What Begging for Money Taught Me About the Richness of Poverty

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$30,000. 3 days.

We had 3 days to raise $30,000, and I had no idea how we would pull it off.

It was my senior year at Franciscan University, and I was blessed to be co-leading a mission to Ecuador that is so near to my heart. Plane tickets were beyond expensive that year, and the cost for us to get down to South America during our spring break in order to serve the lovely Ecuadorians both spiritually and physically was overbearing. We had only three days left in our fundraising campaign, and although we had worked our tails off, we still had about $30,000 to obtain. If we didn’t find that money, our mission would be cancelled.

We were desperate.

We called a team meeting to discuss our situation. We were at risk of losing that which we had worked for during the entire year, and we needed to make a decision. Thankfully, we decided to work tirelessly over those three days. If we were going down, we were going to go down swinging. We knew that with perseverance, the grace of God, and saintly intercession (thanks, St. Rita!), we could bring God’s will to fruition.

In order to raise that money, we needed to become beggars. In the spirit of St. Francis, we laid aside our pride and became poor. We called everyone we knew, we went to local churches that weekend to present our mission to the congregation in hopes for their support, and we begged on the streets of Pittsburgh. We spent three straight days begging our little hearts out.

The Lord brought us to the point where we had nothing, much like those we were going to serve, and much like Our Savior Himself.

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Now, each Advent, I recall that wild situation in which we were brought low to beg for money. We begged passionately for something we cared about, we accepted our empty hands with joy and knew that Jesus would fill them in His time and in His way. But during those three days, we were so rich. We grew in virtue that we were going to need in Ecuador, we realized our littleness and our brokenness, and we acknowledged our total dependence on the Father in a new and radical way. In our utter temporal poverty, we became spiritually rich.

Like Our Lord humbled Himself to be born in a smelly manger, we must be brought low in order to fully accept the gift that He brings us, namely, salvation. Without the grace of poverty, we will never experience the entirety of the richness of Christ’s kingship. Without the grace of poverty, we will never become truly rich.

Olivia Spears

Olivia Spears

Olivia knows that Jesus can do anything. She was born and bred in Kentucky, where sweet tea and bourbon flow like milk and honey. She quickly returned there after graduating with Theology and Catechetics degrees from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Olivia is married to her high school best friend turned college sweetheart and they recently welcomed their first son. She spends her time teaching 7th graders about Christ and His Church, exploring the crunchy side of life, organizing anything she can get her hands on, and dancing in the moonlight. You can come along for the adventure at www.totheheights.com.

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13 Responses

  1. God, this is sad. You know about begging and poverty b/c your college buddies decided to take a trip across the world to mission?! The fact that you were *buying plane tickets* to another part of the world speaks volumes! You don’t need to travel across the world to save people. And then you compare yourselves to Jesus and Mary… girl, you know poverty, but it ain’t the kind of poverty you’re thinking of.

    1. Scape Goat, I am afraid you have missed the point of the post entirely. If I was unclear, I apologize, but I do not apologize for going to Ecuador. First, I never claimed to “save” anyone. I can’t do that. Jesus can. It is our job to bring His light and His love to those we encounter here on earth, EVERYONE we encounter. I never said anything about a lack of poverty in the United States, nor did I discourage anyone from serving the poor in our own country. I think that is a vital part of our mission as American Catholics. I also believe that the Lord calls each us of in unique ways at specific times for very specific purposes. He commanded us to go out to proclaim the good news of His salvation. That “going out” is not limited, my brother. Finally, where do you believe I compared myself to Jesus and Mary? If you are referring to my explanation that we need to be humbled, to be brought low, in imitation of Our Lord, then I do not retract that. In fact, Jesus Himself demanded that we follow Him. By becoming little, by realizing that we have nothing without Him, we become poor. We strive to be like Him. The poverty I am referring to in the post is poverty of spirit, Scape Goat. I hope this helps clear things up.

      1. Listen to yourself once in awhile. You had to go to Ecuador to bring light and love… Because??? You couldn’t do that with the people of the United States, because the USA doesn’t have people who are “poverty in Spirit”, right?

        I feel sorry for you…. You didn’t learn anything, especially “humility” I pray GOD teaches you what “true humility” is, which is not feeding your ego.

  2. I agree with scapegoat this story is sad… It’s not like the USA doesn’t have a lot of poor that you couldn’t stay on your turf and help them…. But in order for your mission to mean something you had to go to another country… You could have been a beggar in your own country and learned the same thing, and spent the money that you begged for, to the people who needed it the most, the poor.

    Shame on you for being so selfish, but mostly for being for not seeing it within you.

    1. Hi Sarah, like I explained to Scape Goat above, not once in the article did I claim that there is no poverty in the United States or that we do not have work to do here. I stand behind that 100%. There is great work that needs to be done here. But that does not mean we are bound by our borders. Nor did I claim that a mission, in order to have any significance, need be foreign. Secondly, the money that we raised DID go to the poor. It went to the poor who were so ill that their stomachs were swollen because of the poor water, the pregnant women who had not had any prenatal care, the elderly who were in dire need of basic medical attention. The poor are all around us, it is our duty to see them and to serve them in every capacity that we are able to.

      This post was written to highlight the glory and power of God, to show that He moves the hearts of His people to accomplish His will, to emphasize the fact that He desired to humble us before our mission, and to remind us of our greater calling to be saints. If I am selfish for proclaiming the goodness, providence, and power of Our God, then so be it.

