Friday, October 31, 2008

"Voting the way Amos would" --by the Micah Challenge


Reflection

‘So, over in Ohio, the “old” Mennonites are only allowed to vote for the road supervisor, the director of the poor, the school director and the postmaster. And they don’t want their members “mingling in politics.” Heavens, they think the parades and debates and barbeques are pure hoopla, “an idolatrous Babel business.”

Well, I disagree. I quite enjoy seeing the community come together at the picnics and marches. It’s exciting and a good cause, too. I agree that Christians shouldn’t participate in war or violence, but why can’t we use the vote to spread peace principles?'


The quote above is an excerpt from a letter written by a Mennonite lady, Anna Funk, in the USA to her brother- over 100 hundred years ago in 1880. Little seems to have changed since then- in politics and in Christians’ response to politics.

'We Mennonites are simply not as separate from our world as some like to think we are. We are citizens of our communities—many of us leaders; and we take advantage of much that our communities offer. We can’t just refuse to help set the direction of our towns and counties and nation!’

In Amos 5: 1-17, the prophet has strong words for the people of Israel. He calls them to repent and undo structures and systems that do not stand up for justice and the right of the marginalized and poor.

Prayer
Let us pray:

  • That we can, in Anna Funk’s words, be ‘citizens of our communities’ and be wise in how we ‘help to set the direction of our towns and nations’.
  • We praise God for a tremendously successful Stand up Take Action campaign: 116, 993, 629 people in 131 countries have Stood Up and Taken Action against poverty and inequality, and in a call for urgent action on the MDGs! This is almost double the number of people participating than was anticipated.

    Churches in 31 countries participated in Micah Sunday and many mobilized their congregations to Stand up against poverty.

    Please pray that these numbers can now be used effectively to lobby our political leaders to increase their commitment to the MDGs despite the current economic crisis.

  • For the presidential elections in the USA on Tuesday 4 November. We pray:
    • For wisdom and discernment for our brothers and sisters in the US as they vote.
    • For the safety of the presidential candidates McCain and Obama in these last days of campaigning and as votes are cast and results announced.
    • For Micah Challenge USA as they seek to mobilise Christians to hold the newly elected president accountable to work towards achieving the MDGs in their presidency.
  • Reflecting on the statistic below: Lord, we pray for your comfort on families around the world who have to cope with the death of their newly born son/daughter, sister/brother or grand-child.

    We pray that governments will increase funding so that neonatal and maternal care can be improved and made more widely accessible.
Meditate on the Statistics

As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

Target 5: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate

‘Thirty-seven per cent of under-five deaths occur in the first month of life and improved neonatal and maternal care could save countless newborns. Undernutrition is estimated to be an underlying cause in more than one third of all deaths in children under five.’

Source: Millennium Development Goals Report, United Nations, September 2008

http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/News.aspx?ArticleId=42

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"The Future President" -- by Josh Ruxin

Last month, former President Bill Clinton arrived in Rwanda, the latest in a slew of political figures to visit the country. Several weeks ago, Cindy McCain, Tom Daschle, Bill Frist and others toured the country as part of the ONE Vote '08 mission to draw bipartisan attention to poverty issues. These visits, unlikely even a decade ago, are clear evidence of how much more invested the United States has become in Africa's future. There is a growing recognition in government that Africa's fight against crippling poverty and disease is a battle that can be won with America's involvement.

Many would agree that President Bush has done more for Africa than any President before him, and in the process, has turned many Africans into Republicans. Since 2003, his programs -- such as PEPFAR (the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) -- have dedicated nearly $19 billion to African aid, addressing health care, economic development and prosperity building; nearly half of the $10 billion in Global AIDS spending this year will come from the United States. Bush's dedication has drawn increased attention to Africa and concerted action, but will this momentum continue with the next President?

While I am hopeful that the candidates will seriously address the future of America's involvement in Africa, most of their foreign policy discussions have thus far focused on Iraq and Iran. Africa must not be forgotten. The next administration should closely examine America's political and investment policies and lay out an improved plan of action, a prescription they can put into practice throughout that supports the positive change already underway.

Focusing on Africa is not only the right thing to do, but it's also the smartest. Growth on the continent represents an expansion of global markets for U.S. goods and new producers for cheap inputs, decreasing our dependence on Asian producers. Currently, China has overtaken America as the dominant actor in many parts of Africa and without more comprehensive involvement, America's standing in this region will continue to decline.

Maintaining a flat commitment to African development is not enough. While aid programs are necessary to meet emergency needs, focusing too much on aid often leads to delivering resources only to flashpoint areas and undercuts areas of stability, which also need support. Central to the next President's African policy should be a push for increased investment in business development and the creation of sustainable industries. We must continue to help with microfinance programs and encourage American business investment in Africa. Programs that foster economic growth will help Africans advance out of poverty into a healthier, more prosperous future.

For those skeptical of investment in Africa, remember not that long ago that investors doubted business opportunities in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). Today, investments in those countries are among some of the most lucrative in the world, and companies such as Brazil's Embraear and India's Unisys are creating a burgeoning middle class in those nations. Trade drives economies from which large groups of workers benefit, whether they are in the industries being promoted, or in supporting businesses and services. So, while aid programs are an essential safety net for those lacking the most basic needs, aid cannot sustainably help people to feed, clothe, and educate themselves the way investment in small and medium-sized businesses can.

Over the past few years, Rwanda has become one of the most stable countries in Africa. Its government is among the least corrupt and the economy is steady, making it an ideal place for investment. Nonetheless, it has been a struggle for the government to attract direct foreign investment. Potential investors may still be spooked by the 1994 genocide, put off by Rwanda's landlocked geography, or perhaps unimpressed by its workforce. Addressing those issues would be a superb use of U.S. assets and influence. Uganda and Tanzania, among neighboring nations, also have the infrastructure and socio-political environment necessary to support foreign investments and have thus far been more effective in attracting it. With the right opportunities, attention, and assistance, East Africa could be the next BRIC.

At present, however, the immediate needs of Africans must still be met. With just 0.16% of US income spent on development assistance, the lowest percentage of any developed country, and though it's having a hugely beneficial effect, it is simply not enough. The next President must consider his long-term strategy for development and overall economic growth. It's through these next-level programs -- not aid -- that long term improvements will be affected. I urge John McCain and Barack Obama to visit Rwanda and to see for themselves how international investments will make all the difference in the lives of ordinary Africans, while benefiting Americans, too.

Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent the last couple of years living in Rwanda, where he administers the Millennium Villages Project in Mayange. He’s an unusual mix of academic expert and mud-between-the-toes aid worker. His regular posts can be found on the blogroll of Nick Kristof of the New York Times, and he has given his permission to be cross-posted here. Josh and EGR executive director Mike Kinman team-teach a global poverty module for Trinity, Wall Street's Clergy Leadership Project.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Moses and the Starfish Thrower" -- by the Rev. Becca Stevens

In the old story, two people walk down the beach as one bends down and throws a starfish back in the ocean. After being questioned about the futility of it in the face of a million starfish on the beach, the thrower's insight that to the starfish it makes a difference is intended to inspire us to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering. Seen the from the starfish's perspective it is life-saving and merciful parable. Seen from the perspective of the more practical and flippant walker, the parable becomes a call to humility and loving-kindness. But from the perspective of the guy who keeps walking and throwing starfish, there is a touch of sadness in the seemingly endless task ahead. You can picture him finally leaving the inspired friend behind and walking alone on the beach, pitching starfish and wondering if he is going to be throwing starfish for the rest of his life. He may wonder if he will be throwing starfish while forces more powerful than he will continue to wash a greater number of starfish up on shore. He may wonder if he will be throwing some of the same damn starfish again when they come back with the next low tide. He keeps throwing starfish, and even though it means something to the starfish, maybe sometimes he wonders what it says about the meaning of his own life.

When I hear the parable from the starfish throwers view, I see a single man walking along a lonely beach. There is more to the theology behind this story of starfish throwing though.

The image it has etched in my mind undermines our ability to throw starfish well and ignores the foundation of walking that path of faith.

Moses walked and led the multitude in the desert, ascending and descending Mount Sinai to write countless laws given to him by God to offer the people as a guide. He spent forty years in the desert leading people towards the promise land. The people are depicted in the story of exodus as helpless as starfish, victims of a force greater than themselves and unable to determine how to respond. Moses just keeps the faith, offers his life for their sake, all the time searching for his God and following the path before him. His career included dictating the Laws in Numbers and Leviticus for his people to follow to be faithful and prosper. Toward the end of his life, when the Lord calls him to Mount Sinai God tells him he can only show him the back of his head. He is faithful and doesn't look upon the face of God until God has passed before him and he glimpses at the back of his head. A founder of the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish faith, he is only allowed to see the back of his head. Whenever you or I are mired in uncertainty about our calling or our discernment of God's will, all we have to do is remember our Father Moses. He began by floating at the mercy of the Egyptians in a reed basket down a river with crocodiles. He found his calling on Holy Ground before a burning bush with no idea how that would translate into freedom for his people. He fought a powerful army only to wander in the desert for forty years.

He kept leading them and dreaming of the day he could stop wandering and find the place he could call home. At the end of Deuteronomy, when he is at the end of his 120 years of wandering, God shows him the land. "I can't let you cross to the promise land", God says. "You have to die on this side of the Jordon." Moses even dies as God commands and after the people grieve him for thirty days, they start walking towards Jerusalem. It kills me that he never got to stand in Israel. It is similar to the seemingly sad story of the starfish and can make one almost fall into despair.

That is, until you read this Gospel in Matthew 22. Jesus uses Moses' words when he is confronted in Jerusalem. He uses the words that Moses heard from God in the endless desert that he told the Israelites to write on their children's hearts in this book of Deuteronomy. Jesus, at the critical confrontation with the religious authority, doesn't bother quoting the Minor Prophets, he speaks Moses' words. The faith of Moses is alive and well and lived beyond the Jordon, beyond the words of other prophets and was carried to the whole world.

It is Moses himself that began the tradition of starfish throwing when he demanded that we learn how to love God, self and neighbor and self. He spoke the words of God and we have been carrying the message through the desert, through every major religion, and throughout the world for all time. It only feels futile when we think we are the only starfish throwers. We come from a long and powerful line and we get our instructions from the creator of the universe through the life and witness of Moses himself. There are thousands of starfish throwers to walk the beaches and when we are faithful in our stretch, the vision of helping starfish throughout the world feels doable.

One of the gifts this fall has been traveling and speaking about the community of St. Augustine's grounded in the corporeal acts of mercy and the ministry of Magdalene. Everywhere we go we hear stories of people who are tending the starfish on their beaches. It is a beautiful, broad and powerful image to enhance the old story. We can imagine the story again; no longer lonely and sad as the starfish thrower runs into others who are connected to him in his desire to love God, self, and neighbor with compassion and faith. When you take a step back and see the power in the thousands of people throwing them from many different beaches it fills you with a sense of community and purpose. You see yourself in a long line beginning with Moses and we can keep going with all our hearts and write it again on the hearts of our children.

When the prophets and preachers from the time of Joshua crossed into the promise land, they took Moses with them. The religious authorities in Jesus life knew this Law. They knew the Torah given by Moses and that we are required to do deeds of loving kindness. Jesus reminded them that the law itself depends on deeds of love. The words and works of love have continued to echo through a great and powerful line and words like Martin Luther King who knew that even though he saw the Promised Land he may not get there. When you look into the cosmos, a professor explained to me that you are really looking into the past, because we can only see to our beginning, or when the first light reached us. In the same way, when we look at the deeds of love, we are not just looking at the present; we are looking at the entire history of love in the world. It is the most powerful force for change in the world, and it is a gift to be able to keep walking, and do our part, knowing love was our beginning, and will carry us back to God---our promised land.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Obama and McCain: Where They Stand" -- by Chris Scott from The One Campaign Blog

From the ONE Blog:

America.gov this week featured two articles outlining and detailing each US presidential candidate’s policies in regards to combating poverty and disease in Africa. Each article features a major campaign surrogate discussing his respective candidate’s plans—Howard Wolpe for Obama, Herman J. Cohen for McCain. Both are rather illuminating and definitely worth the read.

Excerpts below, full Obama piece here, full McCain piece here

A McCain administration would place even more emphasis on promoting private-sector economic development in Africa, Cohen said.

