Spoken by one of our national pastors/church planters in the Middle East when he received some limited rations.
Attention readers: This story will take up to ten minutes to read. I know you are busy and would prefer short announcements. But this is one of those cases that I feel you need details to understand the need, so I have written it in segments for your benefit. So please give me ten minutes. Your understanding and knowledge will benefit from doing so.
Imagine how hungry you must be to eat garbage. This condition describes 55% of the population of Afghanistan alone, more than 23 million people. But it also describes the situation in a neighboring country. But what makes that so strange is -- that it is the same country that recently allowed thousands of fleeing Afghanis to enter, seeking refuge. So, let's not talk countries; let's talk regions.
Recently, this region has faced a multi-year drought, resulting in fewer and fewer crops being produced. That, coupled with the Taliban's overthrow of the government, has caused 98% of the people to lack sufficient food to eat.
Such a scenario is easy to read about, then move on with your daily life, but what if it were you or your family? Suppose you are the father or mother who has nothing to feed your children. Winter is here, and you have no heating oil. You have lost your job, and besides, the markets are empty. You have had what you needed to survive all your life, perhaps even thrive. But this is your new reality; in 2021, a dog on the street ate better than your family does today. Your only hope is to survive until conditions improve.
Alexander the Great passed through this region on his way to India two and a half millennia ago. Later, when he began his return to Babylon, he recorded many sea-side villages which subsisted on fish alone. Other villages, further inland, ate rats and grass. They were almost entirely naked because they had nothing to produce or trade for clothing. Even his soldiers, wearied by years of travel and blood lust, carrying their meager possessions on their backs, commented on the poverty they saw. Those hardened soldiers wept and shared what they had with the people. Such conditions are now returning. But, I wonder, will his pagan legions have more compassion than the affluent legions of Christ?
If ever there was a time when the gospel reached that land, it is lost in history. The closest witness we know of was Thomas, who evangelized in lower India, a thousand miles away. But today, we are harvesting our Lord's fields with great bounty.
This region boasts no army has ever conquered it. And while that is not entirely correct, it has remained isolated to the rest of the world. Today, few armies would feel there is anything there worth conquering, other than the rare earth metals beneath the surface. The economy is devasted, health conditions are more severe than ever, and many say it is the worst winter in their lifetime. Food is more and more scarce. And now, the conditions are no better across the border where they recently sought relief.
Let me tell you a few of the stories I have heard this week.
A handicapped Brother:
One of our young men, now about twenty-two years of age, was arrested in the summer of 2020. During the torture, the beatings badly damaged nerves in his neck, and since that time, he has endured pain in his neck, back, and one of his legs. At times the pain renders him virtually paralyzed and unable to stand. This winter's chill, perhaps the worst on record, had debilitated him. He cannot work because he cannot walk or stand. His is not a permanent situation, but it is his current situation until warmth returns in the Spring. He is not unwilling to work; he is not lazy; he is disabled for his testimony for Christ.
In this region, inflation has caused the currency to lose most of its value. As a result, prices on food and other essentials have risen so high they are unattainable to the average family. Most families there now have no money for heating oil or even firewood. These are the same families who welcomed our fleeing families from Afghanistan two months ago into their homes. Unfortunately, they can no longer provide for them because they can no longer feed their own families. Still, they are infant brothers in Christ, so they share what they have, though it is little to nothing.
Two months ago, the funds to buy a loaf of bread, today buys only a slice; and it is hard, crusted, and moldy. I was told they soak the bread in water to soften it so so they can eat it. Others who can work for daily wages are hindered by the seasonal jobs, waiting for the harvest. Unfortunately, the cold has destroyed much of the crops leaving no income and no hope for future work.
How then do they survive?
Young men and ladies secretly offer their kidneys for sale to feed their families. In the past, you could sell your kidney for $10,000 to $15,000. Today they are only paid $3,000. No special care is given to those who sell their kidneys. There is often no pain medication and no post-op attention. After all, if they perish, the doctor won't have to pay for the kidney. Those who survive must walk home and recuperate without pain relief or medication for infections.
Others have resorted to scavenging garbage on the streets and city dumps. When serving as a young pastor, I remember doing the same to feed my wife and two small children. I would catch a ride to the farmer's market because I had no income to buy food or fuel for my car. As a result, I couldn't purchase the vegetables they sold there. Still, I was allowed to sift through their piles of rotten tomatoes and potatoes, fifteen feet high, decomposing in the sun. I would pick out all I could find that were salvageable, then take them home where my wife and I would carve away the mold and eat what was left. I had never felt such shame, and thankfully, my situation soon changed.
