. it     is $8,895.10


If Haiti were your home…..

            You would be almost ten times more likely to be unemployed

            Haiti has an unemployment rate of 40.6% while the United States has            4.5%


If Haiti were your home…..

            You would make 97.54% less money

            The GDP per capita in Haiti is $1,300 while in the U.S. it is $52,800

            In Blaine, the median household income is $76,027 or 58 times more or 5,848%      greater than Haiti


If Haiti were your home…..

You would use 99.84% less electricity, primarily because less than 20% of the population even has access to the utility power


And also, If Haiti were your home….

            You would have 71.12% more babies

            The annual number of births per 1,000 people in Haiti is 22.83 while in the United             States it is 13.42 births per 1,000 people


I’ve titled this message – “POVERTY IS POVERTY”


My goal this morning is to provide you with 5 Causes of Poverty in the Developing World – with an emphasis on Haiti. And then, similarly look at the 5 reasons for Poverty in the United States. So, let’s jump in.


The United States is undeniably the richest and most powerful nation ever on the face of the earth. The gross domestic product (GDP) of the US is larger than the next two biggest economies combined, which are China and Japan. The US economy out produces the combined economies of over forty-seven poor nations, which account for 53% of the population of the world. These forty-seven nations include China (1.4 billion people) and India (1.3 billion).


Did you know that worldwide about 842 million people are going to be hungry today? That’s 1 in every 8 people in the world, or more than 2 ½ times the population of the Unites States. Also, 1 in every 5 people in the world lives on less than $1.25. The saddest statistic of all is that more than 18,000 children under the age of 5 die every day because of hunger and malnutrition.


The per capita income of the U.S. a year ago was 360% higher than the world’s average per capita income. The USA boasted an average income of $34,100 while the average income for the world was $7,410. That comparison is problematic because it includes some wealthy countries in Europe. So lets look at the 56% of the world’s population that lives in extreme poverty. They survive on an income of less than $730 per year or $2 per day. Half of the world’s poor, who comprise 28% of the world’s population, live on $1 or less per day.


You might be saying “but things are so much cheaper in poverty stricken countries”. But consider this….3rd world countries producing food lack modern machinery and thus it’s often more expensive than food grown on America’s mechanized farms. Yet, despite the much lower cost of production, American’s spend an average of $3,400 per year on food and beverages. That’s 365% more than the total average income for over half the people of the world. Americans simply live a lifestyle that is beyond imagination for most of the poor in the world.


Are you surprised to learn that Americans throw away almost as much food as we eat because of our “cult of perfection”? This is inflicting a heavy toll on the environment. By one government tally, 60 million tons of produce worth about $160 Billion is wasted by retailers and consumers every year – somewhere around 30% to 40% of all production. All this contributes to deepening malnutrition and poverty here.


So let’s have a look at poverty in the developing countries


What Are The Causes of Poverty?


There is no clear answer when asking for the factors that cause poverty.


The inequality gap between the rich and poor though continues to grow, while almost 3 Billion people live on less than $2.50 a day.


But why does poverty exist? That seems to be the multi million-dollar question that’s not been adequately answered over the past decades..


While there is no simple answer to this question, there are many factors that contribute to this dilemma. And, there is a need to identify the key and historical causes of poverty in order to create sustainable change! Here’s the Top five that are typically present in developing countries:


  • Poor Governance / Presence of War / Political Instability
    If corruption and political instability are rampant in the government and private institutions, then the state will fail in fulfilling its responsibilities for the citizens and remain weak. High rates of poverty are usually found within countries with corrupt leaders, weak state institutions, and no rules of law.

    Without the basic safety, stability, and security, no amount of education, talent or technological know-how will allow people to work and reap the benefits of their labor. Functional laws are needed to protect rights and to encourage investments. 

  • Unequal Distribution of Wealth & National Debt.
    All over the world, the rich continue to get richer and the poor continue to get poorer. 
    Many poor countries carry significant debt due to loans from wealthier nations. In the case of Haiti, as a result of gaining their independence in 1804, the French in 1825 demanded reparation in the amount of 150 million Francs, later it was actually reduced to 90 million Francs. But still, the Haitian people repaid France the equivalent of $21 Billion for their freedom. 

    Poorer nations are often forced by the World Bank to open their markets to outside business investors, thereby undermining the potential development of local economies. Case in point – the Haitian government presently owes Venezuela more than $1.3 Billion for the import of fuels over the past few years.

  • Discrimination / Colonization & Social Inequality / History
    Income inequality is often found in countries that began their modern history as colonies with slavery present.
     Poverty and inequality are two different things, but inequality can feed widespread poverty by barring groups with lower social status from accessing the tools and resources to support themselves. 

