Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Africa pt. 2

Horn of Africa map by World VisionSo the rains have come to the horn of Africa, but even the much needed rain brings its own problems. Now there is too much rain in some places and the water is washing away what people have. Also the dead animals left behind by the drought - even camels were dying it was so dry - create another problem - disease. It is enough to make a statue weep.

Many of the people in this region are subsistence farmers or nomads who have herds of livestock. According to the World Food Program's Kenya Country Director, Tesema Negash, the rains bring little help. "While they have alleviated the immediate need for water, there is increased risk of people falling sick from drinking contaminated water," he said. "Livestock deaths have continued because the animals are too weak and vulnerable to diseases such as pneumonia when temperatures drop at night."

So even if the rains water the thirsty, it will take years to restore things. The herds are still dead, the plants need re-planting and the people who have died are still gone. No return for them.

The WFP Website says that since January the United States has given a total of $46 million to help the crisis in Kenya. (C)WFP Image_Bruno Stevens Photobucket Another problem the rains bring is that they make the roads impassable. So food that is available to people cannot reach them because the trucks cannot pass the high waters.

Still another problem is the human reluctance and outright evil toward one another. In Somalia, there is basically no central government. So there is no one to protect the food from roving gangs with AK-47s that steal the food or rob the people delivering it.

In Eritrea, there is actually food that is in danger of rotting because of a government restriction on aid. The UN estimated in 2005 that up to two-thirds of the 3.6 million Eritreans needed food aid. But the government there insisted that its harvest was not as bad as the UN said and reduced the number of people receiving free food aid from 1.3 million down to 72,000! That's more than a 94 percent decrease.

According to the WFP, its emergency ration includes "about one and a half cups of rice or flour, a tablespoon of beans or lentils, a spoonful of oil and a pinch of salt. It costs an average of $0.29 and provides 2,100 kilocalories - the recommended daily energy intake for active adults.

The people most at risk of malnutrition - especially women and children - often receive specially blended foods that contain all the vitamins and minerals they need to survive. They may be given this food in biscuit form or in a flour which can be mixed into porridge. The average cost of a day's ration of high-energy biscuits is $0.55."

Do the math; that's 55 + 29 or $0.84 a day! I spend more than that on one soda at work! Dead Camel by WFP

My wife says its easy for me to feel guilty; maybe it is. Maybe I have an overinflated sense of justice. And yes, it is true, that Jesus did not minister to everyone He came in contact with. But He also looked on the crowds with compassion, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He healed their sick. Jesus specialized in the "ragged, bleeding edges of society" so how could we not expect Him to be in Kenya, or Somalia, or Djibouti, or Indonesia, or Pakistan?

We pray for revival in the West, and don't get me wrong, people here are equally valuable, but how can we ask God to bless us when we have been blessed beyond all belief!? Should God indulge us while millions starve?

And apart from the Gospel, people go to hell. Forever.

The group Mercy Me had a song called "I Can Only Imagine" that talked about being "surrounded by your glory" and what it would be like when "All that I can do, is forever, forever worship you."

But let's flip that for a minute. What if the song were about that other place?

I can only imagine
how dark it will be,
when they toss me
in the fiery sea.
I can only imagine.

I can only imagine,
the agonizing pain,
when I cry out,
for just one drop of rain,
I can only imagine.

Surrounded by the darkness,
what will my heart feel?
Will I understand the warnings
that said this place was real?
Knowing that forever,
I'll never see the light.
But for the bounding ages
I'm trapped in burning night?
I can only imagine.

See the consequences of doing nothing are high.

Do I mean to make you feel guilty? No.

But apart from the Gospel - the whole Gospel that includes a holistic approach to people's lives, millions in Africa, in Pakistan, in Oceania and Indonesia, in India - wherever they are shut off from the love of God manifested in Jesus Christ - will perish.

That cannot be the will of God. We must not insult Him by saying it is.

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