“The Millennium Challenge Corporation is very strong on private-sector [development], and I think you will see the United States Agency for International Development moving to finance even more private-sector activity to help even more Africans themselves become investors,” he predicted. “Now that Africa is becoming more open to the private sector, they need the infrastructure to make it work."

---

An Obama presidency will “greatly facilitate the diplomacy required to try to make some progress on these difficult issues,” such as the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan or the political situation in Zimbabwe.

In the long term, Wolpe said, the central challenge facing Africa is the building of cohesive states. An Obama administration would be particularly focused on helping Africans search for common ground and eliminate conflict across the continent, he predicted. “Unless you can tackle that issue, the prospects for long-term sustainable economic development will be constantly compromised,” he said.

Editor's note: Click here to download "On The Record" -- a one-page compilation of each candidate's exact words, "on the record" statements on the MDGs. Remember, when you vote on Nov. 4, the world's poorest are depending on you using your power to give them a chance.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bono at 2008 California Women's Conference - VIDEO!

U2's Bono gave a great speech at the 2008 California Women’s Conference last night. Check out the highlights below. If you want to see the ENTIRE speech, you can find the video (in 5 parts) on the ONE Blog. Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Millennium Development Goal #6 - Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases" - by John G. Miers

"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people." - Matthew 4:23

Curing every disease and every sickness among the people……

When I read this Bible verse, I naturally thought of my career in the federal service. I worked for the National Institutes of Health for nearly forty years. Others in my family have worked there and some still do. My mother was a nurse. Health is in my family. Health is important to me. When I read the text about “curing EVERY disease” I am stunned as to how large a task that must have been. I am continually overwhelmed by what it must be like to be a member of a medical team in a foreign country. There are so many diseases in evidence. HIV/AIDS and malaria are cited in this goal, but so are “other diseases.”

Other diseases, too. There are infectious diseases, life-threatening diseases, disfiguring diseases, childhood diseases, easily diagnosed diseases, hard-to-diagnose ones, visible ones, and invisible ones. How do we prioritize just what to treat? How are conditions different in developing countries? What can we do here in the developed world to try to assist others? I still am astounded that the Millennium Development Goals were agreed to in 2000 by 189 heads of state and government -- including the United States. This was in response to the deepest material brokenness in the world today. Poverty the likes of which we just don't see within the United States. Poverty levels that lead to a child under 5 dying every three seconds from preventable, treatable causes, and 8,000 people (more than died in the September 11 attacks) dying each day of HIV/AIDS.

When I visit doctors here in the US I always give thanks for what we have here for our medical care. But I also worry about what other people don’t have. This is why this is such a crucial MDG goal. Medical care must be made available in all parts of the world. This is not a complicated project, but it is both expensive and hard to attain. I think of invisible diseases. These are the really tricky set of those “other diseases.” These include addictions, mental illness, heart disease, diabetes, malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and other illnesses and disorders that often go unnoticed by both the patients and medical staff. Each can lead to long-term illness and incapacitation, but medical teams often have their hands full with the gruesome and visible disabilities. All must be addressed.

The MDGs seek to provide treatment to all people in the developing world who suffer from these diseases, both visible and invisible. Jesus healed “every disease and sickness.” We can do no less. Jesus was obviously capable of doing this; we need to provide needed resources so his example can be followed.

John Miers is from Bethesda, Maryland, where he was employed at the National Institutes of Health from 1968 to 2005. He serves on the board of St. Luke’s House, a halfway house for persons recovering from mental illness and also serves as Jubilee Officer for the Diocese of Washington. He is a member of National Commission on Science, Technology and Faith for the Episcopal Church and is active in his local church, where he is in the choir, worship committee, pastoral care committee, and the prayer team, and he also visits patients in a local hospital on behalf of the Chaplain.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Imagine All God's Children" -- by Barbi Click

We have read all the statistics. But can we relate?

We know we have poverty here in the US. We see the people standing on the street corners with their little signs stating they are homeless and will work for food. But do we believe them?

If we have children in school, at the beginning of each new semester we have to fill out a form saying that yes, our children qualify for the “reduced” or free lunch or we say no, we can afford to pay for their meals. But do we realize as we sign no how many little children in our own school districts, maybe sitting in the desk right next to our own, go to bed hungry at night?

We read about the hundreds of thousands of US citizens who do not have insurance. But do we really understand that they don’t have insurance because they must choose between insurance and food? Or housing? Or a car? Do we realize that the person without insurance maybe as close as the very words that we are reading? …such as me?

And what about foreclosures? Great deals if one can get them. But do we stop to think that a little child may have had sweet dreams or nightmares in that bedroom? That familes may have grown up in that home? Or that a couple may have grown old in that home? It is not just a "good deal"...Life happened there. Somebody cried there. Somebody laughed there. Somebody loved there.

Schools in the US are falling far behind when compared to schools in many other countries. Our children have their backpacks checked each day prior to walking through the metal detectors as they head to their classes. The classes are overcrowded with children, each one with a special need whether it is detected or not. Kids are offered drugs on the playground. The teachers are underpaid and overworked. Too often, not only are they disrespected but their physical well beings are threatened. Our schools are war zones. And we worry about whether or not some little white kid in the ‘burbs can pray out loud or whether or not he can wear a t-shirt with offensive language comparing Obama to terrorists.

These are instances of poverty that exist within our daily lives yet we ignore or justify these signs.

Can we pull ourselves out of our self absorbed nature and realize that life as we do not know it is happening all around us? If we cannot imagine a life in poverty as it sits or stands right beside us, how can we wrap our minds around the magnitude of extreme poverty that exists in the world outside of our national boundaries?

30,000 children in this world die every day from preventable and treatable diseases caused by extreme poverty. What is extreme poverty? Poverty that is so insidious that it kills. It is poverty that is preventable and for the most part, here in the US we have done that. It is the poverty that is so insipid that it kills the young and the old because people starve to death or die of malaria or measles or from many of the diseases that the western world has basically stopped from happening through vaccines and clean water. We can stop these deaths from happening in under-developed worlds just as we did in our own neighborhoods.

We seem so fond of lining up statistics so that we can relate to the actual number. Surely it does not take a mile marker or a football field to imagine 30,000 dead children each day, 365.2422 days of the year.