    Discrimination, racism and prejudice all fit together to constitute a prime cause of poverty. This is seen all over the world including the United States, where a person’s skin color or religion can play a huge role in the way she or he is treated in society.
    Gender discrimination has been a significant factor in holding back many women and children around the world.

  • Environmental Degradation
    Although often overlooked, environmental degradation can have a huge impact on poverty rates and the well-being of people.
     If resources are depleted due to climate change, natural disaster and deforestation, then citizens are more likely to be living in poverty. In Haiti, the use of trees for the production of cooking charcoal has denuded the countryside. Environmental problems lead to shortages of water, food, and materials for housing, as well as other essential resources. Clearly the effect of degradation of the environment is an issue.

  • Vulnerability to Natural Disasters
    In regions of the world that are already less wealthy, recurrent or occasional catastrophic natural disasters can pose a significant obstacle to eradicating poverty. Flooding, droughts, and the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew from last Fall in Haiti, are examples of the ways in which vulnerability can be devastating. People become refugees within their own countries, losing whatever little they had, being forced out of their living spaces and becoming almost completely dependent on others for survival. Often debt burdens double and without foreign aid the governments in these countries will be unable to meet the needs of their people..

These are only five general causes of poverty.


In Quick Summary -

  • Causes of poverty can be due to external and internal causes, both man-made and natural.
  • Just as there’s no single cause of poverty, there is no single solution.


“Poor” and “poverty” appear 446 times in the Bible in 384 separate verses

“Wealth” can be found 1,453 times and “justice” in contrast, appears 1,576 times

Justice is mentioned twice as many times as “love” or “heaven” and seven times more often than “hell”

By the numbers alone, it’s obvious that justice for all is a pretty big deal to God. It’s also exciting to see so many people around the United States and the world standing up for issues of justice – like ending extreme poverty, combating greed, eliminating human trafficking, and building a more equitable economy at home and abroad.


So, who cares about the poor? God cares!


We live in an imperfect world with a huge imbalance of wealth and power. God is a God of justice and wants his people to make a difference in the world, standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves and sharing what we have with those who have nothing.


Let’s have a look at three relevant scripture references:


 (James 2:15-16) “Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Go in peace; keep warm and eat well!”, but you do nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

If we really don’t possess the means of relieving the needs of the poor, then an expression of a kind wish may offer some comfort for their sorrows, because even sympathy in such a case is of value, and if you’re in that situation it is important to know that others feel for you; but if we have the means, then such simple expressions are possibly seen as mere mockery, and could aggravate rather than soothe the feelings of the sufferer.


Such expressions will neither clothe nor feed them; and the quick comment might deepen the sorrows which we ought to want to heal. You might ask yourself…..how much of this is there in the world? Where we might be quick to offer a comment but don’t truly understand that our best intentions could be deemed as hollow or even false? Especially when the ability to assist is within your reach!


When the poor and needy search for water and there is none, and their tongues are parched for thirst, then I the Lord, will answer them. (Isaiah 41:17 NLT)


God sees the 884 million people in the world who lack access to safe drinkable water. He sees the 3.5 million people each year who die from water-related diseases. He watches as girls walk more than 2 to 3 miles each day to get drinkable water. When we have a drought in our area, it means we can’t water our lawns as often as we’d like. I think we get so focused on our own needs sometimes that we don’t see the real needs of others. Yet God’s heart goes out to the poor and needy because he sees and cares about real thirsty and hungry people.


God has blessed the people of Williamson, Haiti with two new wells in the past 18 months – the first is on the City on a Hill property, 14 acres being developed by World Wide Village, and the other was drilled within the last few weeks, at another piece of our property where the Renovation team worked this Winter, and that new well is capable of producing an amazing 50 gallons of water flow per minute. Praise God!


Jesus said himself, that we will always have the poor among us, and if you look around the world, or even here in your own city, you’ll see people in need. God not only sees the needs of the poor, he goes out and meets the needs of the poor, because he loves them so much. That’s the heart of God.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim freedom for the captives.” (Isaiah 61:1 NLV)


When you go shopping at the grocery store, what do you see in the people you meet? So many of them are prisoners in Satan’s kingdom. They do not know Jesus as their Savior, so they are burdened down with guilt and sinful habits they cannot break. A different type of “poor”. They live in a cycle of despair and depression. We have the awesome responsibility of telling them how they can throw away their prison clothes and put on the robe of righteousness. How can you help others learn about the freedom found in Christ? Isaiah wrote about this 700 years before the birth of Christ. Even then, Isaiah knew the answer, it’s us - you and me, the people of The Church. 

