It's incredible how the world has changed in such a short time. Is this an indication that our Lord is returning soon? If so, we should do all we can, as soon as we can, and while we still can, to give Him a most glorious welcome.
Here's what's going on:
East Africa - the cost of food assistance has increased 65 percent on average in the past year. Several national leaders have announced that they are on "the brink of disaster." In the last few weeks, famine has begun to expand. It has always been here, but until recently, the United Nations was confident that the number of starving people globally was shrinking. They declared that what they had been doing was working -- until now.
Egypt – in recent weeks, the price of bread increased 400% overnight. That's right, overnight. How would you react to that if it happened here?
Though the global inflation rate for 2022, as of the end of May, is 8.7%, many countries are experiencing a far more significant increase. For example:
• Venezuela — 1198.0%
• Sudan — 340.0%
• Lebanon — 201.0%
• Syria — 139.0%
• Suriname — 63.3%
• Zimbabwe — 60.7%
• Argentina — 51.2%
• Turkey — 36.1%
Globally - The United Nations reports that 140 million people suffer from acute hunger in just ten countries. Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Haiti, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Most of these lands are closed to American missionaries, but we have supported national preachers in all of them.
The UN says that even if they gave tens of millions of dollars to help each country, it would be only a drop in the bucket. That may be true for them, but they don't know what our Lord can do with five loaves and two fish. They don't know how, with one small cruise of oil, the widow paid all her debts and had funds left to live on. God's flow of blessing didn't stop until she ran out of pots to pour the oil into. And with all the preachers we have, you might say that we are in the pot-making business, so we will never run out of vessels useful in the Lord's service. (And for you old Hippies -- that's not the kind of pot I'm talking about.)
Their report stated that one of the problems with global food distribution is the lack of trusted agents to disperse it. Usually, it is consumed by governments, militias, and mafias. However, in our case, all the food and assistance we give – 100% of it -- is dispersed by national pastors and their church members.
This week, the Chief of the World Food Program (WFP) announced that 276 million people are struggling to find food and that 49 million people in 43 countries are 'knocking on famine's door.' This results in death and 'unmatched migration,' which ultimately destabilizes societies. Food availability will not be merely a concern, but likely the biggest concern in 2023.
We, believers, know that the future holds wars and rumors of war, famines, pestilences (fatal epidemic diseases), and earthquakes in various places. Our Master warned us of this grim future preceding His return. He compared it to the earth groaning in predelivery birth pains. Our response should not be to ignore the suffering of others because their pain does not touch us.
Even as famines spread and deepen globally, the likelihood of starvation in the United States is extremely unlikely. So, does that mean we do not need to be emotionally moved by the suffering of others? Should we not try to relieve the suffering of strangers? And what about our Christian family in other lands; are we justified to ignore their needs while we have enough, if not plenty?
We grieve with parents who have lost their children to a madman, and we should. We want to hug and help the mothers and fathers whose little child was snatched from them instantly. Like you, I cannot imagine their grief. But what of the parents who watch their child die a little more every day because they have no food to give them? Their cries turn to whimpers, their tears dry up, their hair begins to fall out, and their bones to protrude. Where there was once curiosity and excitement in life, there is now silence and malaise in their impending death. Can we not grieve for foreigners the same as for citizens? Can we not grieve for those unknown abroad as we do for those unknown at home?
Jesus said there will always be the poor. True, but stating a fact does not imply that we should do nothing to remedy it. The 5000 were not starving when he fed them; they were uncomfortably hungry at most, yet he fed them. It was not a crisis, merely a need that, in meeting it, revealed His position as the Son of God. That was His purpose, not to feed but to glorify God. The feeding was instrumental in revealing himself sent from Heaven as the Son of God.
In his final moments of extreme agony, our Lord physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually took His thoughts off himself to comfort the man beside him, with an assurance of salvation that very day. Can we not, following his example, take our attention off our financial struggles and give attention to the needs of others? If not, why not?
You will repeatedly hear me discuss this need in the coming months and perhaps years. Some will do what they can -- when they can, to help. Others will say it is better to teach them to fish than to give them a fish. Such a quaint, modern attitude that does nothing to comfort the hungry and everything to soothe the conscious of those with abundance. To that person, I would ask, when was the last time you taught someone to fish? Why not give Jesus your fish (or fishing gear and boat) and see what He will do with it! It is good to feed a starving man, and it is better to teach him to fish, but it is best to do both. Feed as you teach because he may starve before catching his first fish.
