"The tension is here..... Between how things are and how they should be." Switchfoot

In the developing world, 22,000 children under the age of five die every day from preventable causes.

1.4 billion people (one in four) in the developing world live on US$1.25 or less a day.

"...and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." Isaiah 58:10

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Poor Will NOT ALWAYS Be With Us

I love what Dr. Todd says in this video! Please watch it and ponder the implications. Until recently, I never thought in terms of seeing the end of extreme poverty. I only thought in terms of trying to make a difference. I'm completely convinced that when the church in America begins to wake up and start taking God's work seriously, we will see extreme poverty become history!

58: THE FILM Trailer, Fast, Forward. The End Of Poverty

I can't wait to see this film, coming in October. visit www.live58.org for more information.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Poor will always be among You

This is a great article on the passage where Jesus tell Judas, "You will always have the poor among you" How sad that this passage has been used to embrace an indifference toward the poor.  Please click on the link for a great read on this passage.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Real Life Exhibit and beyond

Yesterday April and I, along with about twenty five others, went through the "Real Life Exhibit" which is part of Medical Teams International.  Please visit http://www.medicalteams.org/sf/real_life_exhibit.aspx for more info.

For those who were not able to make it, I promise you that it's worth your time.  It's a way to step outside of our  western bubble and see how so many in our world really live.

Yesterday was 30 days since we started "30thrupoverty" and since the beginning we have said that we don't want to finish the 30 days and simply return to life as normal.  This last few weeks for us as a family have been a time of awakening and dreaming of a better world.  A world where 22,000 people do not die every day from preventable diseases, a world where everybody has access to clean water and enough food to eat.

In recent weeks I've become convinced that if we (particularly the American church) look to Jesus and take His word seriously....we can witness the end of extreme poverty. I believe what Gandhi said, " Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed"  Ending extreme poverty will only happen if those of us who "have much" are willing to scale back our lifestyle and send our resources to our brothers and sisters who don't have enough to survive. It's also important to accept the fact that ending extreme poverty will certainly have a very real cost to it.

I like what my friend Eric says, "We need to not just be moved,  we need to be mobilized"  I don't think somebody can go through the "Real Life Exhibit" and not be moved. But, oh how easy it is to only be moved and take little or no action.

It seems like when we start talking about scaling back our lifestyles, perhaps moving into smaller houses, only having one vehicle, going out to eat less, scaling back our vacations, etc... we can so easily find reasons why that's a great idea for others but, we don't necessarily feel called to that. I think we should be asking why we don't feel called to that? The reality is that the USA only accounts for 20% of the worlds population yet we consume 80% of the worlds resources. As Shane Claiborne says, "The world cannot afford the American Dream" If church goers in America are not called to live simpler lives and share their wealth with developing countries, than who is?

For my family and I this means exploring ideas that have the potential to lead to some significant changes in our life. We're looking at moving into a smaller house. (our house is currently on the market but, no offers yet) We're looking at moving closer to a Max Light-rail station so we can sell one of our two vehicles.  We're choosing not to look at the ads in the newspaper which constantly tell us that we need more stuff. These discussions and much more are ultimately about asking the question, "how much can we give" This is a shift from "how little can we give and still have a clear conscience"   I feel a little strange sharing some of this because these are personal choices that come from God changing our hearts. I don't share this out of pride, at least I don't think I do.  I  guess I just want to share how conviction into action is playing out in our lives. If all we do is feel convicted about the realities of wealth and poverty and yet we don't actually make any changes in the way we live, then what good does it do to be "convicted?"

God, Please show us the way forward.  Help us be better listeners to your word.  Show us "normal" by your standards and your Kingdom.  Amen.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The status quo

I had the privilege of watching the movie "The Help" yesterday with my wife. It's a beautiful story about courage, about standing up for what's right. It's a story about challenging the status quo.

As I watched the movie, I was struck by the reality of how Christians throughout history have so often been seduced by the culture. This has happened many times throughout history but in this post we'll just stick with the American slavery and segregation issue.

