Most people run from poverty but on one recent weekend, 23 women from across North Carolina plunged into it as participants in the first Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) poverty simulation Aug. 22-23 in Raleigh.
Lugging their personal comfort items with them, participants soon learned they could only keep three. They each got $40 in play money to buy a meal or snack, pay rent to sleep inside, or purchase an outfit from the First Baptist Church thrift store.
“That was just the beginning, and I realized that pretty soon I would know what it felt like to have no money in my pocket, and have no money for my next meal,” said Evelyn Moss of Aberdeen.
Several volunteer opportunities for serving the poor and homeless were also part of the experience. The group spent two hours sorting and hanging clothing in the FBC thrift store.
Participants also assisted with several projects at the Salvation Army, including preparing and serving dinner to the 150 homeless men, women and children.
On Friday evening the group was served a meager meal during a world banquet which simulated the lack of food resources in many poverty stricken countries throughout the world.
One individual, chosen through a random drawing, represented North America and was served a steak dinner at a table set with fine china.
The other participants received small portions of rice, tortillas, black beans, chicken pieces, or mealy pop, food items representative of various countries. After the meal, the group reflected on their personal experience during the meal, as well as the plight of those living in poverty around the world.
Saturday morning the participants did a two-hour scavenger hunt, completing a list of activities that included searching dumpsters for useable items, interviewing a homeless person, giving something away to someone, finding out where an individual would go to check e-mail for free, collecting 50 aluminum cans and finding out the rate of redemption, locating the public transportation bus station and borrowing a quarter from a stranger.
Dee Thomas of Peachland and an administrative assistant at Wingate University said, “One thing which stands out to me is that we had to dig into trash cans and dumpsters. I’ve not even had to rummage through my own trash more than a few times when I’ve tossed something out which I had to retrieve. I could have tossed my cookies from the smells emanating from the trash cans we checked.”
The group assembled 175 bag lunches and distributed them with socks and water bottles among homeless in Moore Square, a prominent park in downtown Raleigh.
Reflecting on this experience, Linda Biddle of Wilmington said, “Homeless people are the most giving, caring people that look out for each other. We can’t say that about us ‘normal’ people’ can we? The homeless appreciate what they get, while we just want more.”
The 27-hour simulation was designed to educate and train the participants with the hope that they would then return to their communities to duplicate the experience and involve their congregations in ministry to persons living in poverty.
Participant Ruby Fulbright, executive director/treasurer for WMU-NC, said, “I was reminded of how much I have, how much I have to share and how little I do share. I was also made aware of how great and complex the needs of the poor and homeless really are. And, most importantly, I was reminded that the people we interacted with are created in God’s image and are loved by Him, who is trying to teach us to show His kind of love.”
Contact Margaret Harding at [email protected] or call (866) 210-8602.