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6 WAYS TO GET RICH (OR REALIZE THAT YOU ALREADY ARE)

Firework of dollars

There is a sweet, gray-haired 70 year old woman with a pretty smile named Elena on the corner of Aurora Blvd. and General Aguinaldo Ave. I see her nearly every day. She travels ten miles from her slum home to beg for money in the high traffic Araneta Center area. I always stop for a moment to ask how she is. We have a cordial conversation. Elena asks about my newborn baby, And how is your wife? She always looks so pretty! She asks if I am having a good day, and squinches her cheeks with delight when I reply in Tagalog. Mabuti naman po. 

She has picked a good spot in the bustling city of sixteen million people. Not that everyone is overly generous, but every coin counts, and adds up. I’d say she’s doing pretty well for herself—relatively speaking, of course, pretty well as far as the beggar’s lifestyle goes, pulling in more than a hundred Pesos a day.

She makes me think about the lifestyle that I have been blessed with. She makes me consider finances and food and entertainment and all the good pleasures of this world. She makes me feel rich.

But opulence is a funny thing, a sticky conversation full of loopholes and relativity. The rich announce that they’re poor. The poor makes you think they are rich by their amiable smiles. The middle class always want more. Beggars are always reaching for another coin. Millionaires never have enough.

So how wealthy are you? Where do you fall on the global rich list? Here are five ways to get rich, or realize that you already are.

1. INFANTS SLEEPING ON THE MANILA SIDEWALK
Walk less than fifty meters northeast from Elena’s spot on Aurora Blvd. to watch infants sleeping in makeshift cardboard boxes strewn across the sidewalk. They are usually asleep next to an older sibling, a toddler or ten year old. Traffic is heavy with personal vehicles and public jeepneys, and the humidity collects billions of smoggy molecules, stuffing the black soot inside tiny, helpless nostrils. You can’t believe how dirty the poor baby’s cheeks are. Their mother’s empty eye follows me as I walk past them with a hampered cringe in each step. I’m pretty sure she’s wondering how rich I am.

2. WA VILLAGE ON THE CHINA / MYANMAR BORDER
Take a twenty-four hour overnight sleeper bus from Kunming city to The Edge, the northern point of the Golden Triangle. Home to the former headhunting Wa tribe, the landscape is dotted with lush poppy fields and grass huts. Methamphetamine production and ethnic genocide (amongst a myriad of other tragedies) have ushered in a tidal wave of poverty. Spend the night in a Wa hut, sip some of the local rice wine jet fuel, converse with a toothless old man puffing a silver pipe, and pinch the children’s cheeks as you hand them gifts of balloons and used clothing. The wide open wet skies outside will remind you that you don’t have it that bad after all.

3. LEGLESS BEGGAR IN BIRD AND FLOWER MARKET
Set out for a shopping day in Kunming city like any decent consumer. But watch your step as you stroll under the branches that hang over the Chinese souvenir and trinket venders at the Bird and Flower Market. Fate is not so fair to every human being, you will see. I have always wondered about that man’s story—the legless man with polio shriveled arms, contorted in inhuman posture, with hollow tin can laid in front of his face. When I see him, I am shocked and saddened and pissed off. His gnarled vertebrae is a hump of bone and flesh, pathetic and hopeless. On a busy day at the market, you may not even see him until it’s almost too late as you nearly trip over him and despise yourself because of it.

4. ORPHANS ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF MONROVIA
Watch from inside your vehicle as the hoard of excited children run toward you, smiling, waving, What’s your name? hugging your leg, Will you be my friend? Your car has not even come to a complete stop yet, and you are surrounded. The moment your foot steps on the Liberian soil, you are engulfed in a swarm of loveably curious little children. Some are late in their teen years. Others are toddlers. The sun beats down on you as the African temperature soars. A five year old boy named James holds your hand as he looks up at you with those big, black eyes. He has seen war. He has felt loss. His parents are gone. His eyes are more articulate than he himself, and they tell a story of hope and longing. Suddenly your first world problems seem more trivial than ever.