I often refer to this as Spiritual Poverty here in the States. This is certainly a different perspective on “poor” but relevant as we seek God’s guidance. And particularly as we consider the relative material or physical wealth we enjoy here, we must be mindful of the Spiritual poverty in our workplaces, schools, our neighborhoods, and this country. There’s brokenness surrounding and consuming those who are suffering in monetary poverty but the struggle is no less challenging when dealing with emotional and relational poverty or what’s categorized as Spiritual Poverty.

Bring the good news of God’s rescue to them. There is no substitute for telling people the message of the Gospel – let nothing hinder you from giving it to those who need it.


Again – be willing to pray the prayer…..”God help me to understand what breaks your heart, so I can learn how to serve you better.


If you pray……He will begin to use you to help those that are truly broken.


Causes of Poverty in America


Even though we don’t have starvation in America, we do have an amount of poverty that leads to malnutrition and diseases that we don’t tend to associate with First World countries. All too often, poverty is going to be passed on from one generation to the next, which is at odds with the idea of America as a place with endless upward mobility.


There are many reasons and causes for poverty in America. For example, it simply could be because of a job loss and a resulting downward spiral, a spouse fleeing from an abusive partner, an exorbitant rent increase while on a fixed disability or Social Security income, or the results of untreated mental illness.


Let’s look at five common reasons for poverty in America. As I was preparing this message, it became abundantly clear to me that the challenges we’re dealing with in Haiti are very similar to those here in the United States – poverty is poverty:


  • Poor Economy


Weak economies in America have caused an increase in unemployment. Some companies have been forced to cut jobs or even close their doors for business. Others have also chosen to ship their factories overseas in order to save money by hiring foreign workers at much lower pay than they paid their American workers.


High quality jobs with good wages and great benefits are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Unemployment not only affects individuals, but their families as well. These changes often drive families into a state of poverty, and unfortunately, sometimes even into homelessness.

The high unemployment rate in Haiti has already been mentioned. But this awesome church is helping to make an economic development impact. This past February, with your commitment toward the construction funding, and the awesome team from Renovation working alongside our Haitian construction team – the Sewing Center came to life. Many young ladies are now learning to sew and they’re being taught basic business skills, allowing them to compete in the local tailoring market. You may have also heard that our poultry operation is doing well (making a profit), plus the other micro businesses, like vegetable production, the goat herd, the commercial fishing coop, and the recently launched hog operation are all coming together to create jobs.


  • Lack of Affordable Housing


The growing gap between wage earnings and the cost of housing in the United States leaves millions of families and individuals unable to make ends meet. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, families across the country would need to earn a “housing wage” of $15.37 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment. Even in West Virginia, the least expensive rental state in the country, a full-time wage earner would have to earn over $8.78 an hour in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

We also see significant challenges with housing in Haiti. More than 85,000 people remain homeless, seven years after the horrific earthquake demolished their homes. Through effective partnerships with U.S. based construction companies, our first single family home was constructed in December of 2010 in Haiti. The goal was to use mostly Minnesota builders to train our Haitian construction team to construct homes, using quality materials and improved construction practices. To-date, we’ve been able to bless 52 families with newly constructed homes. Home number one was Mama Jude shown here – but the real reason for showing this slide is to exhibit the pride of ownership she has. The house is now wired for electricity and the landscaping is simply beautiful.


  • Drug and/or Alcohol Abuse


Drug and alcohol addiction affects about 20% of our homeless population. Drugs can become so addictive; they will dominate the life of the user. Addicts and alcoholics dump all of their money into their habit. For those who use heroin, their habit could cost them thousands of dollars per week.

Besides money spent on alcohol, a heavy drinker could also suffer other adverse economic effects. These include lowered wages, lost employment opportunities, increased medical expenses for illness and accidents, the legal costs of drink-related offences, and an inability to qualify for credit. It is easy to see how drug and alcohol abuse could drive users and their families into poverty or homelessness.


  • Lack of Education
    A fourth major cause of poverty in America is due to lack of education. Many from the lower class simply cannot afford to attend college and earn a degree. Therefore, the only jobs they can get are low paying with little to no benefits and then they have to support themselves and their families on a low salary, slowly driving a family into poverty. A recent study shows, the average earnings for someone with just a high school diploma was about $28,000, which is just above the poverty line for a family of four.

    In Haiti, there are major shortcomings with education too. WWV has been blessed by supporters like you who are funding the financial and prayer support of now five schools, two in the mountains, and the others in the Williamson and Luly areas. A number of you here participate in our Student Sponsorship program – only $32/month gives a child a chance to gain a K-12 education. That $32 funds costs for almost 2½ students – meaning those kids now have qualified teachers, books, and a hot meal each day. More information is available following this service – please check out the Student Sponsorship table.

