The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. That’s quite a heady title, isn’t it? World Relief! It’s not so much the word relief that gives me pause; it’s that we dare claim to bring relief to the world! Really? World relief?
Take a look at the world to which we attempt to bring relief. It’s broken. It’s hurting. It’s sick. It’s at war. It’s wounded by one disaster after another. Its population is big and growing bigger—dangerously bigger, some would say.
Zero in for a moment on one specific area in the world currently in need of relief: Eastern Africa. It’s not the only place that needs relief, but right now it’s among the most critical. Crops have failed. Water is in short supply. Livestock has no food. Inflation is staggering. Conflict rages. Refugee camps overflow. The worst drought in 60 years has dramatically affected 10 million people.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
Beginning in August, CRWRC intensified its relief efforts there, aiming to reach 18,300 households (about 135,000 people) by the end of this year. The cost of the program response will be nearly $9 million, with about 90 percent of that coming through CRWRC’s partnerships. Still, it’s a huge undertaking for a small group like us.
And from one point of view, our efforts are a tiny, almost unnoticeable attack on a seemingly invincible enemy. What difference does helping 135,000 people make when 10 million are at risk? What good is it to bring “relief” to 1 percent of those facing hunger and possibly starvation? My answer: it’s 135,000 more than would be helped otherwise!
You have no doubt read Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats. One of the truly amazing things about it is that those who helped did not realize they were helping Jesus. Feeding the hungry, befriending the lonely, clothing the naked, visiting the unnoticed and unknown did not alter the whole world, but it made an impact and was noticed and appreciated by the Lord of the world. His response to each was: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40).
The goal is not to feed all the hungry or befriend all the lonely or clothe all the naked or visit all the imprisoned, but to minister to one at a time. Service to “one of the least of these” is service to me, Jesus says.
And he says that today to us about Eastern Africa. A relatively small gift from any one of us can minister to far more than one person. And that gift can minister to Jesus!
I am thankful for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee and for the countless ways God has blessed it by giving hands and feet to my gifts. CRWRC not only encourages me but allows me to minister to people I could never reach and to go where I could never go and to do what I could never do alone.
It asks me, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17). And then it says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (v. 18).
The disappointment we may feel over not being able to bring relief—or, better yet, long-term development—to the whole world ought not make us despair about bringing any relief to the world. The cost to us of a decent meal out will feed a family in Eastern Africa for a month.
Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” I am thankful that God uses the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee to make that possible. The more of us who are similarly grateful, the more the world will receive some relief.
About the Author
Rev. Joel R. Boot is the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.