Wednesday, April 23, 2008

World Vision to cut aid to 1.5 million

This is just the latest in a slew of articles I've seen this week about the rising cost of food and the effect it is having on developing nations.

TORONTO — World Vision, one of the world's biggest humanitarian organizations, says it can no longer provide food to 1.5 million of the 7.5 million poor it fed last year.

The organization blames the soaring cost of food and countries not living up to their donor commitments for the decision. World Vision Canada president Dave Toycen says about 572,000 of those who won't receive its aid are children "who urgently need enough food to thrive."

Toycen predicts it will likely take at least two years for "this pricing crisis" to stabilize.

He says that's "far too long" for the millions of children under the age of five who need sufficient nutrition right now to develop properly.

Toycen adds countries around the world must ensure that "preventing child hunger and malnutrition is the top priority in the search for a solution to the current food pricing crisis."

The World Bank estimates the recent rise in food prices could push another 100 million people deeper into poverty.

The announcement by World Vision comes as experts gather in England for a summit on the world food aid crisis.

From: The Canadian Press

What are you and I willing to do to alleviate the situation? Why isn't Canada (and other countries) living up to its commitment to the Millenium Development Goals?

Shaking our heads and murmuring tsk-tsk before changing the channel back to the hockey game is not acceptable. A good start is writing to the Prime Minister or your Member of Parliament. But that is only the first step. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I Made It!

Well, I survied the 30-Hour Famine without too much distress. By the time I was able to eat at 6pm Sunday night I was actually not feeling all that hungry...until I dug into a nice big plate of spagehetti with homemade meat sauce that is!

I raised a total of $780 that will provide food in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Cambodia, and Ecuador, and fund clean water projects in Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.

Thanks to everyone for your amazing generosity!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

30-Hour Famine

Greetings blogfriends!

I start my 30-Hour Famine tomorrow at noon and I'm still about $350 bucks short of my goal of $1080 which is enough to feed three families for a full year.

Thanks to everyone who has donated so far!

If you'd still like to kick in a few bucks, click HERE and fill in the online form.

Thank you!!

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

The title of this post is taken from chapter 11 of Nancy Ortberg's book, Looking For God. I try not to flog books on here too often because I don't want Glory Rumours to become just another marketing tool. That being said, Nancy's book is most definitely worth picking up. I've been touched by several chapters, but chapter 11 in particular has really stopped me in my tracks.

I talk a big game in terms of having impact on the world and the importance of social justice as a fundamental element of my faith, but when the rubber hits the road, how often do my words remain just that...only words? Despite all of my good intentions and brainstorm of ideas, more often than not, my intentions don't move beyond words in a blog or in my journal. Read the rather lengthy excerpt from Nancy's book below and you'll understand where I'm coming from. First let me set up the excerpt:

Nancy used to work part-time at a home health care agency in Chicago. On one particular occasion, she visited the home of a Mexican woman whose husband had just left her and whose seven-year-old had been diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy (the topic of the move Lorenzo's Oil) two years earlier. After meeting with this woman and her dying son, Nancy left the house with great intentions. I'll let her take over from here...

"Almost on autopilot I started the car and drove just around the block, out of view of the house. Then I pulled over to the curb, shut off the engine, and just sat. And slowly the tears came. No sobs, although that would certainly have been understandable, just tears and a deep ache in my chest.

After a few minutes, my 'thinker' kicked in, and I wiped my face with the back of my hand. I fumbled through my files and paperwork looking for a blank piece of paper. Then I started writing. I had ideas. I could help. Others could too, and I know a lot of people who would be more than willing. Beyond tears I knew there were things that could be done, things that could make a difference. I was beginning to connect God in my thinking to what was going on in this situation. I could be a part of sharing the burden that the mother had been shouldering..."

"It felt great to connect compassion and action. The presence of God in this world, in the face of so much pain, has to mean something. It could be a powerful force in the darkness of this mother's world. the deep ache in my chest began to lessen just a bit as I filled the paper. If there was one thing I was good at, it was mobilizing people to get behind a cause. This was definitely a cause, and I became filled with hope as I imagined God's people in action in the life of this woman.

Now, before I go on, I want to ask you something, because this is important. Of all the things that I wrote down on that piece of paper, what do you think was the very first things that I did...

I'll tell you. I did absolutely nothing. I don't mean that I did absolutely nothing, and then I got started. I mean I did absolutely nothing.


Kind of disappointing and even shocking that this is the end of the story, isn't it...

I am not proud of the way I responded. But I tell you this because maybe, just maybe, you might recognize yourself in this story. Maybe there has been a time in your life when you saw a need, were deeply affected by it, and meant to do something.

Intentions are wonderful things. They are the starting points, the defining moments of our lives. But in and of themselves, intentions are wholly inadequate.

