During my time living and working with World Concern in East Africa in the 1990s, I remember visiting a community in the Juba valley of Somalia. This village was hundreds of miles from any safe water source, so World Concern rehabilitated a well in the area. As I approached the massive area that surrounded the well, an astonishing sight came into view. Multitudes of people and animals crowded around the water source, trudging through mud to reach the water.
As I watched people drink from this well, it really hit me how critical this vital resource—water—is to human survival, and to any possibility of escaping the grip of extreme poverty, sickness, and hopelessness.
My thoughts shifted to the thousands of other communities who were (and still are) waiting for water. The impact of water-borne diseases on people—of parasitic infections on children—is staggering. Children’s bodies are depleted of nourishment, growth is stunted, and their systems weakened by intestinal worms that suck the nutrients from their food and cause constant pain. Young girls and women spend the better part of each day walking 5 to 10 kilometers carrying 20-liter jugs of water on their heads or backs…
And I asked myself, how can we change this story?
It’s hard to imagine living your entire life lacking water and under the threat of water-borne illness. I only had one experience in Somalia when I got sick from water—and it wasn’t even from drinking it! I had a rule: Never eat salad. As long as I ate cooked food, I knew the bacteria and parasites would be killed in the cooking process. But for whatever reason, I decided one time that the hotel I was staying at was nice enough that I would eat a salad there. Boy, was I wrong. I got so sick. I won’t go into the gory details, but suffice it to say, I won’t ever forget that experience.
The fact is, the tiny droplets of water that had come in contact with the lettuce in the washing process contained microorganisms that I couldn’t see. The hidden danger in the water was invisible.
I learned my lesson, and thankfully recovered in a few days. But millions of people don’t. They live with constant sickness that ravages their health and traps them in a cycle of suffering.
Their only chance at freedom from sickness and suffering is a sustainable source of clean, safe drinking water. And the good news is, that’s possible. I’ve witnessed the dramatic impact clean water has on lives and entire communities.
We can change someone’s life by changing the quality and purity of the water they drink. I don’t know what else is quite so life-giving as when you give a community water. It actually makes me emotional to say that. When we connect with people at the point of human need, it’s profound.
Africa, in a lot of ways, shaped my theology. And I believe that water is a reflection of God’s goodness to us. The hope and opportunity clean water gives people is so powerful.
One of the most powerful and timeless parables that Jesus told was the parable of the good Samaritan. The term Samaritan is recognizable in many languages and when used, people understand what it means, even if they’ve never read the bible for themselves. We even have organizations named such!
But let’s recall the context. Jesus tells the parable in response to a question by a man trying to justify himself, trying to set himself apart, superior, better. The question? “Who is my neighbor?”
This itself was in response to the question ‘what is the greatest commandment?’ Love God with all your might, and your neighbor as yourself. But the man was not satisfied with that.
Jesus tells a parable that utilized one of the most stark and entrenched divisions of his day. We read this in the 21st century and often think of it as a ‘nice’ story, but in Jesus day, it was anything but nice. It was pointed, provocative, and definitely insulting to a whole lot of people who thought themselves better.
Why do I mention this? Because in this parable, we are faced ourselves, in our day, with issues that offend—some would say, insult—certain groups. Right now, racism has come once more into the foreground, and the people of God are challenged as to how to respond—as they should be. What will we do? Will our own prejudice get in the way?
World Concern, in its work around the globe, faces these issues every day. From the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar to the long-term conflicts between the Dinka and Nuer tribes of South Sudan. Let’s be honest, the world has a global problem; we here in the US simply have our own variant, rooted in history, which so many of these issues are.
The reality is, the scourge of racism, tribalism, and clannism—systematic oppression of one people over another—is endemic in our world. It is a virus far, far more damaging than COVID-19. One of the things that World Concern has learned through our work, successes and failures, is that ultimately, it’s about power and dignity. Who has the power, and who doesn’t, and how do those in power wield that power? In our Transformational Development work, exposing issues of power, and giving voice to the oppressed, is at the core of what we do. Valuing the voice of ‘the other’ is central to what we do.
