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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.

I AM NOT A BEGGAR, I AM AN ADVOCATE


(Photo by Antony Giblin)

“Have we really started fundraising, or have we just sent a few emails?”

That’s the question I’m considering right now, for myself and for our team at Within Reach Global. Most of the time I’m afraid we are not bold enough to share the needs in our personal lives and in the ministry.

A sign of weakness?
What if they say no?
The tricky thoughts can go on forever.

And yet, we are simply conduits of God’s blessing to the nations. For Within Reach Global, we are channels of blessing to the unreached tribes of Southeast Asia.

But sometimes we think we are beggars. We think that every email we send out is a cry for cash, and we are embarrassed by it. Meanwhile, God has strategically placed us in this ministry to be a voice for the voiceless. What? Now we’re afraid to open our mouths?

We need to shout louder than Coca Cola, because Jesus is more important than fizzy pop.
We need to post more than Starbucks, because eternity trumps a caramel frappuccino.

“He who shouts the loudest gets heard,” a friend of mine told me about fundraising. “You have to be bold enough to sell hard, because that’s the way our culture goes.”

I finally snapped out of beggar mentality in 2002.

I was on a 24 hour one-way trip to Wa country on the China/Myanmar border. I had been church planting hard for years among this tribe, and had started to see breakthrough. After a couple of days sharing our lives and the gospel, my L5S1 disc shifted, and my back went out. I could not stand. Some young men scooped me up into the back of a handheld tractor, and began the 14 kilometer decent toward the hospital. A tiny Wa granny held me in her lap and stroked my head as I bumped over the excruciating dirt road.

I saw the moon, pale and grey.
I saw the silhouettes of roadside bamboo.
I saw the care in granny’s eyes, looking down at me like I was a baby.

Then, in my weakness, it struck me.

The former headhunting Wa tribe—one of the sweetest people groups I know—were lost without remedy.

Their lostness was stifling.
The fields were white for harvest, but there were not enough harvesters.
And no one had a voice to tell the world.

In my weakness it struck me. I was a voice for the voiceless.
I could be the pioneer missionary,
the church planter,
the fundraiser,
the connecter,
the one who fills the gap.

After being knocked out by drugs on the China/Myanmar border for a few days, my back felt better. But I was never able to thank that granny. I can’t recall her features. I never found her again.

But I can say “thank you” to my Wa granny through my advocacy.
I can raise awareness of the lostness of this unreached tribe.
I can inspire others to join prayerfully and financially.

But I need to shout over the noise of 21st century advertising, and I’m not afraid to do that. I’m not embarrassed because I believe in my cause. I believe in reaching those who have yet to hear the name of Jesus.

“Shout the news of his victory from sea to sea, Take the news of his glory to the lost, News of his wonders to one and all!”
~Psalm 96:2-3

A few people saying “no” to my request for funds doesn’t faze me.
Those who hear my cause and are inspired to join me make it all worth it.

You see, i am not a beggar, I am an advocate.


(Donate to Within Reach Global today.)

“Face it. Competition has never been greater. There are more people competing for the one thing that is finite: other people’s attention. And you’re in competition with everyone else who wants a slice of it.”
~Michael Hyatt