Before the industrial revolution, the average income per person in the wealthiest nations was only about four times higher than that of the poorest nations. Today, the average American lives on $90+ per day and 2.6 billion people, 40% of the world, live on less than $2.
That data came from When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, which I’m reading because I have the chance to go to Zambia this summer, and I’m scared of my very white, very rich, very good intentions.
But I’m more scared of doing nothing.
Right now in Chongwe, Zambia there are four women and one man running a school/orphanage in the bush, with jacked up plumbing and 100 variously malnourished kids – and they do it for free. Tim and Holly from Scrubs Medical Mission came to cowboy church looking for a few contractors, plumbers and farmers to go help. I’ll go in a heartbeat, but I’m learning to ask God about these things before running out for typhoid shots.
Here’s what the Bible says about orphans:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:17
Whoever receives a child in My name, receives Me. Matthew 18:5
If anyone has material possession and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? IJohn 3:17
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
Authors Steve Corbett and Dr. Brian Fikkert put it this way: “If God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments were to have a concern for the poor during eras of relative economic equality, what are we to conclude about God’s desire for the North American church today?”
But we have to be smart because we know development solutions formulated in a rectory in Cleveland, don’t always translate in Africa, but that hardly relieves us from the duty. The God I say I believe commands me take care of the widow, the poor, the immigrant and the orphan, just like he commanded the Nation of Israel. They failed at it too.
Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves, do what it says. James 1:22
So I’m praying and surrendering my assumptions and educating myself about these exact people, in this exact location, so I don’t hurt them with my ignorance. God knows I’m ignorant, obese with blessing and unequal to the task, but he also knows I can build simple irrigation systems in arid places.
Maybe I can help.
I don’t know if I’m going yet. I’ll keep you posted.