Eugene Cho

night and day: extreme poverty and wealth

This is my last night here in South Africa. Tomorrow, I begin my long trip back home that will take me from Africa to Europe and finally to Home, Sweet, Home.

My “research and relationship building” portion of the trip is now officially over and we’re chillin’ for two days in Capetown, South Africa – a city often regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. These folks aren’t lying. It’s truly a beautiful city.  Breathtaking…

But as you might expect, I’m having a hard time juxtaposing the extreme poverty I saw and heard in an area of South Africa called Kwazulu Natal with the opulence of an area of Capetown we visited where Hollywood stars like Leonardo Dicaprio have their vacation homes. [Pictures below…]

Obviously, it’s not just the stars.  It’s really me as well.  I know I don’t need to sell everything I have but I hope that you would join me in examining what we can do to help the poorest of the poor – in your own town, city, or in a distant country.  The vision of our global poverty initiative is VERY SIMPLE but I really do believe it can help make a difference in the lives of thousands if not millions.  No handouts here but connecting with NGOs and Commnity Based Organizations [CBOs] that understand their context and culture to challenge and equip people to uplift themselves out of poverty.  Clearly, we are the not the first and thankfully, not the last, but we’re excited to join the fight…  We’re not yet ready to reveal the name of our organizatio but once we do, we hope all of you can join the cause.  We will not ask folks to do anything we’re not willing to do which is why we’ve committed our year’s salary to the fight.

I need some time to process stuff but I’m thankful for the privilege of being invited to the homes of many.   Not everything I saw was pleasant.  In fact, I don’t even know if folks I spoke to last week are alive now as I write this blog entry.  Crazy.

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.  I have felt support from many.  And thanks to the anonymous benefactor in New York.  I still don’t know who you are but I am thankful for your generosity and vision.
kazuhome1

kazu2

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8 Responses

  1. chrismarlow says:

    amazing city. that is one of two “key” places we (help end local poverty) are working. I have a ton of great local cape town contacts if you want to meet some young local church leaders.

  2. Randall says:

    I once temp’d in the HR department of a large insurance company in Hawaii. It was just before y2k and the HR department wanted to move their database into a new, y2k “bug” proof system and it was my job to move all that data by hand (I guess they didn’t have enough time to come up with an automated solution).

    Anyway, I basically got to see the salaries of everyone who was working at that company. Many of the upper-level execs had six figure salaries.

    I remember eating lunch in the food court downstairs and noticing the maintenance workers cleaning out garbage cans. It struck that it would take those maintenance workers a year to make what the execs just a few floors above them would make in a few weeks.

    I know the issues are complicated and many, but what kind of world have we created? How can the work of one person be worth exponentially more than the work of someone else?

    And of course what makes this situation even more absurd is that the execs likely have a golden parachute tucked away so that even if they do their job poorly and get fired, they’ll still be taken care of. If the maintenance workers lose their jobs, they’re just out of luck.

    I was reminded of this maddening discrepancy while looking at the two pictures you posted above.

    Some say the world is getting smaller. In some ways this may be so but economically, we may as well be living on different planets. The rich continue to get richer but zero never moves.

    Keep plugging away at your global poverty initiative – breakthrough is just around the corner!

  3. I am with Randall. I had a similar experience while temping at a well known university hospital a few years ago. The work I was doing required a lot of movement around the hospital and it didn’t take long to recognize that the highly educated, highly paid, and in some cases world-renowned, doctors in that hospital would barely make eye contact with the uneducated, low-paid, and in most cases ethnically different, hospitality and housekeeping employees they would walk by or share an elevator with.

    That hospital could not function nor could it meet OSHA standards without those employees yet it seemed like there was little value for their work both in what they were paid and in how they were treated.

    I’ve experienced the same dichotomy in Guatemala City – where our work with Lemonade International is focused – the wealthy and successful of Guatemala City have little or no regard for the people right under their noses who live in a garbage-filled, gang-infested ravine with very little access to basic human needs.

    The stark contrasts are everywhere… and as Eugene points out… in our own hearts too.

  4. I’ve seen what you’ve seen, thought not in Africa… I’ve wondered what you’ve asked, and I’ve attempted at doing so, though i don’t have all the answers as to how, why or why its justified. It seems that in America, we all live off of others in that we feel good knowing, and i quote “there are lesser people, so be happy that you aren’t one of them.” I don’t like this sentiment however, its pervasive and I’m glad you don’t share this.

