Here in the West, we are very accustomed to seeing profound humanitarian need displayed in tear-jerking high-definition across our 4K TVs and smartphones. Whether Red Nose Day, Comic Relief or the Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge each year, the UK has never been so inter-connected and, therefore, aware of international needs and the potential force of our “collective whole”.
Whatever our charity or cause of choice might be, there are a multiplicity of socially-connected opportunities for us to fundraise, donate, sponsor a child, build a well, run a marathon or even erect an orphanage. Comic Relief alone, just this year, has raised a wapping £63 million!
But is it possible that we are missing something very obvious and something very doable?
Considering the increasing number of natural disasters we are witnessing, as impressive as these staggering figures are above, there is another urgent area of need displayed on the faces of the people in many of the nations of the world at this time: long-term partnerships through the storm.
Talking in person with Bishop Hendrick Mahlangu (Director of Hope for Africa Missions) over conference call recently, here at WorldShare we have received a privileged insight into the more realistic state of play on the ground in Southern Africa following the devastations of Cyclone Idai.
Bishop Mahlangu told us that it will take at least 12 months for these people in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe to rebuild their lives following the apocalyptic weather front that ripped through their homes and livelihoods.
It’s easy for us to donate £10 here and £20 there, sometimes at no more inconvenience to us than sending a text or calling a hotline and foregoing a weekend take-away; we can assume that we’re ‘doing our bit’ and making a tangible difference in the lives of those who suffer and, oftentimes, that will graciously be the case.
But isn’t there more that we can do?
The emphasis that shone through very clearly from speaking with Bishop Mahlangu is of the desperate need of partnerships through the storm, as it were, so that UK support can be secured from those who are willing and able to sign up to the long-term and extreme needs that are afoot.
In much the same way as a child in need might be sponsored by a family for years or even decades (rather than weeks and months) so too do these people need the regular, monthly support of prayerful finances from partners in the UK.
As I watched some footage last week of destitute people from Southern Africa dancing and singing and worshipping in the wake of Idai, just because some basic tents had been provided for them to sleep in with their families, I was humbled but also deeply frustrated at not being able to make more of an impact on this situation.
But then I was reminded of the stunning truth of Psalm 119 v 14 in which King David declares,
I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
The greatest need of transformation across the world right now - as it always has been - is of spiritual transformation - the need for people, everywhere, to hear about Jesus Christ. The humanitarian needs are obvious and real but they are also hand-in-hand with the urgent need of the gospel in these hard-to-reach places.
It struck me afresh that it is the brimming gospel truth of the verse above that will propel many of us into long-term partnerships with these people: where we are able to commit to long-term giving, we should; where we are able to write the names of people into our Bible to pray, every day, we should!
I praise God today for massive, one-off accumulative funds allocated to severe needs across the UK and the wider world. But I also pray today for a growing gospel response to our suffering brothers and sisters in remote parts of the world who need us to hold their hands through the storm to the sunrise on the other side. If we can not do this literally, my hope is that many of us can certainly still achieve this via the sharing of our finances and intercession.
Please drop us a line today to see how you can take someone’s hand and hold it through the storm.
As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.Jesus in Matthew 10: 7-8