More than 100 million children world-wide don’t even go to school, bad schools or otherwise. Of all those children that do not ever get to attend school, most of them are female. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth does not allow women to be priests; far too many places in under-developed parts of our world don’t allow women to do anything but care for their husband and families.

There are 8 Millennium Development Goals in all. Go to http://www.e4gr.org/ to read them all and to find resources that will help inform.

Let us just think about these three goals – extreme poverty (which will help on all the other goals), primary education for all children, gender equality and empowerment of women. These are the three key goals. If these three are achieved, all the others will fall into a solvable category.

So today, let us try to wrap our minds and our hearts around these three goals. Let us open ourselves up – our eyes, our minds, our hearts – to all those in our own viewable world who live on the streets, whose children go to bed hungry, who work without benefits or in extremely underpaid jobs, to our school systems which under educate our children. Then let us go even further, with God’s help, to imagine our national problems multiplied. We do not even have to multiply it by a very big number.

We must be able to empathize. Sympathy is a Hallmark card. We have to feel the pain; smell the death; hear the cries. Only then will we find the compassion that drives us to DO something.

Today…

PRAY as if our own child’s life depended upon it.

FAST from all excess if not from a meal. With each bite of food, with every sip of water, remember that there are not just a few but a great many who have no choice in what they eat or what they drink.

WITNESS not only to God’ steadfast love but to the idea that we can love our neighbor and show that love.

Tomorrow…

Hold tightly to all these memories. Because it is in the re-memory that we learn. It is in this re-memory that we change.

And it is all about change. We have no choice.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4:18-19
Barbi Click is the Director of Christian Education at Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in St. Louis, Missouri. She wrote this piece for her blog "Feathers and Faith" on Sept. 25 for World MDG Blogging Day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Keep Our Commitments" -- by The ONE Campaign

In these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever for our leaders to hear from us that fighting global poverty is still a priority. By signing this brief petition from The ONE Campaign, you’ll help send ONE clear message to Barack Obama and John McCain that we expect them to keep their commitments to the world’s most vulnerable people.

Here's the text:

Dear Senators Obama and McCain,

As you work to find a solution to the global financial crisis, please do not waver in your support for the world's poorest people. It is now more important than ever to stand up for effective, efficient solutions that save millions of lives, strengthen the global economy, and win the hearts and minds of people around the world. I’m keeping my commitment to fight global poverty, and I ask you to do the same.
Click here to add your name. It's What ONE Person Can Do.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"Eradicating Poverty: Let's Stop 'Plugging the Holes' So We Can Repair the Foundation " -- by the Rev. John Denson

On Sept. 25, as we highlighted the work we've done and the work left to go on the Millennium Development Goals, I pondered two crises.

The first was one most Americans were pondering: the failures of investment banks on Wall Street and the $700,000,000,000 federal government bailout. As with everyone, I am staggered by the immensity of the crisis and worried about the implications for both the present and the future. Will the bailout succeed? Who will suffer because resources dedicated to the bailout will not be available for those who live on the economic margins of our society?

The second crisis is much less immense, but no less troubling. Last month, I attended a meeting organized by a local New Hampshire state senator to discuss the heating oil crisis and what the state government was prepared to do to help citizens buy enough heating oil to keep their homes warm this winter. In 2007, the average grant given by the state government for fuel assistance was $633. While the hope is to give more this year because of the sharp increase in the price of oil, the reality is that the fuel assistance will not be nearly enough. The 2007 fuel assistance grant would provide approximately 25% of the oil needed to heat a home in 2008-2009. What are people supposed to for the remaining three-quarters of the winter?

As I ponder these crises I am struck by the realization that the responses to each do not really solve anything. Each response attempts to "plug a hole in the dam" but does nothing to repair the various cracks in the foundation that supports the dam and makes it strong. We are hoping to fix the symptoms while we avoid the underlying causes. If we continue this way, nothing will change.

The Episcopal Church dedicated Sept. 25 as a day of prayer, fasting, and witness for the end of poverty in our world. This call relates to the first of the Millennium Development Goals: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. These goals were adopted in 2000 by the United Nations with the hope that they would be fulfilled by 2015. So, we're halfway there and all we're doing is plugging holes while we avoid the real changes that must be made.

In his book Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope* Brian McLaren compares the "four spiritual laws of theocapitalism" (money worship) with the four spiritual laws of the kingdom of God economy.

Without going into the details of the laws here, let me list some of the characteristics and qualities of theocapitalism (note, he is not indicting the corporations, but the "spiritual ideology" that drives our society):

* Progress is measured by rapid growth in the short-term. One must do everything possible to achieve the highest growth and increased productivity, whatever the cost.

* Happiness and serenity are found through possession and consumption. We need to own more. We need the latest and best product. We consume as much as possible and throw away the rest.

* Competition is good. Some are going to win and some are going to lose. So, make sure you win.

* Freedom to prosper is more important than accountability. There is no moral code here and no sense of responsibility to anyone other than ourselves.

Compare this with the characteristics and qualities of the "kingdom of God economy" advocated by Jesus:

* In place of economic growth, Jesus offers a new economy based on good deeds for the common good. We are called to a higher concern than ourselves. We are called to dedicate resources to the common good, especially to the needs of the poor and the marginalized. Sustainability is more important than growth. For a biblical example, see Luke 12:13-21.

* Happiness comes not through possession and consumption but through gratitude and sharing. Gratitude, McLaren writes, is "an act of defiant contemplation" because gratitude celebrates what you have, not what you don't have. If I am grateful for what I have, I don't need more to make myself happy. And once I'm happy with what I have, I can share it with others so that everyone receives a portion. For a biblical reference, see Mark 6:30-44.

* Salvation comes not through winning but through seeking justice. "Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled," Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:6). The paradox here is that seeking justice for all, not winning the competition, will finally bring true prosperity to all. For a biblical reference, see Matthew 20:20-28.

* Freedom comes through collaboration, through the rich and the poor coming together to build community. As McLaren writes, for Jesus "both the rich and the poor need saving; one needs liberation from addictive wealth and the other, liberation from oppressive poverty. Part of the work of the kingdom of God is to turn them from their ideologies of exploitation and victimization to a vision of collaboration." For a biblical reference, see Luke 19:1-10.