This is ultimately life-changing… people begin to have hope, they understand they have value and meaning, and that all powerful component… dignity. That’s a game changer! People, whether a tribe or an individual gradually realize that they don’t have to always see themselves as the left outs, the bottom of the pile, the worthless. They have value and meaning.
Many of you who engage with what we do have a hand in these lifechanging encounters. Thank you. You are helping bridge divides that have been in existence for generations.
When Jesus told that parable, he was essentially saying to us, “The equation has to change.” You no longer have the freedom to love God, yet discriminate against your neighbor due to history, race, color, or whatever other factor you want to add. This is all our challenge; this is the world’s challenge.
Jesus ended by asking his questioner, “Who do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” To which the questioner replied, “The man who showed him mercy.” The questioner could not even bring himself to use the word ‘Samaritan’!
And Jesus answered, “Go and do the same.” May God give all of us the grace and courage to face those prejudices latent in our own hearts. As you pray for, and give to, the work that World Concern does around the world, pray that our staff and teams continue in humility, wisdom, and the courage to reflect the Good News of God’s work of reconciliation for ALL of us.
For Sokina Begum, a young mom in rural Bangladesh, it’s not the threat of a deadly virus that keeps her up at night – it’s the cries of her children and the hunger pains in her own stomach.
The government lockdown in Bangladesh means her family is crowded together inside their tiny shack that’s part of a slum for landless, poor beggars. It also means she’s forbidden to leave the house to work. Sokina’s husband is crippled and unable to work, and her two daughters, ages 11 and 6, are hungry.
Before the pandemic, she was earning about $2.35 a day collecting fish, which was enough to feed her family and even send her eldest daughter to school. But now, there’s no way to work, and their food supply had run out.
“If I do not work a day, our food and other things are uncertain. It has been more than 25 days. I have no work and I don’t have any savings,” said Sokina. “I can’t go to work anywhere. I am living a helpless life in this situation. My children are crying for food.”
But a ray of hope arrived at her door when World Concern staff delivered emergency food and hygiene supplies.
World Concern teams delivered emergency food packages to 480 families in Sokina’s neighborhood. Each family received 16 pounds of rice, 7 pounds of potatoes, 2 pounds of onions, plus lentils, oil, and salt.
“I believe this package came from God for our survival,” proclaimed Sokina, who believes the food came just in time. “Otherwise, we may have died.”
In addition to food packages, 4,000 masks and 3,000 bars of soap were distributed to families in need. Handwashing stations were also set up around villages, and important Coronavirus prevention information was broadcast over megaphones attached to rickshaws.
Father of four, Shajahan Bayati, also received emergency food and supplies for his family. Within a week of the lockdown, they had completely run out of food. Shajahan tried operating his rickshaw to earn some money, but was sent back home by the police.
He was grateful to receive the desperately-needed food.
“It feels really good at that moment because I had nothing to eat,” he said. “Now we can have three full meals a day for a week and my children will be very happy.”
In Bangladesh, distributions are done house-to-house to avoid crowds, and staff and beneficiaries maintain safe distances and wear personal protection, such as masks and gloves.
In countries like Laos, where rural farmers already struggle to earn sufficient income from the rice crops so many depend on for food, the COVID-19 crisis is making matters worse. Food supplies, market pricing, and distribution are all unstable.
To help ensure families have enough to eat, 270 farmers in 8 villages recently received 30 kilograms of rice seeds. Rice banks will be established in the villages, and these farmers will, in turn, 35 kilograms of their harvested seeds so that more farmers can borrow and benefit as well.
“We are thankful to World Concern for giving us this high-yield and quality variety of rice,” said one of the farmer, Mr. Bounkert.
