Carol Massimiani is a beloved writer for Foundations for Farming and author of many of our blog posts. In the post below she shares a part of her story, her heart for the poor, and how she has been abundantly blessed and forever changed by them.
Blessed are the Poor…For they shall inherit the Kingdom of God.
In 2013, I attended the Foundations for Farming Champs Conference. What I saw and heard over those three days impacted me deeply, in fact it shredded my heart. Afterwards Craig asked if I would give a testimony at our church. The schedule that Sunday was tight, and I had a couple of minutes in which to squeeze a life-changing experience. The rest of the story was bursting to be told, so that afternoon I took to my keyboard, being far more comfortable with my fingers than my mouth when it comes to spilling my heart. Emailing the testimony off to Craig, I explained that he was free to use it, file it, or bin it, but that I just needed to tell it! He didn’t bin it. Instead he invited me to write for FfF.
This led to the privileged job of describing God’s miracles, wrought through a handful of dedicated, Christ-filled servants.
Every Friday after devotions, our team members report back on their week, and invariably at that point my mascara becomes history. The stories are … well, amazing. These men and women bring a whole new meaning to the word ‘serve’. Faithfulness and unselfishness combine to produce servant hearts, oozing with humility. Real humility, not the fake stuff the world wears when wanting to impress or manipulate. Put simply, they carry the love of Jesus. God has poured into their hearts, out of His very own. The result: an unquenchable passion for the poor.
In Africa we are used to seeing the poor. They are all around us, begging at the traffic lights, digging in refuse bins, sleeping in alleyways. The media have captured it so well that when people think Africa -they automatically think ‘poverty’. My mother’s favourite mantra was “Finish your vegetables, there are children starving in Biafra!” Somehow I could never find the connection between force-swallowing of boiled cabbage and helping the starving masses. Thankfully, when God began to teach me about the poor decades later, cabbage was excluded…
It worked something like this: When looking at a stranger without my glasses, I see their face, but not their expression. If I put my glasses on, I can see into their eyes. Perhaps I see humour, which makes me smile. Or pain, which evokes sympathy. But I cease to simply see the face of a stranger … and begin to see the person. God wanted me to see the poor, and the lenses He chose came through FfF.
The poor understand life-pain. Hunger, suffering, and hopelessness are all familiar companions to them. The anguish of shattered self respect, the selling of one’s soul in exchange for survival, the self-anaesthesia into oblivion through drugs and alcohol … such is the hellish day-to-day, living-death, journey of the poor. It is the cruel reality of life in the poverty lane, which only the hard-hearted can endure. Yet beneath that hardness, lies a surprisingly tender emotion. Empathy. The heart-pain of one suffering person seeing the misery of another.
Poverty also imposes humility. It comes from being a nobody, for whom no one cares. It’s what makes a person wait hours in a queue without complaining, for a kind doctor who might not charge. Or gratefully receive a patronizing coin, carelessly tossed into a bowl. It enforces submission to abuse because of the powerlessness to fight back. Humility is learned in a hard school. Yet it is precious in the sight of God. His Word says the meek shall inherit the earth.
The poor, who are often seen by the world as ‘weak’, or ‘worthless’, already possess these two amazing qualities. Humility and empathy. Humility brings freedom from pride, and leads to the eye of the needle, where God makes the impossible become possible. Empathy is the tiny heart-seed, which can be nurtured into the second commandment.
Jesus longs to gently wash the wounds of the poor. But He needs our hands. He wants to bathe their raw and bleeding self-esteem, and cover their nakedness with a robe of precious worth. To restore their dignity, and peel away the shame, allowing humility to shine … until it becomes a reflection of His own. To open the eyes of their hearts, and show them who they can be – in Him. And then, as they begin reaching for each other, helping one another, empathy grows into love – and He is able to begin using their hands. It is something uniquely beautiful to watch.
We saw it happen with the first group who attended the pilot two week training at Clouds End under the sponsorship of the ‘I Was Hungry’ campaign. The second group, currently with us, is made up not only of poor, but physically challenged poor. Every single one of them bears the burden of some form of disability.
On Friday afternoon, as Ratidzo expertly navigated her wheelchair along the bumpy path to the Pfumvudza demonstration plot, a blind lady called Mavis held onto the back. At various points, the wheelchair became stuck, and Mavis would push from behind. Ratidzo laughingly explained, “We are learning to work as a team. Where one is weak, another has strength.” She pointed her thumb to her new friend, “I have eyes, and Mavis has legs – together we can manage!”
Walking alongside them was another young person, her name was “Nomatter” …. Nomatter? Seriously? Yes. However, everyone has agreed she is now “Domatter”, because she does! She is a beautiful, godly young woman, who from the hips up has a splendidly petite frame. However, from her thighs down she carries an enormous weight, causing every twisted step to be cumbersome and tiring. Domatter suffers from congenital lipodystrophy, a profoundly disfiguring disease which has caused the painful swelling and massive enlargement of her feet and legs. Yet she is full of joy, without so much as a hint of self pity. I silently repented of grumbling about my own ‘ugly’ feet. This young woman is such an inspiration, and when I told her so, she looked at me in childlike astonishment and laughed, “Why?” she asked. ….Why? Oh Lord. Words just fail.
God’s treasured poor.
So what happens when they learn that nothing is too big for the Cross? When they realise that they are so precious and valuable that the very Creator of the universe shed His own blood for them? That He, who was indescribably rich, became poor … for them? What happens when the prostitute begins to understand that she can be made clean? When the thief and the drunkard realize everything they have done can be forgiven, regardless of the crime? What happens when someone with painfully deformed and twisted limbs grasps the assurance of a perfect, heavenly body – for all of eternity?
They come to Clouds End to learn about farming, and they do. They are given tools with which to begin a new life using God’s methods and principles in farming, finance and the family unit. They leave empowered, through knowledge. Some leave with only that. But most leave with Jesus … changed, free, and with their dignity restored.
You might say they are ‘blessed’. But it is us who are blessed. Enriched by God’s precious, precious poor.
We believe transformation begins in the heart.
Be a part of giving to a real solution to poverty!
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