Through working with the impoverished and homeless community of Knoxville and through our adoption of Godwin, the Lord opened our eyes. We were able to see "as the Lord sees." We hurt for injustice. Our hearts ache for the poor, the needy, the broken, the hopeless, the fatherless. We knew we could not look the other way. We knew God was calling us to live like Jesus - to BE his church all the time. God was asking us to step farther and farther away from what was familiar and comfortable to what was challenging and unknown. Yet, each step propelled our faith farther forward than it had ever been before. We surrendered more. Trusted more.
On page 160 of Interrupted, Jen Hatmaker compiled some shocking statistics. (I'm trusting her research). Be aware that Jen confesses to always use the more conservative number. And, yes, you may feel very uncomfortable after reading these. As Christians, I believe we are responsible for what we know, and holding this knowledge is the uncomfortable piece.
- Of the 6 billion people on planet Earth, about 1.2 billion live on $.23 a day.
- Half the world lives on less than $2 a day.
- The wealthiest 1 billion people average $70 a day. (Where does your salary compare to this?)
*If you make $35,000 annually, you are in the top 4%.
*If you make $50,000 annually, you are in the top 1%. (Yes, the top 1%.)
- Someone dies of hunger every 16 seconds. (Someone has died from hunger since you started reading this.)
- Last year 22 million people died of preventable diseases; 10 million were children.
- 27 million children and adults are trapped in slavery (sex slaves, labor slaves, child soldiers, and child slaves) because of economic crisis. More slaves exist today than ever before in human history.
- More than 143 million children in the world have been orphaned or abandoned (equivalent to more than half the population of the United States.)
- Roughly 1 Billion people in the world do not have suitable housing, and 100 million are entirely homeless. (In America, thankfully, there are many shelters. In Ghana, I've seen women renting the space under tables in the market so they have a place to sleep with their children. Heartbreaking.)
And here's a few stats Jen found about America...
- 40% of the world lacks basic water sanitation, resulting in disease, death, wastewater for drinking, and loss of immunity.
*Americans consume 26 billion liters of bottled water a day.
*Americans spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half the world spends on all goods combined.
- 4 out of 5 children worldwide work everyday instead of going to school.
*4 out of 5 Americans are high school graduates.
- 8% of the rest of the world owns a car.
* One third of all American families own three cars. (Many homes now have 3 car garages.)
- Roughly 40 million people (the equivalent of about 7 Jewish holocausts) die annually from starvation, disease and malnutrition.
*65% of U.S. adults and 15% of U.S. children are overweight or obese.
- The United States makes up 5% of the world's population, but we consume 25% of the world's oil.
Here's a few stats about Ghana from our research, not Jen's...
-The average annual income in Ghana is $1,400 per family. In America, it's $45,000.
-In Ghana, there is one orphan for every 23 people. In America, it's one orphan for every 660 people.
-In Ghana, 10% of the population has never been exposed to the truth of Jesus. By language and culture difference, the gospel is not available in their language. (In Ghana, there are over 100 languages, resulting in unreached people.)
-In Ghana, there are child slaves, orphans, widows with little available to help them.
-In Ghana, there is poverty. In America, what we call "poor" would be considered wealthy in Ghana.
-Welfare and food stamps would provide a Ghanaian year's salary in less than two months.
-In Ghana, there are many without access to clean water. Women and children are forced to walk for hours to retrieve water from unsanitary water sources. (Even in our home in Ghana, the water will not be drinkable from the faucet.)
- Running water, hot water, electricity, and air conditioning are considered luxuries in this equatorial country.
"Humbly, can you see why when Americans say democracy, the world hears greed? What seems like basic freedom to us sounds like vast consumption to everyone else? " - Jen Hatmaker
A friend once told me, "I don't like hearing these things because I don't like to feel guilty." Me either.
However, friends, the statistics above were not intended to make you feel guilty. (Although whenever guilt hits me I've found typically it's from the Holy Spirit). These facts enlighten you to reality. Real life. A glimpse outside of comfortable, convenient, easy American life into the rest of the world. It's appropriate and overdue PERSPECTIVE.
It saddens me to know that many people read these, feel a twinge, choose to ignore it and go on their merry way. God tells us not to stick our heads in the sand. We are commanded over and over in Scripture to care for the poor, to look after the fatherless, to share what we have with those who have nothing. We are commanded to give. To care. Isn't that what Jesus did?
Friends, can I encourage you to do something? One baby step tends to lead to another.
If you feel you don't have money to give, then skip your next drive through Chick-fil-A (I love it too!) or replace one weekly meal with rice and beans. Sell something of value on E-bay or Craigslist. Have a yard sale. Instead of gifts on your birthday, ask for money for charity. Collect change in a jar and give it away when it's full. There are ways to save in order to give. I'm not asking you to do anything our family has not done. If you think these things are hard to do remember the verse that says, "It is better to give than to receive." Acts 20:35
You can take Feeding the Orphan's Easter Challenge. Instead of spending money on an Easter outfit, you can wear a shirt raising awareness of the plight of orphans. Our family did this last year and we will do the same in 2012! You can then give away what you would have spent on a new outfit. You can sponsor orphans through Feeding the Orphans as well. We know a family with four children who sponsors an orphan for each child the Lord has given them biologically.
You can volunteer with a local ministry impacting the lives of those in need. In Knoxville, we have loved helping at Water Angels. We've served there for years, and always done it as a family. Check around your local area to see what opportunities are available.
Spend time with children without a father. Over and over in scripture, God refers to orphans as the "fatherless." Do you realize how many fatherless children saturate this country? They need your love. They need a reflection of Jesus in their life. Time with these children will bless you more than you can imagine. Trust me.
Pray about adoption. Don't think about all the reasons not to do it, simply pray. PRAY. There are many, many children needing a family. When you are willing to take a long, hard, honest look at the reasons not to adopt; it begs the question, "Are these reasons not to adopt, or are these excuses?" Ask God what HE wants.
And on and on...
The most difficult step is the first one. Won't you take it? After all, now that you have read all the statistics, you are responsible for what you know. The Lord desires for you to be a vessel for Him in this world. Empty yourself, and be filled with the leading of Jesus.
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25