If we are going to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger it is going to take much more than plugging holes to avert a crisis. It is going to take systemic change, change that begins with individuals and communities who choose to live with a different set of values. We need to see ourselves as sustainers instead of consumers, as collaborators instead of competitors, as sharers instead of hoarders, and as justice seekers instead of self-seekers. We need to work not simply for ourselves but for the common good. We need to answer Jesus' call to repent and live in the divine reality he calls the kingdom of God.

Will we make any real change if we do all of this? I don't know. All I know is that we have a responsibility to try.

The Rev. John Denson is an Episcopal priest in Exeter, New Hampshire. He wrote this piece for MDG blogging day on Sept. 25 and blogs regularly at "Living Faithfully in the 21st Century Village."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Hardwired for Integrity" -- by the Rev. Dr. Sabina Alkire

The past months have seen the most chaotic and severe malfunction of the banking system since the 1920s if not in history. Billions of pounds have been wiped off stock markets worldwide, and the Governments throughout the world acknowledge that the financial system is on the verge of total meltdown. The dismay of the media has been evident in the intensity of their language. The Wall Street Journal spoke of financial carnage and derivatives as weapons of mass destruction. The Financial times, of hurricanes and shifting tectonic plates. The Economist wordsmithed gloomily on: ‘there is no such thing as a free crunch’.

Economist Paul Krugman’s blog provides key tables on the crash. But more poignant was an early signoff underneath a set of interest rates that had not been seen even in the Great Depression. “Professionally, I’m fascinated,” he wrote; “As a citizen, I’m terrified.”

As people who read the papers and watch the news in the presence of the living God, we are now in a position to reflect on money, and our attitudes towards it as Christians and as a church. And the fundamental point is that we need not be terrified. This is not a terribly innovative point, because as people of faith we need never be terrified “for nothing can separate us from the love of God.” But it is worth remembering at this time for three reasons.

Objectively there are legitimate causes for concern, both individually and collectively. We genuinely not know the impact that the crash will have on ourselves, on jobs, and on the economy, and on other aspects of our lives. It may yet calm, or it may rechart our days. Fundamentally, terror comes from that uncertainty and fear blended with a feeling that we are not in control. Not only are people like you and I not in control, but we don’t even know if we will understand what has happened. So we pause to listen beyond the media, into the stillness.

The dominant view, portrayed by the media, is that the crash is totally unrelated to matters of faith and prayer, and to the habits of God. It is a malfunction of a human system because of human error. God may be omnipotent, but God, Bless God, does not deal in derivatives hedge funds or shorts. Expertise in such systems is human not divine – it sits in the treasury, not in the monastery. Hence the power to heal the system lies in techniques, not wisdom. Wisdom is lovely, but when it comes to these matters she is also a bit quaint and out of touch with reality.

Is this dominant view of a total divide between faith and economy accurate? If true, we would have part of our life in which we could live as persons of faith – perhaps related to family, gardening, justice, church, and music. And in a different part of our life, not lived under the shadow of the living God, we would address our technical conundrums and make necessary decisions: savings and investments, pensions, mortgages, and indeed negotiate other technical bits of life such as cell phone contracts and the trials of windows vista. We have fallen into this habit of interior division as a society – but do we need to?

It is interesting to note that in other cultures, when technology enters, religion is not marginalized. All of you will know of the buses and taxis in developing countries which are decorated with Jesus, or a cross, some other form of blessing, as if to remind the driver and all others around that this vehicle remains under divine review (one wishes the driving reflected that awareness as keenly). Now that may seem a bit superstitious, but underlying it is an important acknowledgment. For our faith does not recognise a total divide; it teaches, and I believe, that God’s will and purpose and wisdom extends with piercing relevance across all our lives, relational and financial, even if as now we see only darkly.

In Proverbs we are urged to seek wisdom and understanding “for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold”. And the psalmist echos the priority of God’s wisdom: “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces”. So the first point is that if the economy is not totally cut off from the living God, then we need not be afraid, for the wisdom we have known is and will be true.

A second point is rather more mundane and practical: even if the economy did come down around our ears, we will still come to church. It’s what people do in crises – we come to church. We come to church because at church we still have one another, and we help and hope and pray together and find a way through. And as church we will remember too those who are not merely worried about their financial future, but also those perched on the margins of very survival today throughout the world. We know we are not alone, we know that people care, and together we are strengthened and encouraged to live out of our higher values, to reach out in faith and love and service – not close down in terror and dismay.

The third point is that if wisdom is true, then it may have some piercing insights into this situation that we can draw upon, both individually and a society. Some Christian groups are interpreting the financial downturn as a divine tantrum about greed and materialism by an emotionally unstable God. I do not happen to agree with them. But I do think we have some serious correcting to do, and that human excess has directly created the present situation.

At the heart of the particular problems that exploded this month, is not greed but denial. There was willful wishing away of reality, which edged into deception. An FT editor observed, accurately, that “the financial system has been operating as if it were an off-balance-sheet vehicle of the government.” Financiers wanted to quantify risk and uncertainty in numbers that seemed acceptable; they wanted to believe the numbers; they reassured us by the numbers. But the numbers were wrong. The system failed because in the end truth prevailed, and there were no bank regulators to act as a circuit breaker and shield us from poorly managed institutions.

Going forward, we need to encourage and reward truth rather than denial. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians describes the openness of his ministry, and how he hides nothing: “we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.” One of the reasons that people believe the economy was distanced from God is that it appeared that a different set of rules operated there – that there, lies were acceptable; ambition, required; and cunning alone deserved reward. But it was not so – there is one wisdom, stretching across the whole of life.

And as we all know, greed is not too far away. As Frank Wade preached just 12 days after Sept 11th, “Of all of the things that Jesus talked about while revealing to us the mind of God, the single most mentioned topic was the spiritual danger of wealth. We are the richest people the world has ever known. As a consequence, we live in the greatest spiritual danger that has ever been experienced. It’s not about having money or not having it. It’s what we do to get it, the lengths we go to keep it, the principles we serve with it, the meaning it has for us. [Given the events of this month, and their repercussions on others across the globe, we need to do] some serious wondering about those things.”(Wade, Wrath of God. 23 Sept 2001)

The past month has seen the most chaotic and severe malfunction of the banking system since the 1920s if not in history. But the wisdom and ways of God are of intense and piercing relevance even here. So consider this week what it means to be a worker, a consumer and a banking customer who does not react with terror come what may, but remains hardwired for integrity. There is life in such wisdom. Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Sabina Alkire is a priest, development economist, founder of the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative and author of What Can One Person Do. Sabina is an EGR board member.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Lack of medical workers causes new health crisis in developing countries" -- by Kavita Chandran and Tan Ee Lyn, Reuters

BANGALORE, India: When her baby turned blue, Nivetha Biju rushed the child to the emergency room of an Indian hospital and watched helplessly as the baby lost consciousness because the nurses on duty had no idea what to do.

