Tuesday, November 17, 2009

life saver

i am finishing the book the hole in our gospel by richard stearns, president of world vision. stearns does an excellent job of introducing global social problems to the uninitiated reader -- human trafficking, the plight of AIDS orphans, the stubbornness of abject poverty -- and calling on the church of Jesus Christ to respond with the heart of God and to be good news to the world. i was already familiar with the contours of at least some of these issues.

but here's what i found shocking: malnutrition is the number one risk to health globally -- greater than AIDS, malaria, and TB combined. nine million die each year from insufficient food. five million die from water-related illnesses. those statistics devastated me because, at least on the surface, it seems like these are the kinds of problems we could solve with relatively little cost. we're not talking about finding a cure for a mysterious disease or ultra-expensive medicines -- just access to clean water and enough nourishment. we have the technology and the resources. why wasn't this already done yesterday?

i was encouraged by a story from 60 minutes on plumpy'nut, a 'miracle' food made from peanuts, dried milk, sugar, and vitamins. that simple concoction is saving many lives. click here to see the video.

i realize that the real world is more complex than my brief description. providing this kind of relief is notoriously tricky. we run the risk of engendering an unhealthy dependence on foreign aid and unintentionally reinforcing the very poverty we want to alleviate. unjust governments and social systems oppress the poor, and people need more than just food and water for their starving bodies; they need freedom and the rule of law. and most of all, they need a chance to know Jesus who loves them and wants to redeem their lives, now and forever.

even so, getting plumpy'nut into the hands of children who are dying from malnutrition seems like the kind of thing Jesus (and the early church after him) might do. it's only a beginning, but at least it's a good one.


what use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works?
can that faith save him?
if a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
and one of you says to them, “go in peace, be warmed and be filled,”
and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body,
what use is that?

even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
james 2:14-17