    2. I did not accuse you of saying there was no poor in the USA. All I said was shame on you, you could have learned the same lessons in the United States.

      It seems as if “everyone who wants to be charitable in our LORD, feels the need to do so outside their own country” so people travel around the world to be famous, to get credit for the “so called good deeds” they have done, forgetting about the people in their own country.

      Clean up your own backyard, before you begin to clean up someone elses… It’s like America was good enough for you to beg for money, but not good enough to spend on its people.

      IF there is ever a next time that you do something similar think about what you are doing.. Help America, not some other country.. I pray you get a second chance to beg again but this time for the people of the United States.

      GOD Bless You

    3. It is nice that there are people like Olivia who cares the poor people outside United States. There are bunch of good points here. I will not disagree with Sarah Crowe and Scapegoat because supposedly before helping other countries, we should help people herein United States, but yes, poor people herein United States is middle class in the other countries like, Philippines, my former country. Many Asian countries are really striving with poverty, that in some places the people couldn’t eat two times a day, that they don’t have healthcare, that they couldn’t afford any clothing, so this people rely on donations from those people who has good heart that capable of sharing their blessings. So, I got Olivia’s point! She bassically want to share love to these people who are really unfortunate, which is good, but why “begg?” (Or maybe you beg to feel how it’s like to be poor?) I will appreciate if you make that money from your own sweats, than from people I think. I like helping people using my own money not the other peoples money. Sarah and Scapegoat I think — they are skeptical because on charity works has corruption involvement. In some cases, millions of dollars was wasted and this money went to somebody else’s pocket and pleasure — as somebody quoted “poverty vacation” I’m sorry Olivia, but I think you have a good heart though.

  3. I think the others have a point. Although I think that the $30,000 was probably not all for airfare. This was a short article with a good ideat, albeit I think somewhat naive. True poverty is not a sometime thing, it is chronic, often generational, and grinds down your spirit and your body.and your dignity. I sincerely hope that you and the others who went on this mission might also continue your activities in helping to provide some kind of continuing service for the poor and isolated that sit on our the curbs in all of our major cities.

  4. There is no real poverty in the USA. Yes I said it. Go to the projects. You will see people with $100 shoes, cable television, etc. The people we call poor are middle class in most countries. In other countries the poor don’t have indoor plumbing, clean water, and electricity. Don’t ridicule this girl. She did something that is commendable. I wish when I was in college I was as mature as her.

    The fact is that the people we call poor need character building. They need to be taught morals and self discipline. But we can’t do that because in America we glorify the so called poor and it is political incorrect to suggest that low income people may be low income because the lack Christian virtues like temperance. I have family and friends that lived in projects and I can tell you they don’t even know right from wrong.

    1. There is real poverty in the US, and it’s not in the ghettos, it’s among the former workers of this nation whose jobs and ability to support themselves were taken from them by those spewing the lies that it was for the greater good. They are struggling, increasingly homeless, they are denied more and more the government programs that subsidize your ghetto gangbangers & illegal alien cartel vermin. The neoconservatives of National Review, who have profiteered off our welfare programs being used to allow business and corporate interests to pay less in wages, published an article by Kevin Williamson calling for the killing of the white working class.

  5. I think it’s unfair to judge that group for ministering to people in Ecuador. How do you know that those students didn’t spend their fair share of time serving in local soup kitchens, crisis pregnancy centers, etc? How do you know that they didn’t already give countless hours for never ending community projects and endeavors? Bothered by the cost of airfare? Yes — missionary efforts cost money, but other denominations care enough to raise the cash in attempt to save
    souls so I’m glad that these people did, too. Certainly there is plenty of charitable
    work to do here, but it’s not as though there won’t be anyone left in the USA to do it just because a relatively small number of people decided to do foreign mission work. As far as it being some sort of “poverty vacation” I think there are far more offensive uses of money in our society.

  6. Jesus Christ didn’t tell the wealthy man to go and throw his poor neighbors out of their jobs and homes, so he could get richer or make himself feel better by installing foreigners in them. Why isn’t the church demanding the wealthy in Ecuador and other countries help their own? Probably because they care no more for the poor than the USCCB care for the poor in the US. No, the poor in the US are not “middle class”, here in the US there are over 95 million long term unemployed citizens, their jobs were taken from them, many of those jobs went to Mexico, China and other parts of Asia, and around the world, many of the jobs remained, but the citizens were fired and replaced by foreigners, who were cheaper for employers as they willingly work for less as they are exploiting our welfare, housing and other programs a citizen doing those jobs wouldnt have access to. Between corrupt politicians, ceos, lobbies media & even clergy, they have constructed a wall of hatred and rationales for stealing the livelihoods, homes and food out of the mouths of poor US citizens. Affluent comfortable elites, calling poor citizens, who are black & white “racist” & “xenophobic” for saying they need their jobs to survive. We have tent cities all across the US, more than we did during the great depression, but the media, clergy, no one pays attention, it’s rather like when the nazis first took power, no one paid attention to what they were doing, putting millions in the concentration death camps. I wasn’t going to comment, but when I read some foreigner, who obviously isn’t suffering, snidely inferring that the US poor have it too good, that made me angry, we have US citizens starving,living outdoors, exposed to the elements, denied healthcare, dignity. The money wasted on these selfish, self indulgent “citizen of the world” trips is obscene, they could house and feed Americans.

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