by Lynn Phillips, Poverty Encounter at Children’s Hunger Fund
Have you ever heard your children say, “I’m starving,” “there’s nothing to eat,” or “I don’t like this meal!”? Do you wish your children had a greater appreciation for what they have? As a homeschool mother of four, it pained me to hear my boys’ lack of gratitude for all the Lord had given them. One of the reasons we homeschooled was to teach our kids about who God is and that they can play a part in His plans. My husband and I wondered how we could open our children’s eyes to the abundance they had before them.
This is the journey God took us on…
In 1991, my husband Dave quit his job and decided to start a non-profit out of our family’s garage. He had one goal: to provide food to children living in extreme poverty and share the love of Christ with them. As Dave’s wife, I have watched and marveled at how God would eventually grow Children’s Hunger Fund from its humble beginnings in our garage into a global ministry serving churches in 24 countries all over the world. We learned very quickly that God’s plan was much bigger than ours. I spent more hours on my knees in prayer than I could count—not only for my husband as he traveled to the farthest corners of the world, but for myself as I strived to be a Godly wife, mother, and homeschool teacher to our four sons.
As our boys grew older, their homeschool classroom spanned areas of the world often unseen by tourists. We made the decision to have each of our boys travel with Dave, one at a time, starting at about age nine or ten. They would travel to countries with some of the most extreme levels of poverty.
Children’s Hunger Fund works through the local church to supply food, aid, and other resources that impoverished families desperately need. These visits took our sons into the homes of families living and working in an open dumpsite in Guatemala, the post tsunami zone in Indonesia, famine-riddled refugee camps in sub-Saharan Africa, post-earthquake slums of Haiti, and the brickyards of Nepal. The life experience they gained on these trips was a better education than any textbook could provide.
On these trips, our children played with other children in the unique and creative ways only kids trying to overcome a language barrier can do. On one trip, a little girl grabbed my son’s hand and pulled him with excitement to the back of their dwelling. She pointed at an egg their chicken had laid, and we realized her happiness came from knowing her family would get to eat that night. The thought of five children sharing one egg was difficult for my son to comprehend. This eye-opening experience revealed to him what it really means to be hungry and that finding food is a real daily struggle for many families. He began gaining new awareness that everyone doesn’t live like we do. This personal experience caused our son to gain a more compassionate world view.
Returning home, we listened as our son expressed guilt over the luxury and comfort afforded to us in this country. These travel experiences helped all our sons gain a deep appreciation for what God had given them, which began changing their grumbling hearts and developed a heart of gratitude toward the foods they once found distasteful. As homeschool parents, we clearly saw the benefits of having our boys experience global poverty, where their eyes were opened to living conditions that were quite different from their own.
But God had a plan, as He always does, to use these experiences in His most perfect way. As we reflected on the impact those trips overseas had on our children, we knew not all children had the opportunity to travel. How could children here at home get a glimpse of global poverty and then learn how they can help?
God put the idea in my husband’s heart that one day, Children’s Hunger Fund could create an exhibit to teach children in the U.S. what life is like for children living in poverty all around the world. Eventually, this idea would grow to bear a name—Poverty Encounter. Over time and through many, many hours of prayer, God would ultimately bring a creative team to design, donors to fund, a construction crew to build, a video team to film, and program facilitators to teach visitors and share the stories of children served by the ministry. For the last 12 years, our prayer has been that one day guests’ eyes would be opened and their hearts would be impacted by what they learned—just as our own sons’ lives were forever changed by their experiences.
In December 2018, Poverty Encounter opened at the Children’s Hunger Fund headquarters in Los Angeles. Poverty Encounter is an immersive, interactive experience that provides a unique understanding of the impact of living in poverty. As part of the experience, guests learn about opportunities to take action and make a difference. At Poverty Encounter, your children will step into four countries in the developing world, hear real stories of children living in extreme poverty, learn ways they can make a difference, and pack food that will be sent to children in need. Through the Poverty Encounter, your children’s eyes will be opened to all that they have. Their hands will be used to provide help and hope to children around the world. And their hearts will be softened toward people in need.
Now that our four boys are all adults, I have a new opportunity to use the spiritual gifts and unique experiences with which I’ve been blessed. I went from being a teacher, to a homeschool mom, to a program facilitator for Poverty Encounter. On each tour, I have the privilege of sharing Christ with groups of all ages, talking about how He loves and cares for His children all over the world, and sharing how they can tangibly make a difference in the life of a needy child. I pray that one day, you and your family can share God’s love with those living in poverty anywhere there is a need. Homeschool groups from near and far have come to experience the exhibit and serve in the volunteer food packing room. If you live in southern California or if you plan to be in the area, I invite you to visit Poverty Encounter and learn how you and your children can take new steps toward fulfilling God’s commandment to live and love like Jesus.
For more information on field trips or to purchase tickets to Poverty Encounter, visit: www.povertyencounter.org
Lynn Phillips has always had a passion to help children, which naturally led her to pursue teaching. Lynn earned her B.A. in Psychology from UCLA, then went on to earn her teaching credential from California State Northridge. She worked as an elementary school teacher and then homeschooled her four sons for 18 years. Lynn has had the opportunity to take part in many short term mission trips to Russia, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, and Thailand. Working as a facilitator for Poverty Encounter has allowed her to use her training as an educator to help visitors understand the depths of God’s love for the poor and how much He cares for each one of us.