Sometimes I ask why…….15,000 people in Africa will die today, another 15,000 tomorrow and 15,000 more each and every day after that. Think about that for just a minute if you dare. Now add to your thought process another fact. Every single one of them are dying of preventable, treatable diseases – HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB and diarrhea due to a lack of drugs that you and I take for granted. I mean diarrhea!!!!….for the love of God…how do we even allow this to happen? If you have a pulse, that should tug hard on your heartstrings. Here is what has been said about this:
“This statistic alone makes a fool of the idea many of us hold on to very tightly: the idea of equality. What is happening to Africa mocks our pieties, doubts our concern and questions our commitment to the whole concept. Because if we’re honest, there’s no way we could conclude that such mass death day after day would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else. Certainly not North America or Europe, or Japan. An entire continent bursting into flames? Deep down, if we really accept that their lives – African lives – are equal to ours, we would all be doing more to put the fire out. It’s an uncomfortable truth”
I found it interesting that the author of the above statement is not a great church leader or statesman or diplomat. It’s the thoughts of a rock star by the name of Bono as he tries to answer the question “who is my neighbor?”
That’s a question I’ve been wrestling with lately. Here are some of my thoughts. Poverty is a complex “web” that has a whole lot of causes and even more effects, way more than I have even thought of I’m sure. I often wonder what my life would be or would have been had I been born in another latitude and longitude, where there weren’t quite as many choices. I have surely done a lot of stupid things but the opportunities available were always there. Not so many opportunities exist elsewhere. Things that we take for granted, clean water, access to food and medical care, education are just not enjoyed by most of the rest of the world.
I’m thinking one of the biggest reasons for a “lack of action” is that we tend to depersonalize the statistics. Every one of those 15,000 people, men , women and children have a name, have a face and was created by God for a purpose. I of course spent most of my life in the West and I can remember my own thoughts as I read or heard such a “statistic”. You look at the number, maybe read the whole story and most all of us will have a moment of genuine compassion, maybe even send a check to help. But it’s only a moment, it doesn’t last. Then we turn the page (or channel) to look at the sports news, financials, sales ads, etc. We go to the mall, go to the grocery store, go on our cruises and getaway vacations and live in our homes with clean water and central heat and air. I’m not bashing America and the west. Our nation was founded on Godly principles by God fearing men and I believe that’s why we are the most prosperous nation in the world. (its also a testimony to God’s grace and long suffering that we still hold that place) I make no apologies for Americas’ prosperity, it’s still the greatest nation in the world to live.
However, as a radically changed follower of Jesus (I have learned to not use the “Christian” label, it means a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people all over the world!!) I believe that the Bible says over and over again that we are to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, to give to others who do not have as much as we have, to give out of our abundance. I asked God many years ago to break my heart for what breaks His, that I would go wherever He sent me to be His hands and feet. That’s a dangerous prayer…. so here I am in Africa and the numbers are no longer impersonal. I know the names of the children I have held in my arms as they take their last breath, the name of the mother dying of AIDS related illnesses who has 5 small children she is leaving behind to fend for themselves, in a world that terrorizes and victimizes the smallest and weakest. These kids can be subject to the most hideous cruelty and abuse you can imagine, many times by extended family members who are supposed to love them. I have found a place to stay for the 9 year old girl who came to a service and met Jesus, and no longer wants to be peddled off to her grandmothers men friends so she can “earn her keep”
These are but a few of the horror stories but I also get to see the hope, the success stories. Through our church plants here in Zimbabwe and in partnership with other organizations, we get to feed over 22000 children every day. More importantly we can show them that they are loved, that they have value in the eyes of their Creator. I get to see the hopelessness of a child nearly starving to death turn into a smile and beaming eyes of a child that now has hope for another day. To see a mother who we have been able to teach a skill and provide the resources for her to begin making a living for her family. There is always hope in the middle of hopelessness. A great man by the name of Dave Ohlerking coined this phrase…. Hopes name is Jesus!!!! The pics are just a snapshot of some of the faces that go with the statistics. These are all people that have somehow touched my heart and my life. Take a look and ask yourself….Who is my neighbor?
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