what i can learn from those who have less

to see poverty is one thing; it is a whole other thing to live in it.  its been more than a week since i returned from a 3 week trip, living in a squatter community in the philippines.  it was dubbed a “slum retreat”, kicking off the two-year urban poor internship i am now a part of, as a way to find out more about ourselves, the urban poor outside of the u.s., and ultimately about God.  it was intense but also a paradoxically rich experience (in the non-monetary sense of course).

FIRST IMPRESSIONS (mostly taken from journal entry 8-25-11):

view of botocan

Botocan is a little barrio rectangle about 32 acres housing about 8000 people

poverty living conditions pretty surprising in its “slumness” like a flavela (of Brazil)

with makeshift looking houses very closely packed together

dogs, cats, (and) chickens in the streets

trash thrown about with no visible trashcans

pathways within community to get to our various homes like cutting through

alleyways and backyards but are public walkways

lots of children running around

air pollution from myriads of motorbike taxis, trash burning

lots of mini home-store-front shops

clothes hanging from windows over walls

tiny living areas visible from street, many packed w/ people

occasional animal feces on the ground

(roaches and rats scurrying about, even in the homes)

mostly concrete and sheet metal

8pm can hear people singing karaoke like its in the next room

random people trying to say hello, children touching, reaching out hands to you…

(*to think that there are many more in countries around the world that live in even more intense circumstances…with much less…it blows my mind.)



–    if modern distractions are taken away (internet, facebook, movies, mp3s, etc.), I am more likely to spend time with God

–    i realize i’ve come to feel entitled to respect (especially since for the past several years i’ve been in the position of a leader more than primarily a learner)…this is arrogance.

–    i learn, understand, and care more about people by hearing their stories

–    i like to talk a lot and I really do not need to do it so often, esp. when it takes away from allowing others to talk

–    i do not take the time to actually get down to the root of the problem, especially if I know it makes others uncomfortable…so I am satisfied with surface compromise

–    i am afraid of letting the people i lead make mistakes (which are such valuable opportunities to learn and grow).  in leadership development / disciple-making i need to relinquish my control and create spaces for opportunities for others to lead, whether everything is all put together or not.


WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE POOR (where i stayed):

–    they value people over productivity

–    they are much more generous then those who have a lot to give

–    they realize they are in need of God, without the distractions and delusions of having lots of stuff

–    they do not have the luxury to hide their brokenness or joys so both are shared with great impact

(an example of the latter: less than two years ago Reymon’s life was transformed by God and is now a leader with vision -> Jio, a gang member, saw this and surrendered himself to God, leading his first bible study a couple weeks ago -> Allen saw Jio’s transformation and is now hungering for God, sensing God calling him to step up)

reymon (red) -> jio (green) -> allen (blue)

in essence they taught me the potential of what a community in Christ can share

“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” – James 2:5



– he hears our prayers and would open the doors if we just asked

– he loves the poor (scripture, circumstances, and prayer walk reminders)

– he has woven together such unique stories in our lives on our journey with him


INCARNATION IS… a commitment to bring the life of God to an area of need by living amongst it


3 thoughts on “what i can learn from those who have less”

  1. Thank you for allowing Lisa Keller to share your thoughts and pictures with her friends. I hope that you will share more of your journey so that we may have a better understanding of what it means to do God’s work and be in service to others .

    Mary Neal

    1. it is my privilege and pleasure to share what God is doing in our midst! thank you for supporting Lisa and partnering in this work!

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