“We would like to welcome you to Hope Airlines. We know that you have many choices for your air travel, and we are thankful that you have chosen us.” I spent part of this week serving as the flight attendant. My planes never left the ground, but the passengers aboard had their worlds shifted a little bit.
Children’s Hunger Fund, my employer, is poised to open Poverty Encounter at our office is Sylmar. Poverty Encounter is a multi-sensory interactive museum experience that helps people understand the sources and cycles of poverty and what the hope is for physical and spiritual poverty. It is the fulfillment of our President’s dream to help people understand the life and soul of families impacted by a lack of physical, relational, and spiritual sustenance.
The airplane is the first step in directing our guests to recognize that what they are about to experience is not familiar territory. Looking out the “windows,” passengers see the ground drop away from the lights of Los Angeles and LAX to “land” a few minutes later at a simple airport surrounded by lush greenery.
Passengers exit the plane into the Hub where four doors each lead to a situation of poverty. Guests are led by a guide through realistic sets to see and hear the stories of children who live in the dump, in the aftermath of a disaster, enslaved in hard labor in a brick yard, and abandoned in an eastern European sewer system. The air is filled with the sound of flies, crows, and dripping water. A guard glowers down on the brickyard. A bus sits crushed by a crumbled building, a file cabinet spilling out over the hood.
And the children. The children tell their stories of losing home, of families separated by hunger and fear. Each story comes from a family who has experienced hope delivered by a church equipped with resources from CHF. Each family has heard of the hope of the Gospel for spiritual provision and a Food Pak for physical nourishment. The answers to the situations are not simple, and Poverty Encounter does not sensationalize or sugar- coat the solutions.
Poverty Encounter equips visitors to join the fight against poverty as they continue through the exhibit, peering into the windows of a suburban home to observe conversations of children with their parents about what to do.
Finally, visitors enter the Hope Room where our employees speak of CHF’s delivery of hope by supporting local churches in over 25 countries. Visitors are offered an opportunity right there to get to work, serving in our food packing room as a part of the fight against the hopelessness of poverty. Additionally, Poverty Encounter includes a retail store full of branded and international fair trade items, some even crafted by pastors and participants in our Mercy Network churches.
“Thank you for flying Hope Airlines. We hope to see you again soon!!