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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.

EMMANUEL IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY

This is a blog originally published by my wife, Lorna, in December, 2011. Her writing is always so touching and inspiring because she writes from a deep place of honesty and transparency. I am honored to give you a window into her heart.

See original blog here, by Lorna Joannes @lornajoannes

Two Christmas’s ago, David and I went to the United States to celebrate with his family. We had a wonderful time. That same year, earlier in 2009, we were able to set up three more underground Bible training centers, but we suffered a lot of difficulty in China—from persecution to sickness, and near death experiences. It was also that same year that we published the inspiring Ako Ay Pilipino coffee table book, which took only 13 weeks from conceptualization to publishing. When December came, we were exhausted.

Most of us have experienced it: after a big project is finished—a big success or accomplishment obtained—everything slows down, and your adrenaline plunges. The physical tiredness combined with emotional exhaustion was very real. I felt broken inside and was not ready to go back to the mission field.

I knew that we were on the right track, but questions lingered in my mind. “I know this is what we are supposed to do, but is God really with me?” I wondered. “Are you with me, God?” We often ask these kinds of questions, especially when there are serious challenges along the path of the journey. They are valid questions. God knows the frailty of humankind, and He understands the questions that comes from deep within a man or woman. It is okay. He is not offended.

After weeks of speaking at churches and fund raising around America, a friend invited to us to go to her church. In only a few days we would return to China. We decided to attend.

We met the pastor and people in leadership before the service, where there were about 300 people, but we did not know anyone beside the friend who invited us. The worship was great. The presence of the Lord was there. Suddenly, just before the worship ended, they called us to the front to pray for us. It was very encouraging. People we have never met before were praying for us. As the prayer ended, a lady came up to me. I was surprised as she held my hand and put a gold ring on my right ring finger. She said, “This is my ring, made of broken jewelry, with my name engraved on it. The Lord told me to give it to you.” I looked down and saw the word “Manuela”. She continued, “My name is taken from the word Emmanuel, which means God is with us. God wants to tell you that He is with you, and He has never left you. He told me to give you this ring to remind you of this promise”.

As I stood in front of the 300 people present, I began crying. It was a heavenly moment, a confirmation that God’s presence was given to me. I knew in my heart that He was always there, but to hear a confirmation of the exact answer to my questions earlier that day was mind blowing.

That day, God gave me a promise ring. I’ve never seen Manuela again. I have never been able to get ahold of her. I know it is not easy to give a precious ring to someone you have never met before. I felt like she was an angel sent to comfort me, to remind me of what Emmanuel really means, and to confirm God’s promises so that we could continue our journey. To this day, I am still wearing the ring. Wherever you are, dear sister, I am so thankful for your obedience.

As you read this blog, it is about 10 days before Christmas, and only 16 days before the start of 2012. You might also have similar questions and wonderings going on in your mind. Or you may be facing some struggles like David and I were. They are normal. Wherever you are at this point, hold on to the promises enclosed in this name: Emmanuel.

As you evaluate this whole year that has sped by—as you see your accomplishments and areas that need improvement—remember one thing: Emmanuel. God is always with you. He was with you in the past, He’s in every detail of your future, and He knows whatever you are undergoing at present.

In the Chinese underground Church, it is common to greet one another or say goodbye with these words, 以马内利 (yi ma nei li), which means Emmanuel. They understand the power of the abiding presence of God in everyday life. May it be so in our lives as well.

Because of this word, Christmas exists. God chose to come down to be with us, because He knows that it is too difficult to live in this imperfect world alone. We need a companion, we need Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Invest now.

See original blog here, by Lorna Joannes @lornajoannes

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