How To Identify With the Developing World in 9 Drastic Steps

These steps first appeared in a Leadership magazine article (Summer 1988). I rediscovered them in an ebook by Calvin Miller called The Disciplined Life.

According to Miller, these are “nine rather drastic steps wealthy Westerners would have to take to truly identify with the developing world”:

  1. Take out the furniture: leave a few old blankets, a kitchen table, maybe a wooden chair. You’ve never had a bed, remember?
  2. Throw out your clothes. Each person in the family may keep the oldest suit or dress, a shirt or blouse. The head of the family has the only pair of shoes.
  3. All kitchen appliances have vanished. Keep a box of matches, a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a handful of onions, a dish of dried beans. Rescue the moldy potatoes from the garbage can: those are tonight’s meal.
  4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, take out the wiring and the lights and everything that runs by electricity.
  5. Take away the house and move the family into the tool shed.
  6. No more postman, fireman, government services. The two-classroom school is three miles away, but only two of your seven children attend anyway, and they walk.
  7. Throw out your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, insurance policies. You now have a cash hoard of $5.
  8. Get out and start cultivating your three acres. Try hard to raise $300 in cash crops because your landlord wants one-third and your moneylender 10 percent.
  9. Find some way for your children to bring in a little extra money so you have something to eat most days. But it won’t be enough to keep bodies healthy—so lop off 25 to 30 years of life.

Question: Which of these would be the hardest “step” to take? For me, I think steps 4, 5, and 6 would be the most jarring for my American sensibilities. You?

Nathan is the pastor of City Life Church in Ridgewood, NY. He and his family are committed to making and multiplying disciples in the most diverse county in the US. Read more about Nathan here. Visit the City Life Church website here.

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