  • Medical Expenses
    Many Americans, both rich and poor, develop severe illnesses which require immediate medical attention. Many of these illnesses happen very unexpectedly and require long stays in the hospital, expensive drugs, treatments, and even surgery. The average cost per night to stay in a hospital averages $1,986 nationally. The typical cost in Minnesota is a bit less at $1,730/day. Treatments such as chemotherapy can cost a cancer patient $30,000 for an eight week treatment. 
    Sure there’s insurance and other coverages available but patients are still left wondering whether they’ll be able to pay the remainder of the bill. These bills can easily bring a low class or middle class person straight into poverty.

Access to medical care in Haiti is almost non-existent. The photos here show a 17-year old, named MyLove, who’s just given birth to a beautiful baby boy, while sitting on a tire in the tire repair shop alongside National Highway 1 – the equivalent to I-35 here in the Twin Cities. The little guy is now almost five months old.


Due to the poor access to healthcare, Haiti has the highest infant mortality rate, for children under age 5, in this hemisphere. This was really driven home for us just last week. The mother of MyLove – the one who delivered the baby in the tire shop – she’s in her late 30’s with five other children at home, just delivered premature twins and one died during birth. The other very sad story that goes along with this beautiful family concerns their living conditions – here’s the house they live in. Yes, it looks simply like a pile of blocks with a couple tarps and some woven trees limbs because that’s what it is. Every night eight people crowd in and sleep on the dirt floors. We are working to bless this family with house #53 in the near future.


And, a quick side note, because access to healthcare is not available in the areas where we focus – the medical center, an 18-month project, you see here will be finished by October 1st – just 90 days from now. Please pray for the completion and for the right Haitian staff to be selected. This project is in response to the request from our Haitian community leaders group.


That’s a lot to cover in a short time frame.


If you’re here today and struggling with any issues creating hardship, please know. Our value must be centered in Christ, our identity is in the righteousness of Jesus. If we lose our job or our business, this should not devastate us if we are centered in Him. It will certainly create difficulties, but God is the orchestrator of all the events in our lives for his purposes. Even difficult times have purposes.



How might generosity work to resolve poverty?

God commands us to be generous. In the Bible, we are told that God blesses us with money and resources in order to (1) enjoy life, (2) help those in need, and (3) build God’s kingdom. A closer reading of the Bible reveals that God mainly blesses us financially because of reasons 2 and 3. Yet, many people have roadblocks in their lives that prevent them from being generous.


As I take a quick look this morning and make a feeble attempt to guess ages. My best guess is that most of you fit the category of Millenials. Which according to “the experts”, when you’re motivated, many of you here this morning are likely to give a “meaningful” gift rather than a “generous” one. Millenials see the world in a whole new way. Many under the age of 35 are passionate about life and connected deeply to causes you care about – an encouraging sign for those of us endeavoring to do good work in the world today. Most givers today say they give because they’ve been blessed and nearly 1 in 3 in current times are looking for volunteer options when considering getting involved.

If you’re here this morning seeking a way to “get involved” - I would encourage you to sign up to go to Haiti in February. You’ll love the recent expansion of a new house in Williamson with 10-bedrooms, and 8½ baths.  


There is so much poverty in this world that you and I are probably tempted to do nothing but the greatest need is for Christ, as He alone satisfies the soul and causes us to never thirst again or hunger again for He is the Bread of Eternal Life (John 6:27,35). We only need to repent of our sins and then turn away from them, and turn to Christ and place your trust in Him.


We know that the Lord has called us to be kind to people in poverty, and we want to do it wisely. Often there’s a struggle to choose between helping people in our proverbial backyard vs those in need abroad. Jesus made it clear that our “neighbor” isn’t necessarily someone from our hometown or even someone from our own religion. The needs in the world are great, and none of us can respond to all of them. But God has given each one of us the ability to make an impact.


When we generously give, we express our belief in the abundance of God, and when we hold back, we reveal our fear of scarcity. Too often we might be tempted to say, “we’ll wait until our new car is paid off” or “the mortgage is paid off” or “when I get that next raise or commission check”. I would tell you from personal experience, in the most graceful manner possible – giving generously to bless others will be a key to enjoying your own blessing in your personal ministry.


My encouragement and challenge for you today is this….we know that we serve a God who has deep compassion for people living in poverty. I pray that God would guide you, as you love your neighbor as yourself – both near and far. Amen!

Copyright: Randy Mortensen

Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

You may use this material all you like!  We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source.