At long last. The last FEMA trailer in New Orleans and surrounding areas has pulled away. As I intently watched the news the other evening, I could hardly believe my ears and eyes. Finally, those ubiquitous white and impersonal FEMA trailers that so many of us got used to seeing along the Gulf South are gone. More than six and a half years later, but the last one has left. Life does move on. Somehow.
And we were there. Thanks to your offerings from so many previous “Weeks” of Compassion, we were able to respond immediately to the 2005 Hurricanes. People—our sisters and brothers—who were living in those FEMA trailers were assisted in moving into their homes again. Futures were brought into clearer view. Churches were transformed. Lives were changed.
My mind skips then to the earthquake in Haiti in January of 2010. Who could have ever expected such a disaster? For what seemed like many, many long days and nights, the world seemed to stand still and all eyes were focused on Port-au-Prince. So many Disciples’ hearts are there! WoC responded within hours to the emergency. But how we were able to do so? Because you had contributed to prior “Weeks” of Compassion, knowing, entrusting, giving to a shared, common mission that works to respond to human need and suffering an average of every other day.
The severe storms that raged through the South this spring were totally unanticipated. WoC was there. Thanks to you. In Japan following the tsunami and earthquake and nuclear disaster, WoC was there, thanks to you. In the Philippines following the recent typhoon, we were there. Across Africa we are there. Our Compassion Response Fund is at work, thanks to your gifts, as it witnesses to the love of Christ shown through our Disciples family. That same Compassion Response Fund responds to those in distant places that we may never meet but also to our very own when disaster strikes at home. We stand ready to serve anyone in need—even if that might be you one day.
As we look to the current crises worldwide, and the ways that your gifts, tithes, and offerings will make such a difference this Week of Compassion, I invite you to reflect especially on the food crisis happening in our world today. There are now approximately 925 million people in our world who are hungry. 925 million—yes. Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes. We are facing the worst hunger crisis in 50 years. We know there is a horrific famine in the Horn of Africa. And now, across the Sahel region of Africa, a food insecurity and nutrition crisis is threatening the lives of even more hundreds of thousands of our sisters and brothers. Acute food insecurity in West Africa is plaguing Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad.
I am pleased to report that because of your gifts to Week of Compassion supporting the on-going humanitarian response since September 2011 in the Horn of Africa, we have had a positive impact on the emergency with some parts of South Somalia no longer in famine. However, famine is expected to persist in areas hosting displaced persons in other areas of Somalia like Mogadishu and the Afgoye corridor.
Effects of the famine on livelihoods, cereal availability as well as the potentially late and possibly below-average 2012 short rainy season harvest are expected to result in large areas of Southern Somalia remaining in emergency phase until August 2012. Sanitation facilities in targeted camps also remain inadequate. Currently, 4800 households (approximately 28,800 persons) will be served by 350 latrines whose construction is on-going. Thanks to WoC and our support of the CWS and ACT Alliance Horn of Africa relief efforts, we are making a difference in the lives of those in the camps and fighting for their very lives. We are there.
As we reach out to those literally starving to death or on the brink of starvation across Africa, we also reach across the Atlantic to Eastern Europe. Europe continues to do battle against extreme weather, as plunging temperatures and heavy snowfall sweep through large parts of the continent. The cold snap that has killed almost 500 people to date—about a quarter in eastern Europe, and many of them homeless—shows no signs of stopping, while hundreds of Eastern European villages remain cut off because of cold and snow. Thanks to your WoC gifts, we are responding through Church World Service to protect the most vulnerable population from near-freezing temperatures. In Serbia, CWS and its local partners have intensified outreach work to remove street children from the streets and accommodate them in drop-in centers or in day care centers, both operating under emergency circumstances and open 24 hours. CWS will also provide 200 warm blankets and hot meals to Roma children and their families living in settlements and will accommodate 70 vulnerable people in the Smederevo area of Serbia in a Red Cross-run residence. And remember all those Blanket Sundays many of you have participated in? In Moldova, just like in Serbia, we are providing 500 warm blankets to the most affected population.
In addition, we are monitoring the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria. And Libya. We are supporting a new mission station at South Joplin Christian Church in Joplin, Missouri. We are providing seeds and tools to farmers in Central America and the Caribbean through our Foods Resource Bank agricultural assistance projects. We are in touch with our sisters and brothers in New Zealand who are still reeling from the effects of the earthquake in Christchurch so many months ago.
And this is but a mere week in the life of Week of Compassion. Made possible only by you.
Praise be to God who continues to give us all we need to ensure that others have what they need.