As the pandemic worsens in developing countries, like Somalia, where COVID-19 comes on the heels of drought and locust infestations, food prices are skyrocketing and livestock herds diminishing. Hungry children received emergency nutrition packets that save lives and restore malnourished little ones to health.
As families and communities in the world’s poorest places do their best to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting social interactions and staying home, the very activities they depend on to survive are also limited, leading to hunger and despair.
Though most businesses are being impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic, one Northwest business is keeping morale high and not letting up their commitment to giving back and serving others.
Josh Bayles, branch manager at Capstone Home Loans in Lynnwood, Washington, says he’s grateful to be working during this time when so many have lost jobs and livelihoods, but the mortgage industry has not been immune to the current crisis.
“We’ve seen a reduction in the variety of loan options we can offer,” he said. “But our whole team is working overtime, lowering rates through refinances, and helping clients purchase homes. And, believe it or not, people are still buying homes right now!”
In addition to supporting multiple local charities such as the Everett Gospel Mission and Olive Crest, through their employee-funded Community Chest Fund, Capstone is also a faithful annual sponsor and supporter of World Concern’s Free Them 5k.
“We have a special heart for World Concern and for this cause—helping rescue kids from trafficking,” said Josh. Capstone has formed their own team for the Free Them 5k and have set a goal to protect 100 children from trafficking, exploitation, and harm, through their team’s fundraising efforts.
As some are pulling back from giving during this time of uncertainty, Josh says they’re committed to keeping the spirit of generosity and helping others going.
“My partners and I are men of faith and we trust God with our finances. We want to give our ‘first fruits’ back to Him from our business income and net profits,” he explains. “We have an extra responsibility and privilege to share what we’ve been given with those in need, and we’re grateful our business enables us to do that.”
To sign up for the 2020 Virtual Free Them 5k and join the fight against child trafficking, visit www.freethem5k.org.
We’re all painfully aware of the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on families, jobs, small businesses, the economy, and nearly every aspect of our lives. The long-term impact and ripple effect of this virus could be devastating for many months.
The impact will be even greater on the world’s poorest families and on those whose lives are already a struggle.
For us, the grocery stores remain open and the supply chain is functioning. Not so in the developing world. Imagine if your only source of income and food was a market where you could sell a goat or other livestock to pay for necessities like food, water, and medicine. Now the government has had to close that market in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.
“People are not scared of the virus, they’re scared of not having food,” explained one World Concern program manager.
Families who live in countries on lockdown can’t leave their home to work, or sell goods for income.
Now imagine you’re in this situation and you hear of a way to earn money in a city across the border. Someone told you there are jobs there. Your teenage daughter is healthy and strong and can make the journey. So you let her go… not knowing she’ll be sold as a slave into the sex industry.
Or, imagine a wealthier family offers to take your little girl into their home and pay for her living expenses if she’ll marry their son.
People who are hungry will do desperate things.
A crisis like this one that destroys already fragile economies and infrastructures puts those who are vulnerable to crimes like human trafficking, child marriage, abuse and exploitation, at even greater risk.
World Concern’s model of community empowerment is effective in a crisis like this, as we’re able to incorporate COVID-19 messages and hygiene promotion within our community-based programs, such as care groups, nutrition programs, savings groups, and child protection programs.
Our long-term village development work is also proving to be vital in sustaining families and communities during this unique crisis. As families have learned to diversify their livelihoods and sources of income in preparation for crises, and to grow their own vegetables and sustainable crops, they are better able to survive.
Parents who have received vital training and information on the dangers of trafficking and the harmful effects of child marriage are able to lean on that knowledge now more than ever, and avoid these risks, even in desperate times like this.
All the work that has been done—and is being done—in remote villages, crowded urban slums, and hard places beyond the end of the road, with the help of our supporters, is proving powerful and effective through crisis.
