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We hear statistics of Third World countries so often we become apathetic

—how do we even begin to understand and comprehend? For example,

  • 30,000 people die every day from a preventable/treatable disease
  • a child dies from starvation every 16 seconds. That’s
  • 5,700 a day
  • 40,000 a week
  • 160,000 a month
  • more than 1 million children a year.

So what do we do? What are the needs of the children we see on television or read about in newspapers or magazines? Do they need food? Medication? Health care? Clean water? Education?

I know! Let’s send them Christmas presents! At least that will make them feel better, right?

So every fall well-meaning Christians and churches collect toys, candy, school supplies, and hygiene products to ship to Third World countries. Giving from our hearts, we seldom stop to assess the value of what we give versus the cost of what’s really needed.

According to statistics, we send about 5 million boxes a year filled with $50 million worth of toys and candy. It costs $7 to mail each box. That amounts to $35 million to send the boxes, for a grand total of $85 million! Are we simply pushing the North American idol of consumerism onto a starving and dying world?

Just imagine how much food $85 million would buy! How many goats, cows, or chickens, or how much seed for fields could that purchase? How many wells could be dug to provide clean water? How many fields could be irrigated? How many people could be helped by vaccines and medications? How many health clinics and hospitals could be set up? How many children could receive an education? The list goes on and on.

The shoe boxes are a wonderful gesture. But this year let’s consider giving something that lasts longer. The gift catalog of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee is now available online at Check it out for ways to provide gifts that might save the life of a child through the transformation of an entire community.

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