5. YAO VILLAGE ON THE CHINA / VIETNAM BORDER
Look to your right, south toward the Mekong River, as the swooping valley bursts with greens and yellows. Banana and pineapple plantations as far as the eye can see, and the smoke of a thousand villages rise in the dusky purple haze. The Yao tribe is one of the poorest of the poor people groups in Southeast Asia. Tonight you are sitting on an unnaturally short stool, crouching over a splintery wooden table laden with boiled cat, leafy water spinach, and raw grub worms. Your stomach churns as you scan the delectable delicacies with worry in your eyes. But you are an honored guest, and they are serving you the best that they can manage. You squeeze your chopsticks awkwardly, pinch a glob of bone and flesh, and chew slowly, savoring every unique flavor as your host scrutinizes with innocuous eyes.

6. THE MIRROR
Take a moment to pause and reflect. Linger a little longer than usual in front of the mirror. Inspect your jeans. Scrutinize your shirt. Examine your shoes. Survey your stuff behind you in the room, your electronic devices, your gadgets, appliances, furniture, light fixtures, wall paint. Perhaps a sudden epiphany will shock you with a thought like, Wow, I am not as poor as I thought. Yes, there are bills and obligations, and it always feels like you wallet is filled with more receipts than cash. But that may simply be because you only use plastic! Just a moment more. Linger there in front of the mirror a little longer. Are you poor or rich? Are you well off or just getting by or keeping up with the Jones’s? If you are reading this, the reality is, you are most likely in the the top ten percent of the world’s rich.

Confirm how rich you are on the Global Rich List.

I’m sorry if this blog was deceiving, and you haven’t walked away with newfound wealth or secret steps to becoming rich. But I hope that you realize how blessed and well off you truly are. Now, why not find a cause to give toward.

To whom much is given, much will be required. 

Perhaps it’s time to become more intentional with how you use your wealth for the benefit of both yourself and others.

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2012 IN REVIEW

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. I’m pretty happy with it. I am inspired to finish my book in 2013—once I awake from zombie mode because of the recent birth of my baby girl! Yes, there’s a lot of sleep deprivation going on around the Joannes household right now, but there are glimpses of deep inspiration as well. I hope to draw on that inspiration to create a book that satisfies your craving for unique missionary stories.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

A BEGGAR KISSED ME TODAY

It was a brief transaction, simple, I thought, but much bigger than I may have realized.

A glimpse.
A moment.

I was on my way to the grocery store to buy veggies for my wife when a middle aged man approached me.

He wore flip flops and a yellow t-shirt with a hole. He wore worry on his wrinkled brow. And I thought I recognized sadness in his eyes, perhaps more than the common passerby.

“I’m trying to get to Bulacan,” he said in Tagalog. “Do you have 20 Pesos, sir?” But he suddenly changed his bargain, hoping he didn’t set the bar too high: “Even 10 Pesos will do.”

I have recently decided to give a few coins to every beggar that asks it of me, and my decision has made me a busy man.

I opened my wallet and began thumbing through my cash in search of a 20 Peso bill. But I was all out.

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you…'”

But Peter was a poor fisherman, and I am blessed beyond my own needs. Generous Within Reach Global donors have been giving to my ministry for many years, so how can I withhold from those in need?

Besides, sometimes I think we use that scripture to get out of giving to those in need. Unfortunate, I know, right?

How about a little shift in perspective.

Maybe we should start saying it in reverse: “What I do have I give you,” then check our pockets and continue, “and I just happen to have some silver and gold on me right now!”

I was out of coins, and I could not find a 20 Peso bill. So I grabbed a 100 Peso bill and handed it to the man in need.

He was shocked at first. 100 Pesos goes a long way. He could pay for a bus to Bulacan, and pick up a few snacks for his family on the way with cash like that.

To put it in perspective, 100 Pesos is less than $2.50. But the standard of living raises it to roughly the equivalent of $20 Dollars—a decent size amount of money for a man in his situation.

