I had the distinct privilege of representing the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at the G-20 Religious Leaders Summit in Pittsburgh this past September. As faith leaders from across North America, we gathered together to advocate for the now more than 1 billion people on earth who are hungry. In a world of plenty, it is simply unacceptable—inhumane, really—that our brothers and sisters are literally starving. So while the world’s leaders met to discuss sustainable global economic recovery, we—as people of faith—reminded them that any recovery must include a commitment to confront the horrifying fact that there are so many people who live in extreme poverty and hunger in our world.
I hope and pray they heard us.
As I drove home from Pittsburgh, I couldn’t get that number out of my head: 1.02 billion. This is an enormous number and yet it doesn’t relay the names, stories and faces of all those it represents. For Week of Compassion and all of us who care deeply about this ministry and how it changes lives, poverty and hunger have faces. This astronomical figure is not merely a number or a statistic—it is people.
In my heart, I brought all these people and their lives to the Week of Compassion Advisory Committee meeting last week. Twice a year, we meet to discern the work and witness of WoC. This often entails difficult funding decisions. Some of you may have heard me at some point admit that this job can keep me up at night, as we are confronted day in and day out with a world with such tremendous needs. How can we respond to them all, especially with limited resources?
Such was the conversation for the Advisory Committee last week. We agonized over how to respond to so many appeals—all of them worthy, urgent and significant. And yet we, too, are experiencing the impact of the current economic crisis as we studied a financial statement that reflected a 15% decrease in giving from last year. How then, can we respond? How do we continue to live out our mission to be the relief, refugee and development mission fund of this Church?
We do so knowing that there truly is enough for everyone. There is enough. It just means that we have to distribute resources differently. It means that we take advantage of the opportunity to reflect, re-evaluate and prioritize. It means that we keep that figure in front of us: 1.02 billion people hungry on earth. Those are the people who are most affected by the global economic crisis! Those are the ones for whom we lay awake at night, tossing and turning and trying to figure out how to share our resources in a way that will change their lives for the better.
Painstakingly, the Advisory Committee approved a 25% reduction in our final program distributions for the current fiscal year. For our 2010 budget, the Committee approved a budget 15% lower than what we would have hoped for. Needless to say, this was heart wrenching for us all. But it was also a chance for us to think about our own hearts and treasures, knowing that where our treasures are there our hearts are also.
And even though these are uncertain times, we are all certain about one thing: our hearts are with those 1.02 hungry people in the world to whom we are accountable. Ending poverty is not only a socio-economic quest, a security quest, and a moral quest—it is a spiritual quest. It is a matter of faith.
Because there really is enough—even for 1.02 billion people who are hungry.
My sincere hope is that we will all be moved to share out of our “enough” so that others may know what it means to have enough, too.