The Lord used this circumstance in my life to give me a burden to help poor preachers worldwide and eventually gave birth to founding Final Frontiers and Touch a Life. I know what they are going through; only, for them, there is no farmer's market and no piles of discarded vegetables. They are hungry, and their only hope is that their Father will feed them.
A child that perished -- this past Monday:
In another town, a family of four took two refugee children to stay with them. Having no beds, they would all sleep on the floor, huddled in the corner of the room, using their body warmth for heat. They have no beds as these are poor people. This week, the host family woke abruptly, hearing the scream of one of the children. There is an open window on the opposite side of the room from where they slept. It is open because the pane is missing, and there is no money available to replace it. For some reason, their eight-year-old daughter moved to sleep under the open window during the night. During the night, she froze to death.
As the other three children began to awake, one of them went to wake this little girl and found her stiff, lifeless body.
When I heard this, I thought, "If only I had known, I could have given funds for food, a blanket, oil for a heater, or even replaced the windowpane." And I know hundreds of you reading this are thinking the same. If only we had known. Well, now we do.
In all these cases (and there are scores), they are Jewish Believers who have chosen to follow Jesus as their Messiah, or Muslims who have risked their lives to follow Him.
A Historical/Biblical Comparison:
Realize something, please. When Paul visited and wrote to the house churches in the New Testament, he instructed them to lay aside offerings every week, on the first day of the week. The purpose, in context, was not to support the local church (though that is necessary); because they met in a house, and all the pastors were most likely bi-vocational. Their tithes went to care for those in need, widows, orphans, the imprisoned, the poor, and yes, preachers and pastors. But the offerings he spoke about were to give food and relief to the Believers in Jerusalem – Jewish Believers. A coming famine had been prophesied, and Paul wanted the Gentile churches to set aside funds so he could take relief to them when it arrived. His reasoning was the gospel (spiritual food) came to the Gentiles through them (the Jews), so was it fitting for relief (physical food) to flow back from the Gentiles to them. He honored those who gave, and he rebuked those that did not. He praised those who gave abundantly despite their poverty and chided those who could give but did not and scolded those who promised to give much but gave only a little.
I am not a Paul, but I do try to be a Barnabas, one who brings comfort to the Believers in need. Elisha caught the mantel of Elijah and doubled the miracles he performed. And if there be any mantel for me to catch, I have long hoped it would be that of Barnabas. I want to help the brethren, and the fact that you are reading this, indicates you feel the same way. So here is another way, another opportunity for us to help.
Here's what we need to do:
We have 500 families living in four different cities/towns/villages under extreme circumstances. (Praise God our work has been so fruitful!) We don't know how long, but we expect them to find seasonal jobs and take care of themselves once the winter is over. So, we are probably looking at February and March. (There are others, of course, as our numbers of converted families are now in the thousands, but these 500 families are the most desperate.)
Our director has told me that a family can scrape by on $57 a month per family. (A family will range in size from seven to nine people, so we are looking to help up to 4,500 Believers at the cost of $57,000.
Though a large amount, it is only $6.33 per person per month or 21¢ per person per day.) This amount will provide them with food, some blankets, and the ability to buy heating oil if available and, if not, some firewood. Of course, it won't pay for gourmet foods, soft drinks, or candy, but it will give them essential and healthy foods, especially for their children. Who knows, they may even be able to enjoy a cup of hot tea or coffee before going to sleep.
Some good news (-- it's about time, huh):
We were thrilled by those who gave for the release of our two preachers with such generosity. That was a clear sign that you felt their pain, made it yours, and acted to free them as you would want others to do if it were you who had been captured. Yours was faith and works. That is the "pure and undefiled religion" that James encouraged us to practice. And for doing so, I honor you.
Because of your generosity, we ultimately received $14,557 more than that need required. I had hoped those funds might sit in the bank for a few weeks, indicating that there was no crisis to avert. Still, after learning of this need, we sent those funds to provide immediate relief to these 500 families suffering from hunger and cold.
Thus, since you have already provided $14,557 (26% of the need), we have an estimated need remaining of only $42,443.
I want you to know that Nolin and I will also give for this need. What a marvelous opportunity to bless these brothers and sisters -- and their children. I hope you feel that way too.
Thank you for your time. I’ll write again with updates as the need is met.