The transaction continued. The bill slowly passed from my fingers to his hand. The lines in his brow softened. Gratitude grew on his face as empathy budded in my heart.

The man bowed his head and began kissing my hand. “Salamat po, sir!” He kissed my hand a few more times as I smiled awkwardly, assuring him that it was alright. I patted him on the back as he walked away.

I stood there watching him blur into the crowd.

Until now I am unsure what kind of effect my simple—even infinitesimal—generosity had on the man in flip flops and tattered t-shirt. Maybe someday I will understand how far into eternity ripples actually stretch.

In the meantime I am thankful that I have a little bit of silver and gold to share.

Want to share some of your silver and gold? Donate to Within Reach Global here.

NOODLES AND JESUS

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Original blog from Elias Popa, Within Reach Global intern: The Seasoned Explorer » Noodles and Jesus.

I was sitting there with Brother C, the man I told you about in an earlier story whose niece had passed away. After 4 days of traveling together, and over 16 hours of driving, we settled in a hole in the wall for a bite to eat, inside an ancient city. One of our many strong bonds is our shared affinity for noodles and Jesus, not necessarily in that order. As we sat at our table we were looking at over the giant mountain that towered over the city. The sun was beginning to set and the city was coming to a slow motion rest. As we waited for our noodles to get to our table, he made a statement that rattled my bones.

“She was the second child I buried. She was the second one who died in my arms.”

With eyes widened and heart stopped I gave him every ounce of focus I had. The charm of the city behind him melted away, along with the mountain and the sunset. It was just me and him in a dark room. He began to share his experience of how his niece died right in his arms. He washed her on the side of the road… baptized her… and buried her right there.

“I can’t imagine how that must have felt… I am so sorry,” I said hoping that my words would give him some sort of rest.

If you knew Brother C, then you would know that he is one of the most stoic people you will ever meet. Every word that comes out of his mouth is preceded by a few minutes of deep thought. It is like he weighs every statement he makes against another that he could make…and decides wether or not it is worth saying, all right in front of you. Needless to say, when he decides to open up, you’d better listen. The agonizing wait to see if I made a mistake and said something stupid in front of him is like drawing clay through a pinhole… it keeps me on the edge of my seat. It seems as if he pays no attention to my simple statement and continues on with his sentence. He is just thinking and wants to express the thoughts in his heart. At that moment, any statements made by anyone else is secondary to what he wants to say…so I listen to avoid interrupting his deep concentration.

“I asked God, why and why and why and why and why? If he is a healer, why is she gone? Was it our sin? Was it a lack of faith? Would God let a girl die because I was faithless?” His though process was unfolding right before my eyes.

“Did He answer you?” I asked eagerly, waiting to hear the honey that came from his lips.

”Yes. I think He did.”

My attention was arrested. His long pause gave me no solace. Like an itch or a tick, my attention had to be satisfied with some sort of divine revelation or cosmic knowledge. Or rather, I would have settled even for a simple something I have heard before. Anything, I just wanted to know his heart. . He could have said something all week… but he waited until right then.

He said to me… that for those who know Jesus, 6 months is the same as 80 years. In the scope of eternity, a lifespan is to small to measure, a grain of sand in an endless ocean…its all the same. His niece is now where we hope to be one day. We will all day one day, the same way she died. What matters more than the lifespan…is what we have done with it. He said he had peace knowing that life, wether it is a small amount of time or a long time, is worth having if we know Jesus.

Its like a light came on for me. Its about the quality of life rather than the quantity. We have plenty of quantity after death…wether for bad or for good. Its about how will you spend the finite time we have to influence how you will spend time in the infinite.

Armed with a new perspective, he paid my meal and we got up to find the rest. As we walked down the stairs into the cobblestone road he turns to me and smiles.

“I love noodles.”

With a smile I reply, “Me too.”

Original blog from Elias Popa, Within Reach Global intern: The Seasoned Explorer » Noodles and Jesus.