I've often wondered how I would have dealt with the issue of slavery or later segregation if I had lived in that era. Usually, I see myself fearlessly, and without restraint confronting the abomination of such injustice.  I imagine myself asking the church what the hell it's thinking!

Then I think about what it really would have been like to live in a time when it was simply normal to own slaves. What if I grew up being taught by my parents not that slavery was a wicked and shameful disgrace but rather, that good Christians don't beat their slaves or even speak harshly to them, instead they give them enough to eat and allow them to sleep inside our house on cold nights. What if my pastor and his family owned a couple of slaves and nobody thought anything of it?

Maybe, instead I would have grown up in a Christian family where my parents took a stand and refused to own slaves because they believed it was wrong but, took no further action. Perhaps my family would have gone to a church where instead of the pastor owning slaves, he taught that this is wrong but, took no further action.

From where we sit today we know that anything short of turning slavery on it head would have been insufficient.  We know that participating in it was wrong. We know that it wasn't enough for people to simply not participate in it. It needed to come to an end, period.

It seems that when a society is in the midst of such extreme injustices they don't see it as such at the time. It's simply the status quo. It's as if everybody goes into a drug induced stupor and cannot see what is so obviously wicked and abhorrent.

As I look back in history and think about the issue mentioned above as well as others, I ask myself a dangerous question.  What are we as a society currently blinded to?  What are future generations going to remember this one by?

Is it possible that future generations will look at us (especially the church) and say, "How could they have lived in such luxury and affluence while people all around the globe were starving and dieing of easily preventable diseases?  How could they have been so indifferent to their hurting suffering brothers and sisters around the world while living in such extravagance?"

I'm realizing lately that it's not enough to simply give out of our abundance and condemn the injustice of our world.  We somehow need to join those living in extreme poverty. Just like we would imagine locking arms with the slaves, we need to lock arms with the poor and together fight the causes of poverty. Doing this sounds great but, let's not kid ourselves, it will come at a cost.

I don't exactly know how all this needs to play out but, I do know that it starts with stepping out of the fog and being willing to look at the reality in which we presently live. I know that ending extreme poverty is possible but, will only come at a price. I know that only if we come together will we be able to actually see extreme poverty fade from our world. I know that I want to be on the right side of history when it's written.  I want to be with those who took the gospel seriously and were willing to actually live it out no matter the cost...no matter how strange it seemed to those steeped in the status quo!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gospel for Asia

This is a great video from Francis Chan talking about the work of Gospel for Asia (GFA).  Our family has been happy to partner with GFA over the years.  It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to send money to help an already established and thriving ministry continue to reach the hurting people of Asia.  GFA has a variety of programs in place from digging Jesus Wells that provide clean drinking water to communities, to The Bridge of Hope program that gives children an opportunity to receive food, medical attention, and an education, while learning about Jesus Christ, to purchasing tangible items around Christmas time to enable the people of Asia to provide an income to help support their families.  I would encourage you to go to their website at http://www.gfa.org/  and read about all the different ways that you can be involved in this wonderful ministry

Saturday, August 20, 2011

God's Abolishing Wealth and Poverty - God's Economy

I'm coming to realize that what needs to happen in the Church is really a redistribution of wealth. Certainly not state sponsored but, born out of choice, born out of changed, generous hearts. If we as God's people see our suffering brothers and sisters around the world who don't have enough to eat, don't have access to clean water, die from preventable diseases etc. while we live a lifestyle simply unimaginable to most of the world, then shouldn't we conclude that there's something wrong with this picture?

I fear that this is where I'm going to lose a lot of people. We all love the idea of ending poverty....until that means transferring a significant portion or our wealth to those in need. I'm convinced that the biblical model of giving looks nothing like the model in the American church as a whole.

"that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need." - Acts 4:34-35 (See also Acts 2:45 and 4:32)

If we were to apply the new testament model of giving in our churches I think we would see two things happen:

First we would see the end of extreme poverty and second we would end up seeing a significant redistribution of wealth leading to much simpler lives.

