Let’s make this as short and painless as possible … assuming the word “painless” can somehow find its way into this conversation.
Before doing research for this book, I really didn’t know how bad it was. I had also learned to disavow any connection to the arrival of my ancestors in this country, a Christian country that did not consider their black jungle cargo to be human. This was my confession in the book:
I could hear a familiar voice crying out to me, an ancient voice with a strangely seductive lure. Somewhere out there in the merciless jungle, amidst the lions and crocodiles and hyenas, were the ruins of an old forgotten village, a humble dwelling place of straw huts and fertile gardens and campfires that once blazed beneath the starry sky. These were the fires of my ancestors, the ones who sang and danced and hunted in the primitive cradle of freedom before surrendering to the blackness of the river.
It occurred to me that none of this really mattered in America. I was too busy living the civilized life. I didn’t have to think about an old sweaty, deodorant-less, yellow teeth, nappy-headed African, fighting to stay alive in an ocean hot box of disease and feces and vomit. I didn’t have to remember how many beaten, raped, disenfranchised Aunt Jemimas had to give birth in the muddy fields or dark slave shacks in order for me to set foot into the world. I didn’t have to remember my tragic, gritty enigmatic linkage to the whip and muzzle and chains.
But hearing the rock beat against the wheel and the old griot sing the glorious history of my ancestors, I wanted to remember. I wanted to remember it all.
So here’s my question: Does your church feel any obligation to help? Has the subject ever come up? Or do you find the most prominent announcements and discussions center on meeting the “building fund” goals? Some large churches have an entire budget and salaries devoted to foreign ministries. Others are preoccupied with the money engine and buying the pastor a new Rolls Royce. My point is once you read the book, you’re going to want to bring it up. It’s just something about the way God stirs us up.
Take the lead. It doesn’t require much. Just pick a country and a village and start feeding kids once a day. Or build a school, or just sent the money to a specific “trustworthy African charity. President Clinton, Joel Osteen, Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt, Bono, Annie Lennox, and George Clooney can’t do it all. Can’t come close. But look at the photo above. If a hundred church persuaded all of their members to give one dollar, how many meals would that be? How many school could that build? How many water well could that dig?
List complied by Katie Fullerton
1) K.I.D.S. (Kids in Distressed Situations): This large organization improves the lives of children living in poverty around the world. They provide new clothes, toys, books, and other products, as well as shelter and medical care. They’re also extremely well-run, spending 99.5% of their budget on programs, rather than fundraising or administrative overhead.
2) Concern Worldwide US: This non-governmental organization has been working towards the elimination of extreme poverty since its founding in 1968. Work, including emergency response and long-term development, is mostly focused on countries ranked in the bottom 40 according to the UN Human Development Report.
3) International Rescue Committee: This enormous organization directed over $350 million to those in need in 2011. They provide emergency aid in 42 countries, aiming to permanently improve life for victims of violence and oppression.
4) SIGN Fracture Care International: This non-profit works to provide orthopedic treatment to trauma victims in the developing world by training and equipping local surgeons. Proper treatment minimizes the financial burden placed on trauma victims and their families, giving them hope and fiscal security.
5) InterAction: This is a coalition of U.S. based NGOs that are aiming to eliminate poverty on an international scale. The partnerships allow each individual organization to multiply its impact by providing important connections, insight, and capital.
6) International Child Care: The Christian health development organization is working to alleviate many of the causes of poverty in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. By providing vital medical care for children and their families, ICC allows them to lead happier, healthier lives in less danger of falling into poverty.
7) Fistula Foundation: This organization funds the treatment of obstetric fistulas in the developing world. Obstetric fistulas occur when labor is obstructed during childbirth. They leave women incontinent, which can ruin her life. Her husband, family, and community often abandon her because of her smell. This injury is common when women give birth at home without access to trained medical help, and can be fixed with $450 surgery.
8) VillageReach: Since 2000, this organization has worked to improve the developing world’s access to healthcare by partnering with businesses, governments, nonprofits, and other organizations. They aim to strengthen local infrastructure in underserved rural areas, and facilitate the delivery of medical supplies. This effort specifically helps fight rural poverty by allowing remote communities to lead better, more fruitful lives.
9) Action Against Hunger (ACF-USA): This organization’s efforts are primarily aimed at ending global hunger. Their work saves lives by fighting malnutrition, especially in times of crisis or conflict. Programs are integrated with local and national systems to ensure long-term solutions that tackle the underlying causes of malnutrition.
10) Life In Abundance: This interdenominational Christian organization aspires to empower the local Church to end poverty in Africa’s developing areas. Their programs aim to create holistic community improvement by focusing on health, financial security, education, and social participation. By encouraging and enabling local Church leadership, long-term transformation is achieved and African families rise out of poverty.