Achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Safia Ali, a 25-year-old mother of five who lives in Somalia with her family, was startled to discover she can no longer afford the price of rice, beans or wheat because of soaring prices for food. A drought has also recently decimated her family’s goat herd. As a result, Safia hasn’t eaten for a week, and her 1-year-old son already seems to be showing early signs of starvation.
Saifia’s family is being placed at risk by soaring global grain prices. One of the reasons for this is the accelerating appetite for grain-fed meat in rapidly growing middle-class in China and India. This new global economy works exceeding well for the rich and a group called the “super-rich.” But it doesn’t work nearly as well for the middle class and the global poor, who are being left way behind.
The unexpected global food crisis impacting Safia, and many others, has virtually wiped out all the progress that had been made toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Asha-Rose Migro, the Deputy Secretary General for the United Nations, reported in a meeting on the global food crisis this past May, “Before this crisis erupted, more than 830 million people in the world faced acute shortages of food. The World Bank estimates that price increases—74 percent for rice over the past year, 130 percent for wheat—will drive another 100 million people more into deep poverty. That represents seven lost years in the fight against poverty and hunger.”
Clearly we need to join the campaign to make poverty history and put more pressure on the government to be more generous in empowering those at extreme risk and battle to take back the seven years of slow progress that were lost in the last three months. But we also need to join a new generation of Christian innovators and risk-takers who challenge us all to place God’s mission purposes much more at the center or our lives and congregations.
For example, 25 young men who are a part of an emerging church plant in the U.K. decided to significantly change their lifestyles by putting mission more at the center of their lives. They covenanted together to not work more than 30 hours a week for money, to free up 20 hours a week to work with at-risk kids in their communities. They had to, of course, slim down their lifestyle expectations to make this happen.
With soaring costs of food and fuel, many people are being forced to slim down their lifestyles a bit. But I would urge all of us to consider joining these young conspirators by intentionally freeing up either more time or resources to invest in empowering our poorest neighbors to move out of extreme poverty into a decent way of life.
Frankly, there are very few discipleship resources that challenge us to change our time-styles or lifestyles to put mission first in our lives. In fact, much of American Christianity seems to baptize the notion of allowing our class and income to define how we steward our lives instead of scriptural call to care for those in need. The marketers of this new global economy have been very successful in persuading many American Christians to spend a growing share of our income on ourselves … often on things we don’t really need.
These new conspirators, like Tim Morey of New Life Covenant church in Torrance, Calif., are planting new missional churches that focus outwardly on the needs of the poor locally and globally, instead of spending 90 percent of their income on the people inside the building. New Life has been going for a little more than three years, and 30 percent of their budget is invested in mission to those in need. For example, they help fund loans for the poor in Africa to help them make enough income to support their families.
If our churches are serious about making poverty history, like New Life Covenant, we need to take a good hard look at how of the money God has entrusted to us is invested in local and global mission. I would encourage every congregation to set the goal of increasing the amount that goes into mission by 5 percent a year until at least 30 percent is invested in mission. Then I would encourage them to invest in projects, particularly in Africa—in micro-loan programs, girls’ education and local agricultural initiatives—to increase local food production so they aren’t as much at the mercy of the global market changes, like Safia Ali and her family.
I don’t think we have any idea of how God can use our mustard seeds in our lives and congregations to make a difference in the lives of our poorest neighbors if we place His mission purposes first.
Tom Sine is author of The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time. You can visit his website at www.thenewconspirators.com.