There's so much to be said about New Testiment giving but, in the end it involves great generosity and sacrifice. Most of us just give out of our abundance but, the way I see it, we're called to give to the point that we actually have to amend our lifestyle. My family and I are in this process and though at times it's a bit disconcerting, more than anything we're feeling set free!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Amazima Ministries

A couple of years ago I was reading through my adoption blogs and came across a link to Amazima Ministries http://amazima.org/.  As I began reading about this ministry I was excited to see all of the work they are doing for the hurting and starving people of Uganda.  One of the things that stood out to me is how this ministry is interested in not only meeting the immediate needs of the people, but working with the people and enabling them with resources and skills to improve their lives for the long run as well.  As I continued reading I found the link to the blog of Katie Davis, the founder of Amazima Ministries. Her blog can be found here http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/ . After reading just one post I had tears rolling down my face. As I continued to read more posts it became clear the heart passion of Katie for the hurting people of Uganda. She is a living example of somebody who is being the hands and feet of Jesus to His precious people.

When I read Katie's blog posts I feel inspired and very challenged. To see a young women living a sold out life for Christ, daily meeting the needs of her own children as well as the hurting children and people that surround her daily life, I am inspired and challenged to look at my life and evaluate what I am doing for those currently around me and for those around the world who are hurting. For me her blog has a way of pulling me out of the day to day routine and the silly things that frustrate me and gives me a good reality check on what things really matter and what is important. 

To me Katie is the modern day Mother Teresa. She is willing to forsake it all for what God has called her to do. Katie's heart and passion for the hurting and starving people of the world resonates to the core of my being. She is an inspiration and is making a difference in the lives of people in Uganda!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sam and Esther Follow Up Story

"Transformation is possible, one person can make a difference, hope is not dead"

 This is the followup story to the video that we posted on August  6th.   I'm finding that as important as knowing the needs and entering into the world of those living in extreme poverty is important, so is hearing stories and seeing God's transforming hand and heart in these hellish places.  This followup video gives me so much joy and hope!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  Matthew 6:19-21

About a year and a half ago is was thinking about this passage while I was listening to the "Radical" series by David Platt.  I started thinking about how we spend our money as a family, where our treasure is, and therefore where our heart is. I didn't like the test results.  Our hearts, it seems, were at Best Buy,Costco, Cheveron, Countrywide Mortgage and a whole bunch of other retailers and corporations. Yes, there was a very small portion going to where I wanted my heart to be. But could I really say that that's where my treasure is? In truth I was, as Francis Chan says, "throwing God the leftovers." 

After being confronted with this reality we decided to make some changes. We did this by asking, "where do we want our hearts to be"?  Then we started directing our treasure there.Though I suppose people could be manipulated into putting their treasure into something and not have their hearts follow,  I believe it does start in one's heart and that the checkbook is a mere reflection of the values, beliefs and priorities in their heart.  I also, realize that at some point, if your heart is changed your checkbook will reflect that.  In other words, there comes a time when external change needs to follow internal change. For me, that took entirely way too long, decades really.  For so long I was talking about things that God put on my heart, and He did, yet I was being so stingy with my resources.  Looking back, I know my growth in these things was stunted.  Perhaps that's one reason why the whole topic of extreme poverty has become more personal, more heartfelt and real to us in the last year and half, because we direct most of our giving to ministries that reach out to the poorest of the poor with God's love.

I, like you, get very weary of preachers telling me how good it is for me to give money to the church. I like you, have seen the obscene excesses on TBN and the like.  In the past I've gotten so cynical or scared to give money for fear I was getting scammed, that I simply didn't give (Classic sign of a stingy person by the way). 
I do want to be very clear here.  I do not, nor do I recommend giving to a ministry blindly.  Know where the money goes, consider asking for the latest financials, if they're a larger ministry, check charitynavigator.org or other watchdog groups.  My point is that we can find so many reasons not to give our money to help the poor, and this can quickly lead to greedy hoarding of wealth.  The only reason I know this so well is because until fairly recently, I've lived that out. 