If you’re interested in helping protect the most vulnerable girls and boys from the increased danger they now face with COVID-19 and economic impacts in their communities, consider walking or running on May 9 in the 2020 Virtual Free Them 5k to stop child trafficking. Sign up here: www.freethem5k.org
“But God” … two words that even COVID-19 can’t defy.
When news headlines get worse by the hour. When it feels like an invisible enemy is stalking us. When we are forced to live in isolation. That’s when the words “But God” can break the grip of fear and set us free to look up and see the One who fights our battles for us.
Whenever people in the Bible faced impossible situations, they were reminded that nothing is impossible with God. One of those times was in 2 Chronicles 20 when Jerusalem was besieged by enemies and King Jehoshaphat cried out to God for deliverance. God answered through his prophet and said, “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
The battle we face now is a threatening virus that makes us afraid. And it’s okay to be afraid. Nobody wants to get sick, or worse. It’s normal to protect ourselves and those we love. God knows how we feel.
That’s why World Concern is taking precautionary measures to stay healthy, keep COVID-19 from spreading, and protect the most vulnerable among us.
It’s what we’ve always done in the remote places where we work. In the same way that we train villagers in the prevention of malaria, parasites, and water-borne diseases, we are training them in ways to prevent COVID-19. We take this threat very seriously. And we are doing everything we can to strengthen the health of these precious communities.
We care about your health, too. We are praying for you! Please continue to pray for us and those we serve.
You can’t travel to Fatimah’s (*her name has been changed for security reasons) country, but your prayers and your gifts can change her life.
That’s a miracle. And you can bet that Fatimah needs a miracle right now.
Fatimah’s husband died because of a war that she and her four children still live in. Her city is in rubble, and her family in constant danger. It has gone on for so long that she’s never quite sure who she can trust.
War does that to communities. It isolates. It devastates. It fosters fear.
It’s not just the fighting and destruction. It’s the lack of food and water. When there is not enough to go around, everyone does whatever they can to feed their own children. It’s a natural response as a parent.
Imagine how you would feel if your children were starving and you had nothing to give them. Just like Fatimah, you would search every day for help. You would go outside, even if it wasn’t safe, and you would beg for food and water.
Fatimah and her children have been barely surviving for a long time. She needs someone to help her. Someone she can trust. She needs to know she’s seen and loved.
Fortunately, caring people delivered food to Fatimah’s family. They promised to come back with more, and they did. And they’ve continued to help her.
These trustworthy people were able to deliver food to Fatimah and other needy families because of gifts from people like you. Your gift has restored Fatimah’s hope.
Just $10 provides enough food to feed a starving child for an entire month where Fatimah lives. And now, because of special matching grants, $10 will feed two children for an entire month.
Will you provide the miracle a mother like Fatimah is praying for today? Click here to give.
January 12, 2010, is a day Haitians will never forget
“I heard a noise like a storm,” recalls Efanor Nore, World Concern Haiti Country Representative. He was driving with several other people through Haiti’s capital city Port-au-Prince when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit on January 12, 2010. The road buckled in front of him and another car smashed into the broken concrete.
He’d snapped a photo of a large white building in the city just minutes before the earthquake, not knowing it might be the last photo of the building standing.
“This building totally collapsed after,” he said, “We couldn’t even imagine how many people died in there.”
Efanor spent the next 17 hours trying to get to his family’s home in Petit Goave, just south of the city, but the roads were blocked and he had to sleep in his car. Not knowing if his family had survived, Efanor spent the night praying. “I talked to God in my heart and said, ‘Give me strength … If I am still alive, I will serve the Lord,” he prayed.
“I saw many people—women, girls, boys, and men—coming out into the street and seeking a place to rest. They were covered with dust from concrete. When they saw our car, they asked us to take them to the hospital. I felt really powerless, then I cried,” he remembers.
“When I arrived at Leogane, where the epicenter was located … a woman lay down on the ground in the middle of the street, screaming and weeping. All the communication was cut around 2 to 3 minutes later.
