Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Went to Haidian Jiaotang today, as usual. The folks at the church are beginning to discourage giving to beggars, because it has caused more and more of them to congregate. Some of them, of course, really are poor people. But others are con artists preying on soft-hearted people. I suppose the problem is made worse by the presence of a few foreigners. There aren't a lot of foreigners who go to the Chinese church, because most of the foreigners go to the international church. But the Haidian church provides English translation for foreigners, and this has managed to encourage a few folks like me, who wouldn't get nearly as much out of it otherwise.

Anyway, the church is discouraging giving to beggars, and I don't blame them. It really is getting out of hand. And it isn't fair to the many Chinese Church goers who aren't exactly wealthy themselves. But I don't want to leave out those who might be genuinely needy, so I stopped at a pastry shop on my way to church, and bought some cookies to hand out to the beggars. It isn't exactly what they are looking for, but I have not had anyone turn me down.

You know, it really is hard to get a handle on what to do about this problem. Since I read that article in the Wall Street Journal, I have been really turned off to beggars. But some of them really are poor. No. They are all poor, of course. But it isn't really good if beggars come back to the village in the countryside loaded down with money from the big city, and then all their fellow villagers decide to give up farming and go begging themselves. This is what has begun to happen in some places. There is a lot of money flowing into China right now. And the bulk of it is going to the major cities. This means that the disparity between rich and poor is even greater than it has been in the past, and it has always been there, even throughout the most idealistic days of the Communist revolution in China.

So how do we really understand the problem of poverty in China, and what should Christians be doing about it? I believe that the key lies, as I have said before, with active involvement in the poor villages of China. But in the end, it is only the Lord who can bring understanding. And there are some things we will probably never fully understand in this life.

Not now but in the coming years,
It may be in the better land,
We'll read the meaning of our tears,
And there, sometime, we'll understand.

We'll catch the broken threads again,
And finish what we here began;
Heav'n will the mysteries explain,
And then, ah then, we'll understand.

Then trust in God thro' all thy days;
Fear not, for He doth hold thy hand;
Tho' dark the way, still sing and praise;
Sometime, sometime, we'll understand.

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