As we move forward on this blog I want to present opportunities in addition to the "Real Life Exhibit" for you to get involved. One way is to give generously to ministries like the ones we're highlighting on this blog. My prayer is that as you take the time to watch some of these videos and visit some of these websites/blogs, that you will be moved in your heart and your treasure will follow.  I know for me and my family, it has been a time of joy and satisfaction that cannot be bought at Best Buy or Home Depot!

"How many more cars, clothes, toys and trinkets do we really need before we wake up and realize that half of the world goes to bed every night with empty stomachs and naked bodies?"   KP Yohannan - (President of Gospel for Asia)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lack of Options in Extreme Poverty

A while back I was part of a discussion with a couple of my coworkers during break. One of them said he thought that there were too many charities in the world.  To that I said that as long as there are starving people and people dying of preventable diseases/causes, that perhaps there should be more, not fewer charities in the world.  As we dialog-ed about world poverty and he shared with me why he is where he is today, (lots of hard work, sucking it up, etc.) it became clear to me that he believes that the same opportunities that exist in America and other developed countries are the same that exist worldwide. Instead of telling him that he was speaking out of mind-numbing ignorance on a subject he knew nothing about (which is what I pretty much told him), I WISH I would have simply painted a picture for him by asking him some questions. Questions like, "What do you think it would be like to work all day long everyday to simply survive?"  "I wonder what it would be like if there was no connection whatsoever between how hard you worked and the results you got?"  This is the reality for approximately 1 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.

It struck me how shortsighted and arrogant we can be to think that our brothers and sisters in developing countries have the same opportunities as we do! Imagine being born into a slum somewhere in sub-saharan Africa or India for example.  You grow up seeing your parents toil for long hours every day so that you can eat a simple meal at the end of the day. At a very young age you are put to work for the same purpose. You see some of your friends get sick from the same contaminated water that you and your family drink from.  You see some of your friends die from diarrhea caused by the polluted water. Some of your friends get malaria and die because they don't have any kind of access to healthcare. You don't know how to read or write because your parents need you to stay at home and work in order to survive. Besides, they wouldn't be able to afford  the uniform required by the nearby public school anyways.

 Now imagine how ridiculous it would be to tell these people that they need to work harder to improve their situation and em-better themselves. Keep in mind that words like public assistance, food stamps, food programs, school loans/grants, work programs etc. are simply not part of their vocabulary.

The point I'm trying to make here is not that we should pity our brothers and sisters in these situations and simply give them hand outs. I'm suggesting that we have compassion on them by first understanding how few options they really have. We have to step out of our western mindset for a bit and try to walk in their shoes before offering our solutions. Ultimately, the question is, What is God asking of us? I think of the scripture that says, "Love your neighbor as yourself"  Would I want my child to die from a preventable disease? Would I want my only option for water to be a contaminated water source a mile or two away from where I live? Would I want to be hungry and see my child malnourished?  I think when we dare to actually somehow live out a well know passage like this, it can quickly become clear how radical real Christianity is when contrasted by our cultural norms.

One opportunity to step out of our western world into the shoes of those who are living in extreme poverty would be to attend the Real Life Exhibit at Medical Teams International in Tigard, Oregon, on August 28, 2011.  They will be having an open house between the hours of 1-4 p.m. with the latest entrance time of 3:15 p.m.  For more information you can go to the following link.http://www.medicalteams.org/sf/real_life_exhibit.aspx.  Please check their event schedule if the above date does not work for you.  Some other opportunities would be to read the books listed on the sidebar of the blog under recommended reading and watching movies that tell the story of  people living in a world so different from our own.  (i.e.  Slumdog Millionaire, War Dance, Triage; Dr. James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemma, just to name a few...)