“It was a nightmare.”
Port-au-Prince was in ruins. Cinder block buildings crumbled into dust. While there is no official death toll, the Haitian government estimates more than 300,000 people died in the earthquake.
World Concern’s Response
No World Concern staff were lost or injured in the quake, and the Port-au-Prince office sustained minimal damage. Sleeping in tents on the rooftop for fear of aftershocks, the staff went to work immediately, distributing emergency supplies—bottled water, food, and tarps—to families in need. Over the following weeks and months, World Concern implemented a large-scale response that assisted tens of thousands of people who were affected by the disaster. A massive outpouring of generosity from donors helped meet immediate needs for shelter, water, medical care, and income, as well as plan a long-term response. It was evident it would take years to rebuild Haiti.
In the months after the quake, transitional shelters were provided to families who lost their homes, and cash grants were given to families and business owners to restart businesses that were lost, among other activities.
Since 2010, World Concern has helped numerous communities prepare for disasters in Haiti, equipping families and communities to be more resilient in the face of recurring disasters, particularly hurricanes and storms. The goal is to bring the government’s disaster plans that are in place down to individual families, where training and equipping are needed most.
“Community members have to own the process,” explains World Concern Deputy Director of Disaster Response, Maggie Konstanski. “At World Concern, we don’t see disaster as a one-time event, but always aim to leave a community more resilient and protected than before.
“When communities are truly equipped with early warning systems, trained on how to use them, and they’re owned at the community level, and an effective, safe plan is in place, it does save lives,” she says. “The community wants to protect and save themselves. We’re giving them the knowledge and tools to protect themselves.”
Is there hope to rebuild Haiti?
Despite efforts from the Haitian community, aid organizations, and the government, the unique and extensive challenges in Haiti have prolonged and even crippled rebuilding efforts. Efanor believes only about 3% of buildings in Port-au-Prince have been rebuilt in 10 years. And an estimated 38,000 people still live in tents and makeshift camps that were set up after the quake.
Corruption, gang violence, political crisis, and drugs have left the city in a state of ruin he believes is even worse than 2010.
“Gangsters occupy many places downtown. Many areas are very high risk and not accessible. Even after the earthquake people were able to operate. Now … it’s not safe at all. Most people have fled downtown– no one would want to live there. All the businesses have moved out,” he said.
But as this Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the earthquake approaches, Haiti’s president plans to unveil plans on Friday to rebuild the presidential palace that was destroyed in the earthquake. The lot where the palace once stood has remained vacant since about 2012 when the damaged building was finally demolished.
“(The design) takes into account the history and culture of Haiti,” said Efanor, who believes, “It will be a wonderful building that will remind us of the capital city of Haiti.”
Is there hope for Haiti? Efanor believes so.
“Haiti is really resilient. Even at this time of political crisis … Haitians still have hope,” he said. “They think a new day will come where people around the world will use the example of what Haiti has faced over the past 100 years of suffering to learn … The time of Haiti will come,” he said. “We continue to be an example—positively. We face more than any civilization has faced in the past. We hope to use our past experience to move forward.
“Haitians want peace. And we want solidarity. And Haitians love God. We want people to keep loving God in spite of problems, disasters, in spite of poverty, we thank God – the creator of the universe, who has a plan for the world.”
World Concern snapshots of 2019 could fill a book. You gave so much, and we are so thankful for you! Enjoy these photos that show a few of the many ways you transformed the lives of children, women, and men who live in poverty beyond the end of the road.
Your gifts resulted in 8,717 lives being reconciled to Christ
Honoring our friend and country director of Bangladesh
We want to thank you for giving generously this year! Because of you, practical needs were met for families, and that was life changing. Meeting those needs opened the hearts of men, women and children to hear about the love of Christ and receive His grace. That transformed everything for them—both now, and for eternity.