By ** Julian Gordy, bishop of the Southeastern Synod, and James Gonia, bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod**
We were asked to join with voices of faith from our three Abrahamic traditions to think about how the ways we share comfort, prayer, resources and energy with others beyond our borders can in turn help each of us lead a more faithful life. We are pleased to share them with you from our perspective as Lutherans because, as the ELCA mission states: "We are freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor. With our hands, we do God's work of restoring and reconciling communities in Jesus' name throughout the world."
The book of Micah reminds us that God wants us to "act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).
Spend a few minutes thinking about these seven ways to participate in our world.
1. Spread hope, not gloom
Yes, there is great suffering in our world, but behind the headlines is a hopeful story that needs to be told. We are witnessing the healthiest generation of children the world has ever known. This year 6.3 million fewer children under age 5 will die from illness and disease than in 1990, according to UNICEF. Declining infant mortality in turn reduces birth rates. Global extreme poverty has been reduced by half and diseases are being eradicated: smallpox is gone, and polio and Guinea worm are on the verge of eradication. More families have safe water to drink; more girls are attending school; vaccines are preventing millions of deaths and deformities; farmers are growing better harvests.
2. Understand our church's global commitment
Faith communities play a crucial role in development work overseas. Churches like the ELCA along with other faith-based organizations are often on the front lines of the global fight against a myriad of injustices facing many poor communities around the world.
Affirming God's love for all people, the ELCA works with partner churches in many countries to address root causes of poverty and hunger, meet human needs and fight diseases. Whether you contribute financially or in service, you have a stake and are a part of furthering this good work.
3. Understand how the U.S. government fits into our work
The U.S. government plays a critical leadership role in this work. It coordinates international strategies and provides critical levels of funding in support of humanitarian and development assistance. In addition, the U.S. government has launched its own global initiatives to eradicate diseases, fight hunger and reduce extreme poverty.
4. Challenge the myths that hold back greater success
There are many Americans who think the U.S. government spends a huge percent of its budget on foreign assistance programs meant to reduce poverty overseas and that this money goes to waste. This is not true-only about 1 percent of the entire federal budget goes toward these programs. This small percentage of our tax dollars has a tremendous impact on people's lives. We should be proud of that fact and encourage our government to continue this good work.
5. Respond to the neediest, not just the nearest
"To whom much is given, much will be required" is a verse familiar to many of us from Luke 12. Providing life-giving assistance overseas should not be seen as a choice between "us" and "them." The modest amount of funding that goes abroad does not, and should not, reduce financial resources to fight poverty here at home. Christ's caring love is for all, regardless of where they live.
6. Strengthen American well-being
U.S. investment in global health is also an investment in American health. Pandemics can spread rapidly, as the Ebola outbreak reminded us recently. U.S. response and leadership during the Ebola outbreak serves as an important reminder of the critical security and humanitarian work our government does. It is impossible to fight pathogens by closing off borders. The best way to prevent and respond to communicable diseases is by fighting them at the source. This also means building strong healthcare systems that can tackle major disease outbreaks.
U.S. investment in development also helps our economy. Forty-three of the top 50 consumer nations of American agricultural products were once U.S. foreign aid recipients.
7. Share your moral voice with Congress
Congress needs our voices and support. Members of Congress who support U.S. foreign aid do so as quietly as possible because too often they come under political fire by opponents who exploit lack of knowledge about U.S. foreign aid. Let your members of Congress know that you value the humanitarian and development work our government supports overseas. If you've been on a mission, share your personal story, both about the needs and the successful results of our good work.
Our voices must not be silent because our work is not done. About 17,000 children around the world continue to die every day, mostly from preventable causes. As the epistle of James notes, " If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" (James 2:15-18)
Let us be the powerful voice for all God's children.