Eventually, a doctor saved the baby's life. But many patients are not so lucky in India and in other developing countries, where a scarcity of doctors and trained nurses means there is often no helping hand in times of need.

A lack of skilled personnel has health systems in developing countries "on the brink of collapse," said Ezekiel Nukuro, an Asia adviser for the World Health Organization.

"In some countries, deaths from preventable diseases are rising and life expectancy is dropping," he said.

Some specialists say the health crisis in such countries is being exacerbated as Western countries relax stringent immigration regulations to attract doctors and nurses. Doing so helps the West's flagging health systems while saving money on expensive training.

But this "brain drain" leaves gaping holes in the health care systems of countries where children die daily from diarrhea and where diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria run rampant.

Aid agencies have warned that a "blue card" plan in the European Union to attract highly skilled migrants like hospital workers, which gained initial backing from ministers, would make the drain worse.

Read the entire story here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"Praying to End Poverty" -- by The Micah Challenge

Today's post is from the Micah Challenge, a global Christian campaign to achieve the MDGs. Part of their mission is a weekly prayer emailing like the one you see below. You can receive it in your email box every week send a blank email to regine.nagel@micahchallenge.org with the words 'subscribe prayer' in the subject line.

Reflection

On 19 October is Micah Sunday. People are invited to mark this Sunday in their churches to pray for current global issues.

This year’s prayer guide aims to help to reflect on five of the most pressing global issues we face today. It provides short reflections on the global food crisis, unemployment, climate change, migration and international aid. Bible passages relating to the topic offer deeper spiritual insights and lead into a prayer for each global issue.

Using the prayer guide, we want to reflect on the global food crisis with the following story:

Teresa of Calcutta once told about a time a man arrived at the house where the Missionaries of Charity lived to tell them about a Hindu family with eight children. They hadn’t eaten for several days. This man asked that something be done for them, so Teresa immediately took some rice and went to visit them. She told about how the children’s eyes were glazed over with hunger. When the mother received the rice, however, she split it into two portions and left the house with one of them. When she returned, Teresa asked her what she had done with the other portion of rice. She said that she had taken it to some Muslim neighbors of hers who hadn’t eaten for even more days than them. She added, “They are hungry too.”
Please reflect on Genesis 41:31 -38, the story of a food crisis in the time of Jacob and Joseph.

Please download the Micah Sunday resources here.

Prayer

Let us pray:

Lord, you taught us to pray saying that we could request “our daily bread”, we now plead that your provision would sustain the millions of people who go to bed hungry every night.

We plead with you that those who hold power will make just decisions for food provision; that business people and government leaders from industrialized nations would be aware of and sensitive to the suffering of the millions of people affected by the use of food in the production of biofuels.

We ask for the approval and implementation in our countries of policies that protect and support small farmers, allowing them to use the appropriate technology to improve their crops, and to be able to develop local distribution strategies.

We pray that a global partnership would be formed that can provide food for the countries most affected by the rise in food prices; and that it can be done efficiently and respecting people’s dignity.

We thank you for your Word that calls us to use all of our resources to care for those in need. May your church respond and act consistently with this call to care for those who are starving suffer from hunger due to the intensity of the food crisis.

(From the Micah Sunday prayer guide)

*Please also pray for Voices for Justice, an annual event to speak out, pray, learn and engage political leaders in conversation, organized by Micah Challenge Australia in Canberra.

Carlyn Chen, one of the organizers writes:
‘There is much to pray for!
+Artworks for Create to Advocate will be exhibited at Parliament House. Last year, this really helped politicians to reflect on poverty issues and be open for conversations with Voices for Justice participants.

+There are over 230 participants aged 12-74: School kids, bishops, bible college lecturers, older people, everyone in between. Very exciting! Some are nervous - their first time doing advocacy or seeing a politician. Please pray for unity as many ‘flavours’ of Christians are coming.

+We would like 100 meetings with politicians so our participants can meet with 2 politicians each. Please pray for favourable responses and that they will make time for us. Even if it is a short time!

Pray that the bells won't ring too often for a division in the chambers at Parliament House on 13th and 14th October. When they do, then the politicians have no choice but to abandon whatever they are doing and go to the chambers to vote. Pray that if the bells ring, it won't be during our events and meetings with them, if possible!

We are very pleased that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has agreed to see a small Micah Challenge team. Please pray that this meeting will go well.
Meditate on the Statistics

As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Target 2: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
‘The world only needs 30 billion dollars a year to eradicate the scourge of hunger.’

‘It's extraordinary to me that the United States can find $700 billion to save Wall Street and the entire G8 can't find $25 billion dollars to save 25,000 children who die every day from preventable diseases.’

Source: First quote: FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organization), June 2008 Second quote: Bono, rock star (U2); Sojo Mail, 25 September 2008

"Emergency for Congo Church after Recent Violence" -- An Episcopal Public Policy Network Alert

**EMERGENCY ALERT FROM THE EPISCOPAL PUBLIC POLICY NETWORK**: Conflict in the Congo Strands Bishop and Church Delegates. Tell President Bush to Increase Pressure on Parties to Sign Peace Agreement

Late last week, a rebel uprising in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo stranded Bishop Henri Isingoma and 150 delegates to an Anglican Church diocesan synod meeting in the town of Boga. This came on the heels of a fresh wave of violence that has forced thousands of people from their homes in Africa's third largest country, where two wars and subsequent fighting have claimed more than four million lives since 1994.

President Bush and his Administration must continue to push, as they did at the UN last month, for an end to the violence.

