I have often heard it said that poverty has a smell. No one knows what it means exactly until they step in the filth, until they walk a mile in the shoes of those living on these streets. When you have a chance to hug these people feeding themselves from the trashcans, and who share drinking water with their animals, it’s life-changing.
I saw poverty first hand while rowing up in Bulgaria. Yet, I never knew we were poor because I had nothing to compare it with. During our April visit to Bulgaria, we walked in some of the poorest areas in the country; villages forgotten by the government and by most people. Most of the gypsy communities, referred by many as “Roma,” live in shacks with dirt floors and with walls constructed from random collection of materials. In America, there is one child per bed and sometimes per bedroom. In these shacks, many times there is just one bed in a household of 5 or more people with children (7 in one home I visited).
Although the material poverty is staggering, it’s not uncommon to see a Mercedes or a BMW pulling up into the neighborhood or to see an occasional fancy car parked next to a ruined house full of children. It’s a stark contrast that begs the question, “What are these cars doing here?” At this point, you learn poverty not only has a smell, but it also has a face and a body! Men (mafia usually) who are spiritually impoverished. They exploit the circumstances of those they know are poor. Their moral bankruptcy leads them to steal the last peace of dignity these children have – their soul. Most children neglected in areas like these will be trafficked before the age of 10, or girls will be ‘married’ giving birth to at least 2-3 children by the time they turn 18. People living in physical poverty become the slaves of those whose spirit and mind are starving in a greater poverty than what is physically seen – hidden in the darkness of greed, lust and power. In these moments it is very clear that humanity is not enough to rescue every child, to deliver every person, to clothe each family.
As I walked among these people as we were trying to select which children we could sponsor through our programs this fall, I was mentally overwhelmed taking in all of the poverty, materially and spiritually. Drove of kids and their mothers were tugging on the people in our group, running after them, sometimes screaming and begging for help. These are the moments that also enforce the reality that poverty also has a touch! All I could think of was Jesus! He came to our rescue and lived in our broken humanity…yet, He was enough for anyone who asked for His help.
When I don’t have the words to encourage these communities, when there is not enough money to provide for each need, I remind myself and our team that we must GIVE THEM JESUS! He is ENOUGH to restore the human spirit, to change the face, the body and the touch of poverty into a beautiful picture of dignity and redemption.
*Written by Ceitci Demirkova (Founder & CEO)