Mark Lutz, the author of UnPoverty: Rich Lessons form the Working Poor, has written an eye-opening book for Compassion International's publishing arm. Mark shares jaw-dropping stories of both horror and hope, and suggests solutions involving what he calls "the miracle of capitalism."

Mark sat down with us to educate us on real poverty, real wealth, and really living out the Christian mission around the world. Mark, can you start off by telling us what you mean by the term "UnPoverty?" What are you trying to get at in the book?

Mark Lutz: Yes. "UnPoverty," as you know, is not a word, usually. It is the idea that we want to eradicate extreme poverty in the world during our lifetime. It sounds audacious, especially when Jesus himself said you will always have the poor with you. Right?

CW: Right.

ML: But there are about 1.3 billion people living on a dollar a day. And that is not necessary. It is not just. It is not humane. It certainly is not what God had in mind. And so the idea is to remove that layer of poverty from the planet.

CW: So, obviously, we are not really talking about your basic American who just finds themselves underpaid at work?

ML: Correct.

CW: We are talking about on a global scale what people can do. You have lived among the extreme poor for several years. In South Africa and elsewhere?

ML: Yes. My parents were missionaries. So from the time I was a year old until I came back to the States to go to Wheaton College, I lived in South Africa.

CW: And how did your experiences inform what you wrote in the book?

ML: Well, the whole matter of injustice, living under the apartheid system during that time and recognizing that this is not just and that the poor are not poor because they are lazy. The poor are poor because of latitude and longitude. It is where they are born. So, we can do something about that.

CW: What can we do? The Church was obviously given a vast mission and an example by Christ to serve the poor, to help the poor. Where have we dropped the ball and why? And how can we get back to work?  


ML: Well, I think Rich Stearns from World Vision is living out the gospel. He is really shining the light on the fact that many of us, who are followers of Jesus, certainly have neglected that element of the gospel. And we know that when Jesus walked into the temple there the very first time in Luke 4 and he asked for the scroll and he read, his mission statement was to free the oppressed. Obviously, you have to read on to find the full message of the gospel, but the gospel is clearly saturated with freeing the oppressed and dealing with the poor.

And, yet, I grew up in a very, very evangelical Christian home on the mission field. As long as they go to heaven when they die, we have really accomplished something… They would never come out and say that. That would never have been their mantra, but that was clearly the message, that saving people from eternal damnation is what the gospel is about.

And yet Jesus lived radically differently than that. So I think the Church is coming to the point of recognizing that we have a much broader and current message than that. We must treat people today, while alive, from oppression, among other things, and from poverty.

CW: Will you share some of your personal experiences with us? You used the term "true heroes" in the book. Can you give us an example of one?

ML: Monika. Monika is a woman I met in India. I went to her home, which was no bigger than this room.