Friday, August 12, 2011

"There is never going to be a day when I stand before God and He looks at me and says, 'I wish you would have kept more for yourself.' I'm confident that God will take care of me." David Platt

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Devastation Happening in the Horn of Africa

So far this blog has been used to raise awareness of the extreme poverty around the world.  As we continue to bring awareness we would also like to provide you with ways that you can make a difference in helping the millions of people who are living in extreme poverty today.

The news clips that are coming from the devastation that is happening in the Horn of Africa is overwhelming and heartbreaking. The sheer number of people that are being affected is staggering.  To think that 30,000 children have already died in the last 3 months alone in mind blowing.  I agree with the reporter in the above new clip that the headlines of every newspaper and every news clip should speak of the 600,000 children who are on the brink of starvation every single day until there is action to help these children.  To think that over 12 million people are starving is hard to even comprehend, yet it is true and it is happening RIGHT NOW!

Living in the Western world we are so far removed from situations like this.  It is only when I view these news clips as though it were ME walking those long dusty roads in the heat of the day with no food or water.  It is when I picture myself carrying my dying child while my other children struggle to walk out of sheer weakness from lack of food and water.  It is when I put myself in the place of the mother who has to decide which child to continue this long journey with and what child to leave behind.  It is when I put myself in the place of the mother who has to walk away from their child who just died, knowing there is NOTHING I can do, but continue on in hopes of getting help for my children that survive the journey.  When I put myself, my children and my family into the equation that is when stories like these really pierce my heart.  It takes an intangible situation and makes it personal! Every one of these people have a name, they belong to a family, etc. If I were in this situation I would hope that somebody would help me.

Stories like these are too much to take. It seems so unfair, so unjust, as Bono says "It is shocking.  It is disgusting!"  As my heart crumbles and the tears fall it is then that I cry out to God and ask what can I do to help?  How can I put action behind the compassion or emotions that I am having?  How can I make a difference?

There are several things that I and you can do to help.

1. Pray for the people of Africa.  The unimaginable grief that so many people are feeling right now must be crushing.  Pray that God would comfort them.  Pray that people would step up and help in any way possible to make this insanity stop!
2.  At the bottom of this post is a link to a petition you can sign to call on governments to save the lives of millions in the Horn of Africa.
3.  Make a donation.  Though there are many organizations out there, we as a family have supported Medical Teams International (MTI) for many years.  We can personally testify that they are a top-notch ministry.  You can check out their rating on Charity Navigators by following this link http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=4070

Right now MTI has medical volunteers and staff hard at work to help those affected by this famine.  In a letter I recently received from them they stated that "A generous donor just offered to match all gifts for our east Africa famine relief effort-up to a total of $90,000.  With your help, we could quickly send $180,000 in emergency relief to people suffering from the famine - helping more than 36,000 people in the next three months."

An example of how far your American dollar will go in Africa it is stated that
"For $5 you can provide the medicines and care needed by one person.  $30 will help us care for a family. $90 will help three families. $150 will help five families."
The above figures are "because our volunteers contribute their time.  The medicines and supplies come from hospitals, clinics and generous companies here at home.  On  the field, we work with trusted local partners who know the needs and the best way to respond."

Please check out Medical Teams International's website at http://www.medicalteams.org/sf/Home.aspx for ways that you can get involved and make a difference.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I find this quote extremely sobering...makes me shudder in fact.

"In my experience, 95 percent of believers who face the test of persecution pass it, while 95 percent who face the test of prosperity fail it." - heard by Randy Alcorn from a leader of a persecuted church in Romania

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

If you live in the USA, chances are you're probably rich.

Check out www.globalrichlist.com

If you make $47,500 (US) than you are in the TOP 1% richest people in the world!  Let's face it, most of us are filthy rich! For way too long I've thought that when the Bible gives warnings to the rich it was for people that made a lot more money than I do. The fact is, I'm ridiculously wealthy by world standards.