Rebel attacks in northern Congo have intensified in recent weeks, largely in response to violence perpetrated by the northern-Uganda-based Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), whose long campaign of violence in Uganda has reverberated to other countries in the region, particularly the DR Congo, the Central African Republic, and the Sudan. Late last month, 90 school children in the northern Congo were abducted by the LRA and tens of thousands were displaced from their homes as a result of increased attacks. According to Frederick Ngadjole, liaison officer for the Anglican Church in the Congo, people have been forced "to run for their dear lives in various directions."

The Anglican delegates from Bukiringi have returned to their homes following the attacks. However, many found that their houses and community institutions had been raided and looted – some for the fourth or fifth time. According to one report shared with the Episcopal Church Center, "The remaining delegates from the Gety/Isura/Aveba area have traveled with Bishop Isingoma and other delegates on the road west to Eringeti, using three vehicles and five motorbikes. They slept on the road last night and the road is in a very bad state."

WHAT ONE DO
The present wave of violence that has affected the Anglican Church and many other Congolese in recent weeks is a product of instability brought on by the Uganda-based Lord's Resistance Army, which has waged a two-decade campaign of war, abduction, and terror in northern Uganda. The LRA and the Ugandan government have been in the final stages of peace negotiations for many months, but progress at the moment appears stalled. President Bush met last month at the United Nations with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and discussed the LRA Conflict.

Click here to send a message to the President urging his Administration to follow up on that meeting by working with the UN and regional governments to advance peace negotiations, protect civilians, and develop a strategy for bringing the leaders of the LRA to justice.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Celebrate, Accelerate" -- by The ONE Campaign

At the Sept. 25 UN Summit, ONE had a chance to show a short video to a group of world leaders at the Secretary General's reception. The film - Celebrate, Accelerate - marks the progress on the Millennium Development Goals to date and encourage further, faster commitment going forward.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"Trickle-down relief" -- by Elaine Thomas

With all of the attention focused on Sarah (will-she-or-won’t-she-make-a-fool-of-herself) Palin during the Vice-Presidential debate this past week, one small little line of Joe Biden’s slipped by with nary so much as a comment as far as I’ve been able to find. Gwen Ifill asked if, in the aftermath of the $700 billion bailout, any of the plans on the Democratic platform might have to change. Here was Biden’s response:

Well, the one thing we might have to slow down is a commitment we made to double foreign assistance. We'll probably have to slow that down.
And that was it. He vowed not to move forward with the current administration’s proposed tax cuts and then said that they wouldn’t back down from creating new jobs through an energy policy or education or health care. There was only one explicitly stated plan that would be deferred or delayed – foreign assistance.

So there’s a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street (and no, I’m not na├»ve enough to think that had nothing been done, Main Street would not have felt a serious, if not Depression-era, impact). And then there’s the $130 billion tax-cut on folks making over $250,000 that a Democratic administration would not permit and an additional $350 billion corporate tax cut that would be axed and, if the Republican candidate is to be believed, Obama is proposing an additional $1 trillion in new spending (which he is not, but that’s another matter). With all these billions and billions of dollars, the first thing the VP candidate thinks of that they won’t do is an additional $25 billion (to get to $50 billion) in foreign assistance?

For a moment, let’s forget that this amounts to just over two months of Iraq war spending or that even $50 billion doesn’t get us anywhere near the 0.7% to which all UN nations have committed. What we should not forget, not even for a moment, is that without the assistance of the wealthiest nation on the planet, children will continue to die every 3 seconds from preventable diseases and half-a-million women a year will die childbirth-related deaths. Yes, the US economy is in trouble and it will impact the worldwide economy. And the basic economics of that don’t required a Columbia degree to understand – those that can least afford it will be hit the hardest. It’s as simple as that.

So I want to issue a challenge to all people of good will who might read these words. The challenge is this – dig deeper. God never set a maximum tithe requirement, you know. God gives us everything and then says we can keep 90%, but he doesn’t say we have to keep that much. Can you give another 1% above what you’re already giving? Can you give another 0.7%? If you’re making $25,000 per year, 1% is $250; 0.7% is $175. If you’re earning $100,000, those numbers are $1,000 and $700. I’m willing to bet that we as individuals can do what our government cannot – make sure that the aid doesn’t dry up when times get tough at home.

I’m sure that many of you are affected by the current economic crisis. A mortgage you can’t pay, credit you can’t get, caught in the spiraling unemployment statistics. My heart goes out to each and every one of you. But the challenge is for you, too. Even your worst money-day is better than living on less than $1 per day as a billion of your fellow humans do every day. So I say to you, too – dig deeper.

There’s a great spiritual principle involved in this – if we trust in God to provide for everything that we need, we’ll never lack for anything. Seek first God’s kingdom. Or in the great words of the prophet Malachi:
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. (3:10)

Monday, October 6, 2008

"A Uniting Tongue" -- by the Rev. Lauren R. Stanley

RENK, Sudan – “Please, I want English.”

“You will help me English.”

“You teach me English.”

“English very important. You help.”

Every day, I am asked to teach English to someone here in Sudan. Even though I spend at least half of my days speaking passable Arabic, along with a smattering of tribal languages, everyone here, it seems, want to speak, read and write English. Clergy colleagues ask me to help them learn advanced English. The women want to read and write it. And the children … well, all day long, from early morning to late evening, the children yell out at me, “Good morning, teacher!”

Now that the semester is finished at the Renk Theological College, where I teach, among other things, English, I have three new English classes that I am teaching, one for colleagues who actually understand quite a bit of English but are afraid to speak it; one for my advanced English students from college, who want to prepare for TOEFL exams (if they are ever blessed to take one); and one for the women (sorry, no men allowed here) who work for the College, the Cathedral and the Guesthouse and who know very little English.

It’s a fascinating thing to work with these friends, most of whom I have known for three or more years, who during that time have urged me to learn Arabic and their own tribal languages, but who now are desperate to learn my mother tongue.

South Sudan in particular has always wanted to have English as its uniting language. The further south you travel in this, Africa’s largest nation, the more English you hear. But here in Renk, on the border between North and South, only 250 miles south of the capital of Khartoum, Arabic is the lingua franca. It’s not classical Arabic, not even Modern Standard Arabic. Linguists classify most of the Arabic spoken here as “Sudanese Creole.” Until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed three-plus years ago, the entire curriculum in the schools was taught in Arabic.