However, there are considerations. What if there is no river or lake to fish in? What if he has no fishing pole, no line, no hook, and no bait? How then will you teach him? In such cases, the platitude merely adds our insult to their injury. Not only is he still hungry, but now he is also hopeless.
My persuasion is that we should help all we can, even if it hurts us a bit, but we should do it in a way that Christ receives the glory. And while we are helping, we should first help those who are "of the household of faith," which brings me to my purpose in writing you.
In January, you helped immensely and miraculously by providing food for 500 Afghani families that were new believers. Four thousand five hundred people who are members of our family in Christ. We asked, and you gave enough to meet their needs for January, February, and March. As a result, we felt they could plant crops, find jobs, and take care of themselves when the winter passed. You not only fed them, but you also relocated all of them to areas where they were unknown and escaped certain death. Many believers in neighboring countries took entire families into their homes. They shared their hearts, their bedding, and their food. But today, with staggering inflation, droughts, and unemployment, those families can no longer feed their own, much less provide for others, yet still, they try.
Food riots are coming:
Today, only a small percentage of these Afghani families are in dire need. Still, absolute devastation has hit in other counties where bread prices have increased from 200% to 400% over the last two weeks. Their numbers come to a total of 437 families. With an average of six to eight members in each family, totaling nearly 3,500 people who are not praying over their food, they are praying for their food. Most of these families are widowed and orphaned due to sickness, famine, and martyrdom. We have lost hundreds of men (also women and teens) over the past decade because they were known to be followers of Christ. Though I dare not tell you their countries, let it suffice to say they are in the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and across North Africa.
What can we do to help our church families?
These families need survival foods for the next 2-3 months, so for "the worst-case scenario," I must assume the need will last three months. These monthly packages will include their staple foods such as flour to bake bread, milk for their children (not a formula, just milk), and burgal, an Arabic cultural food similar to rice. In addition, each family will also receive two kilos of lentils which is about four and a half pounds, four cans of meat, and one hundred eggs. (That's about half an egg per person every day.) Finally, we will also provide sufficient pure water. With the summer heat already breaking records worldwide, this alone could be a lifesaver.
The price for these monthly food packages is only $3 per family, per day. And while that is a tiny and easily attainable amount for one day's ration, it grows to $90 for a month and a staggering $270 for three months. (Don’t you wish that was your grocery bill?)
Some of us could afford to "adopt" a family for the three months at that price, but most of us cannot. Unfortunately, we are not talking about one family; 437 families need to be fed for the three months requiring $117,990. The good news is that one family has already given $20,000 toward that need, bringing the balance to $97,990. (That comes to $32,663 per month for three months.) They did so because they could and were aware of the need. I don't know what you can do or will do, but you are now aware.
Christ had other concerns of far greater spiritual and eternal matters while he hung on the cross. He was forsaken by his disciples and abused by those who had, days earlier, adored him. He was lied about by the highest authorities, shamed by his exposed nakedness, and was suffering from extreme dehydration. Finally, betrayed by a disciple, he took upon himself the weight, the grief, and the penalty of our sin. He watched as his Father turned his back on him, placed himself into his Father's care, and died. It kind of makes our problems seem tiny, doesn't it? Yet, in such a moment, he turned his attention to a malefactor (definition: a homosexual convicted of murder during a homosexual encounter). A man who was also a thief (perhaps having robbed his victim after or during the murder).
I wonder, can I take my attention off my problems long enough to help one of these families? And if I can, could I also help two?
I will share how we have been feeding and “teaching them to fish” in the coming months. I know you will be encouraged by what you learn. But until then, these families need to be fed, and to do so; I need your help.
Be assured the families are not sitting idle; these widows and families do all they can to survive every day. But they live in a region that now has no running water, sporadic electricity during the day and none at night, curfews in the mid-afternoon, and militia roaming the streets. What can we expect them to do? They don't enjoy the pain of hunger or the grief of their memories. Ragged clothes, shoes with holes, buttons missing, and too expensive to replace; these are their living conditions. The house churches have done more than they thought they could. And when they had used all you provided, they continued to give from their lack of abundance, and the families have survived an additional two months. Now their cupboards are bare, and soon, the only food left may be the leather of their shoes. We dare not sing, "come and dine," if we are unwilling to put a plate on the table for them.