"From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." - Luke 12:48

It's so easy to point out the greed of the Wall Street fat cats, and most of them are greedy bastards individuals, But what about those of us middle class church going folks that claim to be Christ followers?  Most of us are still in the top 1% richest people on the planet.  Is it really the Jesus Way to give our 10% and do what we want with the rest?
I think of Zacchaeus who after coming to know Christ, gave 50% of his wealth away and paid back 4x what he had cheated people. Generous giving flowed from his changed heart. The early church in the book of Acts sold property and houses and gave to those in need. Again, extremely generous giving seems to be the norm for those who know Jesus. To my knowledge, there is not even a mention of a tithe in the new testament. Only verses about generosity and being a cheerful giver and the like.

So, what does a Christ follower who is in the top 1% of income earners do with his wealth? Live in a nice house? Have nice cars? Put lots of money into retirement? Have lots of toys? Go on lots of vacations? And give 10% to his church?

These are the things that we as a family are wrestling with as we ask ourselves what it means to "spend ourselves in behalf of the hungry" as we're exhorted to do in scripture. (Isaiah 58:10) 

To be honest I see some more significant lifestyle changes coming our way.  I'm praying that we do nothing more than simply follow Jesus, the Jesus Way.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Save the Date!

Sunday, August 28, 2011, from 1-4 p.m.  Come and experience the Real Life Exhibit at Medical Teams International, located in Tigard, OR.  Here is the link for more information http://www.medicalteams.org/sf/real_life_exhibit.aspx   It takes about an hour to go through.  I'm thinking one group at 2:00 and another at 3:00.  I'll post details later but, I wanted people to get the date on their radar.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thoughts on the realities and statistics of extreme poverty.

I've been contemplating listing a bunch of statistics on this blog that pertain to extreme poverty.  Then I look at just two statistics listed just below the photo at the top of this blog.

Approximately 22,000 children under the age of five, die every single day. They die from causes most people in the U.S. rarely worry about. Malnutrition. Unsafe drinking water. Lack of a five-cent vaccine.

I wonder what it would be like to be one of the 1.4 billion people on the planet that work all day to earn $1.25.  Many of them will only eat one meal a day, sometimes not even that. 

I try to imagine one of my three children not having enough to eat.  Or I imagine that one of them has diarrhea and is dying from dehydration and all I can give her is more contaminated water. I start to burn with anger by the time I try to imagine one of my beloved children perishing because I was not able to get them a 5 cent vaccine!

If I'm honest, there's a part of me that wants to simply not believe these things are happening in our world today.  Or to somehow believe that there's just nothing that I can do about it.  I think the simple truth is that if I choose to believe that the above facts are indeed true, and they are, and that I can somehow do something to change these grim facts, then I'm confronted with a choice, a decision..... I either move toward or away from the calling...how can I possibly turn away?  Yet so often I do.  Maybe, I haven't been seeing it so much as a choice, I've been  passive, only seeing when there was simply no other place to look.

I also think of what Rich Stearns mentions in the article we posted yesterday. " Poverty is not an image, or a statistic; poverty has a face, a name and a story."  I think this is key to connecting with those who live in worlds so different from our own. 

So, as we go along there will be statistics mentioned  on this blog because I think they are important to look at.  However, the two mentioned here today are enough for me to contemplate for now.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Great perspective from Rich Stearns regarding 1st world and 3rd world problems.

