24 years ago a group of 80s musicians formed a group called “Band Aid” to write a song to raise awareness about the famine in Africa.
MTV has listed this video as one of its top Christmas videos of all time.
Today I watched this video, and was struck by how it ends.
The images of famine are shocking, particularly the final image of a small human frame wrapped in a make shift body bag with text that says: The dying continues so the giving can’t stop.
24 years later the dying continues.
2 days after Christmas I am heading to Kenya, a country immediately south of the areas featured in this video, to assist a team of clinicians host medical clinics in the bush.
And right now, I am really struggling. I don’t know if I can handle it. I don’t know if I am man enough (or woman enough) to face the realities of life in the poorest parts of Africa.
This will be my 6th short term mission trip and my 9th international visit. As I attempt to prepare my heart and mind for what this trip is going to be about, I find myself questioning many things. I am questioning my own personal lack of response to the needs I’ve already seen firsthand.
You see, I am wealthy. Extremely wealthy. I am spoiled. And I give very little to the needs of this world. I am ashamed that for the 6th time I will travel to a country much poorer than my own, see needs, attempt to meet needs temporarily, then return unchanged.
Don’t think I am being too hard on myself here. I know many of you will say that these trips have changed me a lot. Maybe so. But if you saw my check book and you also saw the desperate needs I have seen with my own eyes you would know that I have not changed at all.
In the book “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger,” author Ron Sider references several government and NGO statistics about the needs of our world:
“According to the World Health Organization less than $3 BILLION in preventative care in the Third World could save 5 million lives every year.”
That’s 75 cents per person.
Juxtapose that against this startling reality…
“The national Center for Health Statistics reported that people in the United States spend between $30 and $50 BILLION each year on diets and related expenditures to REDUCE their calorie intake. “
I contribute to this. God forgive me for I am guilty. It’s not my fault, but as a Christian I am responsible. I’ve turned a blind eye. I have not sacrificed enough for the sake of those I’ve witnessed dying. I know this because I am one of those contributing to the $50 Billion dollar weight loss industry. Obviously there are some MINOR changes I could’ve been making all along to save and give toward the needs of those who are truly hungry.
When I worked at World Vision I saw how the money is spent — it is used appropriately and programmed by the nation’s most educated experts on health, nutrition, birth spacing, agriculture, peace building and so forth. World Vision isn’t the only organization making a difference, there are others, but I know World Vision works to relieve poverty in Jesus’ name. They don’t require the recipients of their aid to be Christian or even to hear Christian messages before receiving aid. The financial gifts given to this organization are transformed into the hands and feet of Christ Jesus himself. And all I have to do is retrain myself to understand what “enough” really is and be satisfied with “enough.” I could do so much more if I would be satisfied with enough. My greed shames me.
I sound like someone who has already gone on the mission and returned. I am writing as if I am fresh off the field attempting to process what I’ve just experienced. But somehow God is allowing me insight into this struggle, a preview if you will, of what’s to come. If I am being honest, I can see how he has been preparing me for this for years — ever since my first time out of the country, on my first mission trip to Guatemala. I saw extreme poverty for the first time and my eyes were opened. I’ve grown, I’ve been schooled, and I’ve been challenged, but I still have so far to go.
And knowing what I know, how can I go and look into the eyes of those living in one of the world’s largest slums and tell them that I was too greedy to sacrifice for their sake. Will they be offended that I am there saying I love them and want to help them but am obviously over-weight? I want to go and apologize and tell them how sorry I am. But what good are words when you have not eaten in weeks and you live with disease or infestation of head lice or worms? What good will my apologies do? It won’t make them any better off. And it certainly won’t make me feel better.
So, do they know it’s Christmas time? Probably. In some terribly fabricated ideal they have of Western culture where we all have maids and cooks and money and not a care in the world. I used to say: I don’t have a maid, I don’t have a cook. But I have a dry cleaner, I eat out regularly and last week I got a free massage for donating 30 bucks to D.A.R.E. Maid and Cook right there. I am rich. I am wealthy. And I am the rich young ruler. May God forgive me.
The Rich Ruler
18A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19″Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good-except God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'[b]”
21″All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
26Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
27Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
28Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
29″I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”
1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 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.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.
31″When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34″Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41″Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44″They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45″He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46″Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”