While observing Lent this past year, I was convicted not to simply remove something from my daily life to point me toward the hope of the Resurrection, but also to consciously add something into my daily life. I spent time reading and meditating on the mystery of our faith. Partly because I am, by nature, a cynic and critic. I want to know how, why, and why all the rules aren’t followed. Give me all the statistics and charts, all the lists and graphs, let me quantify and calculate!
*40% of children in Zambia are nutritionally stunted (not receiving sufficient nutrition for proper development)
*nearly 1.2 million people are living with HIV with just over half receiving ART (antiretroviral treatment)
*over half the population (16 million people) is under the age of 18
*64% of people are living on less than $1.90 a day
*1/3 of all women will give brith before the age of 18…and go on to have an average of 5 children
*the literacy rate (63.4%) is lower than it was 20 years ago
*Zambia has fallen 20 places in the Corruption Perceptions Index in the last 2 years
*Zambia has one of the worst wealth disparities in the world (this just means that there are lots of poor people and a wealthy elite)
For 13 years, the US has sent nearly $3 billion in aid to Zambia, mostly for PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plans for AIDs Relief). The US ambassador to Zambia has warned that this aid will, inevitably, end.
I am not advocating for the closure of orphanages, feeding programs, and the like. The HIV crisis has necessitated aid for this country. However, Zambia also needs development!
Unfortunately, development and discipleship is not quick, glamorous, or easy. One of the authors of “When Helping Hurts,” says: “‘Inch deep and mile wide’ is glamorous and easy to understand,” but the new model—which is smaller, longer, and harder—has deeper impact.”
Still, my limited analysis of the data does not see how change is possible. How does a nation develop with so many living in poverty? How do we change the global economic forces that hinder development? How do we address the high-level governmental and infrastructure change that needs to occur? How do the people I know, who survive on less than $2 a day, move beyond survival? Not to mention the concern from many sources of nations and people now dependent on foreign aid.
Make no mistake, this invades the church on many levels. How do we teach children that are hungry, unable to focus, and unvalued by society? How do we reach nearly 20% of the population that is stigmatized by the disease they have and for which the church offers no help? How is it possible to teach HALF a country, and what future is there if these children are not reached with the Gospel? How do we help people learn the beauty of work as ordained by God when unemployment and underemployment is the norm? How does someone know the Truth when they can’t read (literacy is no panacea, but there is no defending the Truth against false doctrine and belief when it is inaccessible to the average person)? And on and on…
The first third of Luke 9 has been shaking my world up a bit.
(Why is it that I am shocked when my study of Scripture rattles my theology and then my life?)
Jesus sends the disciples out on their missionary journey with nothing. Not even a change of clothes. The disciples go out, then return, and then see Jesus feed five thousand. Finally, finally, even after going out as missionaries, they are ready to recognize Him as the Messiah.
The people are hungry, and the disciples, those same disciples who had seen miracles and provision, who had gone around telling others about the glorious Rabbi they followed, offered some solutions:
“Send the crowds away…There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.” (v. 12). The disciples did not see how things could be provided, they wanted to rid themselves of the problem, from the sight of the problem. They knew that if the people went away, they would no longer feel any moral obligation to help, and since there was not an obvious or easy solution, they thought this was the best idea.
Jesus had other ideas. “You feed them.” (v. 13)
The meager amount of food found among the people was not enough to feed everyone. The disciples did not have the money to buy food. There was no simple solution. The God of the Universe who could provide bread for the world waited while stomachs rumbled until there was a tentative offering from the people themselves.
It was enough.
It was more than enough.
So when I look at Zambia and feel overwhelmed by the need, when I see no possible way for what is here to be enough, I remember this:
Jesus made it enough. He made it more than enough.