Now, though, that is beginning to change. Now our curriculum is shifting to English, with Arabic as a second language that is still required, but not the main focus. Our children are learning more and more English. In addition to hearing “Good morning, teacher!” now I hear, “What is your name?” and “How are you?” (with a nice lilt on the final word) more often.

The conversational English class has been the most fun to teach thus far. The other day, the students broke into groups of four with assignments to use several tenses in their conversation. I stepped outside and lingered by the windows to listen.

And what did I hear but a cacophony of voices raised in questions and answers, with corrections quickly interspersed.

“Yesterday, I am going …”

“No, yesterday I was going …”

“Today I will be coming to class.”

“No, today I am in class.

“Tomorrow, I will go to Kosti.”

“Yesterday, I went to a wedding.”

It was a truly delightful sound … 12 adults, all leaders of the Diocese of Renk in the Episcopal Church of Sudan, trying their hardest to make sense of this language they have heard for years but never quite understood and never felt comfortable speaking.

Occasionally, they falter and don’t want to speak. “No,” they say. “I don’t know.”

That’s when I whip out my Arabic and tell them tales of things that have happened to me in Sudan in the last three years. I get them laughing and asking questions and commenting, and then I remind them: If I can speak Arabic with you, and make all the mistakes I do, and still am willing to use this language, you can do the same. I promise not to laugh at you, just as you never laugh at me.”

Sometimes, we sing songs in English. The Church here has many English songs translated into tribal languages as well as Arabic, so they are familiar with them. Learning the songs in a new language, and learning what the words mean, is probably the most fun for the students, especially when we sing something rousing, like I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. They love that song in their own languages; adding the English version is a bonus.

In my TOEFL class, I spend as much time explaining idioms and colloquialisms and American culture as I do teaching English. The students are fascinated to learn about Girl Scout cookies – in our practice book, there really is a question dealing with ordering cookies – and being “short” one class for graduation, and what an area code is, and the difference between “purchased” and “bought” (you have to match the verb used in the conversation). They love to hear about going to restaurants (and what that word means) and “putting an ad in a newspaper,” and struggle to deal with me speaking English at what would be a “normal” American speed, as opposed to what I use to teach their other classes, which is an African-accented, slower version of American and British English.

These students listen closely, staring straight at me, and do their best to answer questions based on the “conversations” I have had to create because we are missing the TOEFL cassette tapes they are supposed to be using. They guess at answers, sometimes ask me to repeat the conversations, ask about subtle differences and grin hugely when they finally understand.

And the women? Well, they have their own special requests about what they want to learn: How to say, “I am going home now.” “I am cooking breakfast.” “I want to go to the market.” They struggle to write the alphabet and giggle when they can recite it from memory, especially when they remember one of the alphabet songs we use here. Some of the women have had to be taught how to hold a pencil before they can begin classes; all of them try so very hard to learn any little thing they can.

South Sudan is changing rapidly. Soon, perhaps sooner than we think, this will be a place where English is the lingua franca.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan. She is a lecturer at the Renk Theological College, teaching Theology, Liturgy and English, and serves as chaplain for the students.

Friday, October 3, 2008

"Relief and the Church -- Yesterday and Today" -- by The Micah Challenge

Today's post is from the Micah Challenge, a global Christian campaign to achieve the MDGs. Part of their mission is a weekly prayer emailing like the one you see below. You can receive it in your email box every week send a blank email to regine.nagel@micahchallenge.org with the words 'subscribe prayer' in the subject line.

Reflection


On May 2 this year, cyclone Nargis hit Burma. The officially estimated death toll is at 84,500 people, another 53,800 people are missing. The UN estimates that 2.4 million people are affected by the disaster.

What happens in affected communities after a disaster has hit and the media interest subsided?

This week’s reflection is a moving account of how a Burmese organization was able to support the rebuilding, replanting and restoring of one community.

‘…work on the Nargis aftermath reminds us of an anthill - thousands of local people are swarming to repair damage in many small and some not-so-small places and ways. The story of this disaster response and of its successes thus far includes actors from both inside and outside the country. But the heroes continue to be the local people who, time and time again, rally to overcome the insurmountable.’
In 2. Corinthians 9 we read of the first relief project of the early church which teaches basic principles of giving and receiving.
‘Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God.

This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone.

Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they'll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!’ (2.Cor. 9:12-15 – The Message)
Prayer

Let us pray:

*Cyclone Nargis was more than 5 months ago now, but please keep Burma, its people and the difficult political situation in your thoughts and prayers.

*We thank God for many opportunities that have arisen after the ‘Pastoral letter to US Christians’ to raise awareness about global poverty in the USA.

Lawrence Temfwe, Micah Challenge Facilitator in Zambia writes:

‘Bishop Mususu, the leader of Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, and myself are currently in the USA to attend meetings around the UN meeting and visit several churches and colleges to share about our work we are doing under Micah Challenge in Zambia: building a coalition among churches that they can reach out with an integral message to their communities. We are here at the invitation of One Campaign and Micah Challenge USA who requested us to add our voice to their campaign of engaging churches that they deepen their understanding of the root causes of poverty. We value your prayers:

*That in all we do we stay focused in calling people to obedience to Christ;

*For the rest of the trip that God be honored;

*For the meetings that people will be receptive.


Unfortunately, the outcomes at the UN High-level on the MDGs last week were not good enough. Many announcements were just re-statements of previous commitments and are not enough to meet the MDGs.

Please pray that commitments that were made will be kept and opportunities for further commitments will arise.

For a more detailed analysis of commitments made, please see Tearfund UK’s summary here.

*Reflecting on the statistic below: maternal death means husbands lose their wives, children their mother, parents their daughter in a time when new life should be celebrated.

Please pray for more trained health personnel and improved access to antennal and emergency obstetric care.
Meditate on the Statistics

As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

Target 6: Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the number of women who die giving birth

‘Each year, more than half a million women die from pregnancy-related causes and an estimated 10 million experience injuries, infections, disease or disability that can cause lifelong suffering.

Most of these deaths and disabilities are avoidable. Where deliveries are overseen by skilled health personnel with access to emergency obstetric care, and where women receive adequate nutrition and basic health-care services, the risk of maternal death is less.’

Source: Report: Progress for Children: A Report Card on Maternal Mortality (No. 7), UNICEF Sept 08