Thirty ideas from people under 30: The Faith Leaders

They are explorers and activists, artists and educators, farmers and faith leaders – even mayors. And they have trenchant suggestions on how to improve the world.

Ryan Scott McDonnell: Modern Lazarus at the gate

Ann Hermes / The Christian Science Monitor
Ryan Scott McDonnell, Executive Director of Boston Faith & Justice Network, sits for a portrait on December 8, 2011. Boston Faith & Justice Network is a Christian organization promoting global stewardship.

You don't have to be rich to put a dent in global poverty. You just need to cut back on little luxuries (a meal out here, a cinnamon dolce latte there) and steer savings to where a dollar goes a long way.

That's a motivating concept for Ryan Scott McDonnell, a 29-year-old evangelical Christian who heads up the Boston Faith & Justice Network, a Christian antipoverty group.

Time and again, he's seen the principle work when a dozen Christians form a group and rethink their spending habits. Using his organization's Lazarus at the Gate curriculum, they are reminded of how a rich man didn't help when poor Lazarus knocked. Within weeks, they're sending thousands of dollars abroad to help the poor.

"In the story of Lazarus at the gate, the rich man goes to hell not because of what he did but because of what he failed to do," Mr. McDonnell says. "In the midst of a lot of information about global poverty, we're missing the opportunity to actively love our neighbor through small shifts in our lifestyles."

Americans are often surprised what a few dollars can do overseas. Earlier this year, McDonnell led a church group of 13 young adults who had saved $1,800 over eight weeks, which would be enough to pay more than six months' wages for a prostitution outreach worker in Manila.

"Knowing that you are having an impact," McDonnell says, "provides a lot more satisfaction, happiness, even joy than the momentary, elusive pleasures that come with getting a new whatever."

– G. Jeffrey MacDonald

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