Living on Two Dollars a Day During Lent: Simplicity in the Burbs

Photo Credit: flickr/kimili

The following is a post written by my friend Kurt Willems of The Pangea Blog.

I am picky.

I hate most foods that could be considered healthy.

In college, I ate Panda Express (Chinese fast food) for dinner almost every night and supplemented other meals with burgers and pizza.

As a child, I would sit at my Grandpa’s dinner table for hours because I refused to eat my veggies. My most consumed meal during childhood: cereal.  Count Chocula was not just breakfast, but sometimes dinner.  And if I ran out of milk, no problem… water.

I didn’t like salad until I was at least 16.

I am not a big fan of beans because of the texture.

If I had it my way, every day would be a Chic fil a day.

And I only like three veggies (and I’m and adult!): carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers.  This is only because my wife use to hide them in my food and tricked me into liking them. :-)

I like comfort.

Not the kind of comfort that is simply contentedness, but feeling good.

In situations where I have gone on mission trips to other countries, for the sake of the Gospel I will ‘rough it’ but boy I really looked forward to the debrief day that would be spent in a hotel room.

And speaking of hotel rooms, I prefer these to camping and outdoorsy vacations because I will be guaranteed a shower whenever I feel like it.  And lets not forget the bed.  Rocks for pillows and dew on the face when you wake up under the sun at the butt crack of dawn are really not my thing.

I am picky.  I like comfort.

I have noticed that these two things have been challenging my theology.  I believe in a God who makes us uncomfortable and who gives us any daily bread that we may have even if it is not the bun from a number 2 at In & Out Burgers.  A God that calls us to give sacrificially.  To love unconditionally.  To have so we can give to the have nots.

To live simply.

The spiritual discipline of simplicity is one that I know will challenge my discipleship journey the most at this point in my life.  So, for Lent, I am seeking to embrace simplicity in the Suburbs.

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Photo Credit: flickr/Sean_Marshall. Usage does not represent endorsement by the photographer.

When I think of simplicity I think of monks and the desert fathers.  I think of the modern day new monastics.  But at this point in my life, well, I live in suburbia.  So I started thinking: How can a suburbanite like me embrace simplicity for Lent? And can I do this in a way that raises awareness of those in our world who are forced to live “simply” because of poverty?

So here’s what I’ve been up to.

My wife and I each get $2 per day that we can spend for 46 days.  This number was chosen because even today, there are about 2.5 billion people in our world who are living on less that $2 per day according to World Bank.  My wife is participating with the food portion of this experiment, whereas I also am counting my $2 toward any form of personal spending for entertainment and ‘extras.’ What this doesn’t include are medical expenses, gas, and monthly bills.

We are about half way through Lent, and so far it has been incredible to see how much I can actually handle. God is helping me make it through each day, having eaten plenty. Now, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you how many times I have wanted to give in to my cravings for a Starbucks White Mocha or some Chipotle, but so far I have been able to flee from temptation.

What also has been amazing is to see how much I do not need. Even though I believe consumerism in the church is probably what is holding us back from seeing God do incredible things, I often get sucked into the consumerist trappings of daily wants and desires. God is teaching me that all I need is much different than all of my cravings.

To close, allow me to make an observation: Simplicity and generosity go hand in hand.  During Lent I am going to invite YOU to take action.  I have set up a fundraising campaign for Blood: Water Mission.  They are an organization seeking to do good in Africa by fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic and by providing clean water.  And why water?  Consider the following $2 stat:

“Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.”

I am asking you to consider giving $2 to this cause by clicking here.  Our goal for Lent is going to be to raise $200, so this is going to have to be a group effort.  We have to spread the word so that we meet that goal!


Kurt Willems is a Mennonite Brethren church planter/pastor and is currently finishing work towards a Master of Divinity degree at Fresno Pacific University.  In 2012, he will be leading an MB church plant in the Northwest. He is considers himself an: Anabaptist, lower-case evangelical, fairly charismatic, sometimes contemplative, follower of Jesus.  Kurt’s passions include theology, spirituality, social justice, creation care, ethics, church ministry, and leaving behind the right answers.  He writes at: the Pangea Blog and is also on Twitter and Facebook.

3 thoughts on “Living on Two Dollars a Day During Lent: Simplicity in the Burbs

  1. Great post.

    I think there is one more benefit to simplicity: I would make the case that in many instances it is the best way to help those who are living on under $2 a day – both by reducing our consumption and becoming informed about the conditions in which the things we buy are produced.

    I say this after watching rural communities across Central America struggle with new pressures over their land, and in many cases dispossession, for bio-fuels, snow peas, pineapple, among others… kind of just a continuation of previous decades of beef, bananas and cotton. At the same time climate change has had a devastating effect, not only in the highly reported natural disasters but also through slow changing weather patterns that increase volatility of food and other crop production and decrease access to water. All of these things are linked closely to consumption in the US, so by thinking about our responsibility to the people that make our ‘stuff’, or those have to live with our waste, we can actually have a big impact – giving simplicity an extra dimension.

    Of all the denominations down here, the Mennonites have been the most active and supportive of these types of perspectives. All my best to you and your efforts!

  2. Kurt this post has really challenged me to look at my own life. I both thank you and dislike you at the same time for that fact. :) Not really, but you get my point.

    I am not picky. I love all food (which is a whole other blog post). I am looking at my desk at work right now. I have some popcorn in a dish to my right. A bottle of water, a diet coke and a cup of coffee sitting to my left (yep…the beverage buffet is part of my daily life). I have a small cup of Greek yogurt waiting to be a possible afternoon snack and a small bight of a mini Milky Way waiting to be finished sitting in front of me (I only get one…I make them last)…let’s not even talk about the pulled pork taco I wolfed down at lunch.

    I have followed your blog closely during your $2 a day. It has convicted me and I have started to notice waste in my life frequently. I have thought about trying out your challenge because I HATE it when “there is no way” comes out of my mouth. I have to admit, though, I feel genuine panic when I think of trying to live on $2 a day for even 30 days. Perhaps it is time to explore that further. Dang.

    Thank you for posting this journey.

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