In his book The Hole in Our Gospel, Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., cites a speech by Jimmy Carter in which the former president labeled the growing gap between the rich and the poor as the greatest problem of our time. Stearns then recalls a visit to Cape Town (which included a visit to Living Hope’s ministries) that gave him new perspective on Carter’s statement. He writes:
We also built in a couple of days to do some sightseeing – but found it difficult to enjoy it. Cape Town is one of the few places in the world where the worst imagined poverty and the most opulent wealth live together, sometimes just fifty yards apart. In the shadows of the luxury homes, high-rise hotels, wineries and upscale shopping malls lie acre upon acre of rundown shantytowns reeling with hunger, poverty, crime, disease, and despair, and populated by hundreds of thousands of broken-down human beings. … For me it was a microcosm of the “chasm” President Carter had described. How can the rich and the middle class live like this, I wondered, forced to see the stark contrast between themselves and the desperately poor every single day?
They do exactly what you and I do. They ignore them. The only difference is that it is easier for us to ignore the world’s poor because they are “over there.”
Stearns’ take on the rich-poor gap in Cape Town is spot-on, as are numerous other observations he makes as he wrestles with the question, “What does God expect of us?” when it comes to dealing with the poor. Stearns’ organization, World Vision, is doing heroic humanitarian work around the globe. For further insight, I highly recommend his book, royalties from which are benefitting World Vision’s work with children in need. To get involved with World Vision, check out www.worldvision.org. And for a further look at some of Cape Town's contrasts, see the images below.