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We, who are from Western countries, are extremely wealthy and have the opportunity to buy many things to fill our homes and lives. Large houses must have furniture in every room and decorations and accessories to fill every corner. Garages are overflowing with things useful along with unuseful, and rental storage unit businesses have popped up all over so that we can store our excess belongings.
In the recent years, however, there has been a push toward minimalism. Tiny homes are becoming popular, and more and more people are retreating from the norm to live in vans, RV’s, and boats. For some people, this recent trend toward minimal belongings comes out of the desire to simplify their lives and get back to the basics. It is indeed a romantic quest, to live simply and leave a small footprint, but true minimalism is not really a pretty picture.
The tribal people of Asia Pacific are masters of minimalism. They are minimalists in the most extreme form, but their minimalistic lives come not out of a desire to retreat from too much stuff or a desire to rebound from too complicated a lifestyle, but out of sheer necessity. For them, a minimalistic life is the only life they know.
God has placed these people far from towns and modern civilization. They do not have much money or access to store-bought goods; so, out of necessity, they live simply. They walk barefoot across dusty paths and moss-covered jungle trails. Their one pair of shorts or shirt gets snagged and torn, and they either sew it up or discard it. They cook over a fire each night and work the earth to scratch their living off the side of the mountain. What food they get, they eat, and if they get none, they go hungry.
When they get sick or cut themselves, they suffer pain and some die. They have no television or radio, so their entertainment is simply talking to their neighbor long into the night. When it rains, they get wet and shiver in the cold. When the sun is out, they soak up its warmth. They sleep on the dirt or bark floors of their huts. When the fire dies, rats, roaches, and spiders run up and down their bodies. Lice, flies, and fleas are their constant companions. Our tribal friends are masters of minimalism, but minimalism in this extreme form, in this context, is not really pretty or desirable.
As a Westerner living over a decade with such minimalists, I have felt the romanticism of setting barefoot down a jungle trail. I have loved the simplicity of ducking into a smoky hut built solely by ax and machete out of all organic materials. But I have also experienced (in a small way) the hardships that come along with such a life. Over the years, we have done many things to help our tribal friends to improve their health and lives, but the hard fact remains that they will never be able to totally escape their lives of minimalism.
As I live among my tribal friends, I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am to come from a country like the United States, a place where I can live free and comfortable. A place where I can be a minimalist by choice in the areas that I want, yet continue to enjoy the blessings of electricity, medical care, plenty of food, and even luxuries like entertainment. Most of all, I am thankful that in the United States we still have freedom to learn about God, read his Word, and meet publicly with other Christians.
Let us not grow weary of thanking God for his many blessings to us. And let us not grow complacent about all that we get to enjoy. As we live our lives, let us remember those in the world who don’t have it as good as we do, and reach out and touch their lives as well.
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