I’ve been brewing a bit of an idea around here…which has been keeping me busy, hence the long absence. I am going to be sharing it with my church people on Sunday morning…and so here it is for you too! It’s totally terrifying to have a dream and more so to share it. I feel like I’m really putting myself out there and it’s rather scary!
Around the time just prior to starting the Zimbabwe project, and over the months that have followed, I have been making myself aware of some of the issues around poverty, particularly extreme poverty in developing nations. I have let myself be shocked at the statistics. I mean really let myself think about what they mean. The numbers are so big that we struggle to comprehend the magnitude of the problem. When we read that 1.1 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty, do we really get it? 1 Have we ever stopped to really think about that? What would you and I do if tomorrow and for the foreseeable future we had only $1 per day to pay for all our daily needs of food and drinking water, shelter, clothing, medical care, and education?
As I have read and become more aware of the great needs in the world, I have become increasingly convinced that it is everyone’s responsibility to address the problem of poverty.
In my opinion it’s far too easy for those of us who live privileged lives to be ignorant of the way hundreds of millions of people in the world are living. It far too easy for us to be so wrapped up in our day to day lives worried about our houses, and cars and shopping and jobs and children; and spending our days working hard and watching TV, trying to pay the rent or pay off the house, that we are selfishly ignorant of the fact that several million mothers in the world struggled to find food for their babies today.
As a mother I think ‘what makes me so different from those other mothers who face a daily anguish of finding food for their fretful hungry baby?‘ Broadly, the answer is simply circumstance. There is no other difference between us than the circumstances of our births.
It could have been me born in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 40% of toddlers die from Malaria, which by the way is a preventable and treatable disease. It costs between $0.50 – $5.00 NZD for life saving medication to treat Malaria.2 But sadly for most of the people dying of malaria, it’s not as easy as popping down to the local doctor, or having a friend take you to hospital. Even if they do make it to a hospital often times the medication simply isn’t available.
I wonder what would happen if people in New Zealand started dying at a rate of 10000 per day3 of a preventable disease? Just wondering.
And lets not forget the orphans. The are around 40 million orphans in the world today. 15 million of these are orphaned because of HIV/AIDS and of those 11.6 million are in Sub-Saharan Africa. 4
See….the statistics are shocking aren’t they?
So as I have been considering all these things and letting myself be confronted with the harsh realities, I have asked myself what can be done. Whose problem is it? Governments? Politicians? United Nations? Charities? Aid Organisations?The Church? Individuals? And the answer I came up with is Yes to all of these. It’s every body’s problem. There are many causes of extreme poverty, but injustice is a major one. And so just because I believe it isn’t right, I believe it’s my problem to address it. And, as Christ followers it is our very mission to break the chains of injustice and bring good news to the poor.
So, essentially my vision or idea is to:
Firstly, and most importantly develop in myself and us a heart like God’s for the poor.
Secondly, to take action to support projects that directly benefit the poor, by setting up a separate fund to which we as a local church can give as we are moved to and collectively make a huge difference. Together we could save hundreds if not thousands of lives, and
Thirdly some time in the future, to make a way where ordinary people like us can go to the destitute places and get our hands dirty and really help in practical ways to bring an end to extreme poverty.
And now, something to think about.
“What, therefore, is our task today? Should I answer “Faith, hope and love?” That sounds beautiful. But I would say – courage. No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth. Our task today is recklessness. For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature… we lack a holy rage – the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth… a holy anger about the things that are wrong in the world. To rage against the ravaging of God’s earth and and the destruction of God’s people. To rage when little children must die of hunger, while the tables of the rich are sagging with food. To rage at the senseless killing of so many, and the madness of militaries. To rage against the lie that calls the threat of death and the strategy of destruction, peace. To rage against COMPLACENCY. To restlessly seek that recklessness that will challenge and seek to change human history until it conforms to the norms of the kingdom of God.”
~ Father Kaj Munk (1944)
1Extreme poverty being defined as living on less than $1 per day. Moderate poverty defined as living on $1-$2 per day. (The End of Poverty (2005) Jeffery Sachs pp20-21)
3(The End of Poverty (2005) Jeffery Sachs p215)