Richard Stearns


Reflections on the Horn of Africa Drought: Jesus, Stalin and Casey Anthony

Posted: 7/26/11 08:00 AM ET

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink ..." --Matthew 25:35-36
Jesus' words are a powerful and inspiring reminder as I sit in my office browsing on news websites the stories and images of the staggering tragedy unfolding in the Horn of Africa.
Nearly 10 million people are "critically short of food," according to the United Nations, due to what UN officials say is the region's worst drought since I was born 60 years ago. Those 10 million people live in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti and war-ravaged Somalia.
For some, the stories and images will be reminders of the Ethiopian famine. Twenty-five years ago, the images of bloated, dying children, images unlike any others seen before by millions of Americans, prompted a massive outpouring of donations and offers to help. That outpouring culminated in the "Live Aid," concerts in Philadelphia and London, the latter of which brought a group I had never heard of before to the world's attention -- U2.
For others, the name "Somalia" brings back the events of 1991-1994 when hundreds of thousands of Somalis were starving, prompting a U.S.-led peacekeeping force to intervene. That effort led to a military operation against Somali warlords and, regrettably, the deaths of 42 American soldiers.
I am reminded of two things.
First, the faces, the voices and the stories of people I've met in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Kenya was the first nation I visited after joining World Vision in 1998, and where I learned one of the most important lessons of my life: Poverty is not an image, or a statistic; poverty has a face, a name and a story.
Second, I am reminded of the powerful and provocative quote from Josef Stalin: "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."
I fear that for many Americans -- Christians and people of other faiths or no faith -- will devote little time or attention, let alone resources, to the people suffering in the Horn of Africa. Rather they are preoccupied with "First World problems":
  • How fluctuations in the stock market are affecting my 401(k) investments;
  • Where to go on my next vacation;
  • Whether to buy "name brand" or "store brand" items in the supermarket;
  • Which diet and workout regimen will enable me to lose 10 pounds in a month; or
  • The struggle over my next computer -- a notebook, a laptop, or the new iPad2?
Or worse, they are obsessed with finding out where Casey Anthony might be living, now that she's been released from jail after being acquitted of charges that she murdered her daughter, Caylee. Thousands of Americans followed Ms. Anthony's trial closely, and expressed outrange when she was found not guilty. They wanted justice for Caylee's death. Where's their outrage or sense of justice for the millions of children at-risk of dying in the Horn of Africa? Their lack of attention proves the late Soviet premier's admonition.
Many "First World" Americans have never met a person with "Third World problems":
  • Whose income is2 a day and who has never heard of a 401 (K);
  • Whose only travel plans are traipsing by foot from Somalia into Kenya to a refugee camp;
  • Whose primary source of drinking water is infested with animal feces, and has never been inside a supermarket;
  • Who lost 10 pounds in the last week because of too little or even no food, and who has no use for a health club membership; or
  • Who has no access to electricity, and does not need -- and maybe has not ever seen -- a computer.
I have the privilege of knowing people facing both First World and Third World problems. It is a privilege because, I believe, Jesus would consider it a privilege. He met with, ate meals alongside and learned from those His society considered its lowest and its outcasts -- prostitutes, tax-collectors, the poor and victims of injustice.
He would have been honored to meet and serve people like Hawo, a woman believed to be about 75-years-old who lives in Kalabeyr, a remote town in northern Somalia. Thanks to my World Vision colleagues working in the region, I know more about Hawo, than I ever will know -- or even want to know -- about Casey Anthony.
After the drought killed the more than 500 goats and sheep Hawo and her eight children lived on, they were forced to abandon their pastoral way of life and move to Kalabeyr. The nine of them live in a makeshift tukul, a small room within the compound of one of the town residents.

With no more livestock to provide for her family, and no money to buy water for drinking and cooking, she walks to a local market to beg for five or 10 liters of water.
She would love to buy 20 liters, but the price is beyond her reach: 40 cents. That's less than half the change I leave in the jar for tips at my local Starbucks.
It is Hawo whom Mark Bowden, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, might have been thinking of when he said recently: "Resources are woefully inadequate. We have an appeal that is at the moment only 40 per cent met. ... (W)e find ourselves as the humanitarian community in a position that we want and are able to do more, but just don't have the resources with which to do it."
Jesus' words about hunger and thirst, as quoted in Matthew, led me a few years ago to create an NIT version (New Irreverent Translation), one that Americans obsessed with "First World problems" might relate to:
"For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water."
We did not create the desperate conditions of drought and famine threatening the lives of 10 million people in the Horn of Africa. But, as Christians, it is our responsibility to do something about it. It is our moral duty to help our neighbors in need -- here in the U.S. and elsewhere, and God commands us to help those we have the means to help. We cannot look at their situation -- on television, in newspapers or magazines, or on the Internet -- shrug our shoulders, and say, "Not my problem."