    I’ve gauged myself and even been tempted ask why i can’t ignore the poor’s cry for help! …and upon doing so, it just so happens that I’ve managed to be a part of real tangible changes through community development, one community a time, through working with community focused organizations.

    Therefore, I can only admit to one solution: build trust, engage the community, empower the people, provide access to education, promote enterprise, and conserve the environment. Do the above, and I promise you will succeed Eugene!

    Your ally,

    miguel juanez

    Thanks for your hard work and dedication to something i truly believe in

  5. Gillian says:

    For me, I’m tired of seeing the wealthy elite being the only ones on boards or committees geared towards issues of poverty. I would so like to see someone on these boards who has some experience with the issues, concerns and problems. I understand that those dealing with the issues have may have little ability to attend meetings etc. However, there must be someone who could represent these needs better than those who have solid financial futures. Maybe a mix of folks.

    Anyway, just a thought. You are in my prayers during your travels. (And at other times too!) Thank you for your willingness to share your insights.

  6. Capt Ralph says:

    Others have said it, but simply…….and maybe not as extreme, but our disparity between the “haves” and “have-nots” is too great here at home, too.

  7. Jim Chen says:

    GOD keep you safe! Thanks for sharing the adventure!

  8. […] [3] It was great to meet local South Africans who care about their people and their poverty.  Surprisingly, I returned examining my commitment to the local poverty in Seattle.  But that makes sense: we have to care about our local neighborhood.  #2 and #3 is what I struggle with: such disparity between the have’s and have nots. […]

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One Day’s Wages

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Morning walk with the queen. In pursuit of 10,001 steps. #SelfCare #TryingToGetFit #CantFitInMyClothes F A M I L Y. So grateful to be creating memories.

Confession time: I sucked in my belly like it's the end of the world because of the full solar eclipse and then stopped breathing until this photo was taken. Which is probably why my wife looks like she's punching me on the side. But...mission accomplished. #OldManTricks These are crazy, turbulent times. Fight the good fight. Run the race set before us.

But we also need you for the long haul. Don't burn out. Discipleship and justice work is a marathon. Learn to take care of yourself. Don't play the victim. It's far too tempting to blame others. Be rooted in prayer, Scripture, and community. It's okay to pause, critical to rest and retreat, and godly to practice Sabbath.

#NoteToSelf Everyone loves the idea of  reconciliation...until it involves truthtelling, confessing, repenting, dismantling, forgiving, and peacemaking. Charlottesville. So heartbreaking and infuriating. We weep and mourn over the hatred in the hearts of these white nationalists. We weep and mourn but we can't be defeated.

As I stare at this photo that's making its round on the internet, I'm reminded of the utter importance of showing up. I'm grateful for the news media, law enforcement, clergy, and peaceful protesters that are currently there to report, protect, pray, and protest.

And this is an invitation to us. May we not be mere bystanders. May we keep pressing forward. Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly. Commit to truth-telling, justice, reconciliation, peacemaking. Follow the ways of Christ. Every day. And it's important to note that we don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. In fact, it's more important that we do this exactly where we're at. May we live out the call to reconciliation in our churches, workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, and around our dining tables. Lord, may it be so... We don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. We have to do this wherever were called to be.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. /// Thanks to those who let me know that the photo wasn't actually from today but rather from last month in Charlottesville. - https://www.facebook.com/FrankSomervilleKTVU/posts/1551137301616258:0 Grateful for a spontaneous, last minute trip with Minhee to my old stomping grounds - San Francisco. 48 hours of visiting this special city that I called home for so many years.

Pic 1: Went to the Cliff House restaurant where we got engaged about 21 years ago to make out. Oops, sorry, I meant...to reflect on God's faithfulness over these many years.

Pic 2: Walked across the Golden Gate Bridge because it's such an iconic place - with some of the most incredible views.

Pic 3: Enjoyed a glass of some Cabernet Sauvignon and pretended to be wine connoisseurs at a vineyard.

Pic 4: Had lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant, Sam Tung, which boasts some of the best chicken in the country. And of course, we ate at In-n-out.

Pic 5: And finally, celebrated with the good folks at @thefreedomstory where @onedayswages received their annual Freedom Award. What an honor.

Grateful. Thankful for this sabbatical.

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