As a Christ follower, it's easy to mistake intention for action and stirrings for solutions. I sometimes give myself credit for being a pretty remarkable human being just because I feel angry about injustice, pain over suffering, or empathy in the face of hurt. But even the strength of my intentions is not an accurate indicator of whether or not I will take the time to act, to put my faith to work, to be the difference that Christ has empowered me to be.

Defining moments are only as good as the lifestyles they translate into...

So what was it? Was it selfishness? Busyness? Was I paralyzed by the scope of the need? The answer is probably yes - to all of the above. But now, years after the event, my best thinking on it is this: it matters how you live."

With apologies to Nancy and Tyndale House for the large excerpt, I have to say thank you for the brutal honesty. Thanks for sharing that same sense I get so often when my very best intentions all go for naught. I've cried real tears over the situation some people find themselves in, but rarely am I motivated enough to act. I want those tears to translate into action. To let others know that God is here, now, in the midst of pain and heartache, and He's crying too.

Nancy closes the chapter with this: "I have gotten to the point in my life where I am rarely surprised by my sin, just saddened by it. Surprise indicates that I did not think myself capable of such wrongdoing. I now know that is rarely the case.

Sadness helps me understand my need for Jesus. Sadness at my thoughts, behaviors, actions - or lack thereof.

Sadness helps me understand that without Him, I am lost."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Throwing Pigs to Pearls

At first I thought I misread the headline...

Ottawa to Pay Struggling Pork Producers $50 Million to Kill 150,000 Pigs by Fall

Sadly, I hadn't.

There are 2 billion starving people in the world and our government has decided to essentially waste 150,000 pigs in order to drive up the price of the hog market. Granted, some of the pork will go to Canadian food banks, but what about the hungry around the world who need food so desperately? Try telling some African grandmother looking after 3 or 4 kids that Canada has such an excess of pigs that it is going to slaughter them and then make pet food in order to drive up the price around the rest of the world. Sick.

This just smacks of a lack of ethics and perhaps even racism. Are our pets in North America worth more than a human life in an impoverished nation? If I may quote Bono, "Where you live should not determine whether you live."

It's just sick.

Click here to read the article.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Finding Balance

I was reading Nancy Ortberg's book Looking For God and came across this quote:

"A number of years ago, my husband went with a group from our church to Ethiopia. At the time we had two children, ages three years and eighteen months. I am sure those two little girls were on John's mind when he was serving in that greatly underresourced country.

I'll never forget his greeting when he got off the plane after being gone for two weeks. He grabbed me and the girls like he would never let us go. Then when we got in the car, as he was rehashing what they saw and did, he said, 'You know, when an Ethiopian mother who's wondering where her child's next meal is going to come from thinks of American Christians, I doubt that she is hoping we'll learn to lead balanced lives.'"

Hmmmm...puts our pursuit of comfort in perspective doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Of Boards & Budgets

It's been a long time since I last posted any really personal thoughts here, but an encounter with some old friends has left my heart very heavy tonight. We met to do our annual NHL playoff draft, which is always good for some laughs and some good-natured mocking of each other's picks. After our drafting was done however, the conversation turned serious as each of my friends expressed their joys and frustrations with their respective churches.

One friend is an associate pastor who was sharing how happy he is at his church and how well things are going for the staff and the congregation. My other two friends (both members of their church boards) were not quite so positive has they shared their frustrations with power struggles, mismanagement of church funds, conflict in leadership, etc.

While I understand their frustrations - each of them were making reasonable points - I sat there without saying very much, as all I could do was grieve for what I was hearing about their church situations. I'm sure the issues they are facing are not unique or isolated to their particular faith communities, but if these problems are as widespread as I expect they are, then God forgive us for turning away from the core message of the gospel. If those who call themselves Jesus followers cannot even get along without arguing and infighting, why should those outside the church walls have any reason to believe our message about the love of God? And why would they ever want to join a movement that sings "they will know we are Christians by our love" but whose actions are the exact opposite of love? While ministry may continue to take place in these situations, I have to question the effectiveness of that ministry.

Why is it that so much energy can be invested in arguments over budgets and buildings when there are people in spiritual and physical need just outside the walls of our church buildings? How can we fight over our religious structures when there are people, people whom God created and loves deeply, who need to be introduced to Jesus and invited to participate in God's kingdom? Who will care for the refugee and the widow, the homeless and the lost, the oppressed and the prisoner? I'm so saddened by it all.

Pray for my friends. Pray for your church leadership. And pray that we would all "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (Philippians 2:3, NIV)

The Message puts it this way: "Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."

Forgive us o God for our self-centeredness and for letting our religion get in the way of your message. Forgive us for building our kingdoms instead of yours.