Study Guide: Stories of Poverty

Sunday October 25, 2009 | Sandra Unger

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

The Importance of Knowing Ernest: Sandra shares experiences and insights that have come from her family’s “unlikely” friendships with people on St. Paul’s East Side. In our movement toward the issue of poverty, it’s easy for the ‘haves’ to feel heroic for seeking to give to the ‘have-nots’. Through her relationship with Ernest, Sandra explains what can happen when we pursue relationships instead of responsibilities, or people instead of poverty.

Extended Summary:

Sandra Unger reminded us of the persistent theme of Scripture that God desires holistic reconciliation between not only God and humans, but between humans as well. Jesus came and died for this desire of God’s (Luke 4; John 17:20-23; 2 Cor. 5, etc.). Sometimes we do get a glimpse of what this could look like. Today Sandra Unger and Earnest Johnson shared their story.

Sandra and Earnest each shared openly about their very different backgrounds and also about how they have come to be friends over the years. Sandra talked about the “social construction of reality”—the way in which our society boxes us into various categories and makes it very unlikely that someone like Sandra and someone like Earnest would become friends. Earnest shared about his history in and out of prison and his struggles with how to do “normal” things like handle a check book and find a stable place to live.

In the end, what was clear is that these two did become friends and many blessings have come of it. Their values and lifestyles were and are so different and they challenge one another in positive ways. Reflect back on their story as you process through the questions below…

Reflection Questions:

  1. What stood out to you most from this message and the supporting texts?
  2. Sandra and Earnest talked a lot about their relationship. How did Earnest enrich the lives of Sandra and her family? How did Sandra and her family enrich Earnest’s life?
  3. There were several examples of the way in which our “social constructions” got in the way of the relationship. One had to do with homeownership. How did Sandra and Earnest view homeownership differently? What values would you guess were behind those different views?
  4. It was clear that Earnest didn’t think of himself as “poor” even though he was probably living consistently below the federal poverty line. Instead he said something like, “Sometimes I’m broke, but I’m not poor.” What do you think Earnest meant by this distinction? Who gets to decide whether Earnest is “poor” or “broke”?