Last night at church was Hope Sunday. Covenant churches are encouraged to choose one Sunday to designate as a Hope Sunday for Covenant Kids Congo (partnered with World Vision). The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) was one of the first mission fields of the Evangelical Covenant Church (and its parent church in Sweden). The church there has flourished, despite civil wars and oppressive conditions (or maybe because of them?). In fact, the Covenant church in the Congo is larger than it is in North America.
But the Congo is currently one of the poorest nations in the world. AIDS and other diseases that claim the lives of too many are common place. Therefore, so are orphans. Many children lack education because they spend most of their day walking to get water for their family. Water that is often dirty and filled with bacteria that ends up making those same children sick.
So part of Hope Sunday is awareness of those things that are going on in the Congo. It also encourages families to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child in the Congo for $40 a month that helps the child's village develop through clean water, agriculture, and educational improvements.
We heard a message given by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision US, lat night as well. He acknowledge that often it is overwhelming, even paralyzing, when we look at all the need, injustice, and poverty in the world. The world has so much need that we feel like we as an individual can't make a difference. And maybe we can't change the world, but we can change the world for one person.
I confess that I feel guilty that we financially can't sponsor a child well right now like we have in the past. That'll probably change once my wife is done with her doctorate, but right now we're on a tight budget. So it's not easy to see those faces and not be able to help them. But I don't have to send money to the other side of the world to make a difference. I can bring hope to my neighborhood. I can bring hope to the children I work with at school. Maybe I'm not able to provide them a warm meal or needed clothes, but even a kind word can make a difference. Giving them my time can make a difference.
We heard the Scripture passage from Matthew 25 where Jesus separates the sheep from the goats based on who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the imprisoned. Sometimes I feel guilty and scared when I read or hear that passage. I feel like I pass up opportunities to help those in need too often.
I don't think Jesus' point is condemnation, though. I think it is about hope. He reminds us that when we take a moment of our time or use a little of our resources--even if it's giving a cup of water to someone who is thirsty--we're serving Him. We're making a difference in someone's life. We're having an impact. We're giving hope.