Cross Cultural Experience

In a nod to the excesses of the past few years, MTV created a show that featured unbelievably wealthy parents indulging their indescribably spoiled children with "Sweet 16" parties with price tags in excess of the cost of the average family home in at least 70% of the country.

Two years later some of those families are starting to see that they've created mini-monsters who are so used to being coddled and catered to that they run the risk of living at home and sponging off their parents for a good long time. So the parents have joined forces with MTV to give the kids an experience intended to "unspoil" them. The kids, now 18-ish, are sent to live for a week in situations varying from reindeer herding in the frozen tundra of Norway to picking up elephant dung in the jungles of Thailand.

It remains to be seen whether any of those young people really are changed long-term, but it got me thinking that it isn't only the exceedingly wealthy who benefit from seeing "how the other half lives."

I've had a few different kinds of experiences. When I was very young our church put on the evening service once a month at the local Rescue Mission. It wasn't the most comfortable experience for a young girl, but it was probably a good training ground for the days when I reached high school and my parents went into full time rescue work.

I worked with youth for many years and had the opportunity to go on various trips to serve in different capacities in Mexico. They were each significant in their own way, but there was one episode that really stands out as having a life-changing effect on me.

On one trip, a couple of us left the main group and accompanied a local missionary to a small village to conduct a children's Bible club. We drove down a rough dirt road past a row of tiny corrugated shacks. Children poured out of the humble dwellings, eagerly surrounding the station wagon.

We played some games while Elizabeth, the missionary, prepared for the class. Jose, a shy little boy about six years old took my hand as we led the group into the trailer for story time. He climbed into my lap so he could see the flannel board.

What happened next was one of those moments frozen in time where a half-dozen thoughts and feelings come flooding in all at once. As Jose turned to look at me, for just a moment, Jose's face faded away and it was no longer Jose in my lap, but Jeremy, a former student of mine; a young man who lived in a different set of difficult circumstances.

In that instant I realized that but for God's providence, my friend could be this little boy in Mexico. Living a life with little education. Little in the way of comforts. Little hope of a life any different than what Jose's family had.

Or it could be me.

But it's not.

It's not by chance that I was born in Lansing, Michigan rather than the jungles of Ecuador. It is no fluke that I had the opportunity to be educated. Nor was it simply coincidence that my mother consistently took us to church and that I have grown in faith since a young age.

The responsibility of God's graciousness to me struck me like it never had before. I am in awe of all that God has entrusted to me. He has a plan for me. I can lose sight of that if I compare myself to others who seem to have more than me.

God chose me to be born in America, to be educated, to know Him. I can best be used by Him right where I am, with the opportunities and gifts He has provided me.

I think God has placed each of us just where we can best accomplish His work. We may not feel rich, but we don't have to wait until we have a certain amount of money or education or experience to be used by God. As we give out of our poverty--poverty of pocket, poverty of spirit, or poverty of experience--the Lord will bless our offerings and magnify them to His glory.

Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites...So he called his disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for the all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood." Mark 12:41-44

Cheese Pennies

These simple, flavorful little crackers are a reminder that the Lord can use what we give Him out of our poverty even more than a great amount given out of our abundance.

2 cups (about 16 oz) finely grated cheddar cheese
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp.
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

In a medium bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Add grated cheese and blend together well. Sift together dry ingredients. Add to cheese mixture a little at a time, mixing until a stiff dough is formed.

Shape into logs about 1 inch in diameter. Place on waxed paper. To slice into "pennies," use dental floss (non-minty) or thread. Slide under log, cross ends over top of log and pull, slicing through.

Gather pennies back into log shapes or place on plate and cover with foil. Refrigerate overnight or freeze for a couple hours before baking (they will bake more evenly if all the ingredients have reached the same temperature).

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, store in an airtight container.

Photo and recipe originally appeared in "Tea and Inspiration," copyright Mary Pielenz Hampton. All rights reserved.


elaine @ peace for the journey said...

We are a privileged people, living in a privileged land (despite the recent news' reports), and we have been given the gift of kingdom influence on many levels. I am grateful for the gift; so often, though, I neglect the posture of thankfulness and of actually using that gift toward God's good end.

Tonight I am reminded of those less fortunate...those less privileged who have never known the love of a mother or father or the embrace of a church community or the truth of Christ's cross. For all of these and more, I submit my humble thanks this evening.



Truth4thejourney said...

What a great post. I love how you point out that we in America often fail to realize that it's God's plan that we were born with much so that we could give back to those who have little! I hope to teach this to my kids.

Nice to meet you!

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