Mom and Dad: I’m exhausted and I can barely string these words together in a coherent sentence but I knew that I had to try. This was a disaster of extremes – people affected, lives lost, the height of the flood waters but I gotta tell you about the real extremes- neighbors risking their lives for each other, the sheer gratitude when a mother gets food for her kids, the look on the village officials’ faces when we tell them that it’s from Jesus.
I’ve been up for almost 48 hours. Before you freak out, we were putting together food packs all night and then spent today distributing them. So many people are hungry that I figured I could give up some sleep.
Can you send me money? I’ve spent all you sent getting food and medical care for my neighbors. Even $35 will help. Please keep praying – God wants to do something special here and I want to be a part of it.
If we receive this letter, wouldn’t we be compelled to react?
Why then didn’t we react when we learned that in July of this year, Pakistan was devastated by flooding?
Is it the immensity of the suffering? It’s overwhelming to think of over 20 million people affected with many left trying to rebuild their homes and their lives while struggling to gather enough food to survive.
Is it the distance between us? Pakistan is at the crossroads of the exotic as it links South and Central Asia with the Middle East. It’s a world away.
Is it disaster fatigue? The national headlines pound us with the latest bad News in Current Events, the economy, health care, education and even our sports teams. Almost weekly, the international News is full of disasters striking the people “over there.”
In spite of these excuses, the Holy Spirit tugs at us saying, “I’m not asking you to save everyone. What about making a difference for one?” Does the Holy Spirit say to you, “Distance may have been a factor for your grandparents, but today the world has shrunk. Astronauts can tweet from space.” Or perhaps it sounds more like, “Your own children ate yesterday and last week and last year. Do you refuse them when they ask you to feed them again tonight?”
Lori Degler, Southeast Regional Director of Partner Relations for Operation Mobilization USA, heeded that tug from the Holy Spirit and began to make a difference in the lives of many.
“My husband and I became involved in missions over twelve years ago as we sat in a pew like so many of us and heard about what was going on across the world. We got involved in what our local church was doing and then the Bahamas, then, India, Asia, Africa, and then a year ago, Operation Mobilization. OM is an international Christian mission organization with fifty-five hundred missionaries from ninety-five nations, representing one hundred and ten countries,” explains Lori.
“Our mission is to demonstrate and proclaim the love of God through evangelism, church planting and discipleship. Basically we go out and find the answer to the question, ‘What is the Lord asking us to do?'”
“For Randy and I, the great commission is to go to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth and for all of it to be a part of our lives. We’re to be involved in the local church and the local mission but to also be a part of what He is doing at the ends of the earth,” she adds.
OM had been working in Pakistan since the ’70’s, so when the flood waters first began to rise, the OM Pakistan team were positioned to immediately feed families and to arrange emergency medical clinics for local communities.
Only 0.8% of the people of Pakistan are Christians. Although the Pakistani constitution guarantees religious freedom, in practice there is wide spread discrimination against Christians. As the OM team members have brought this emergency aid in the name of Jesus, the overwhelming response from the Muslim majority has been one of surprise and thankfulness that it was Christians that came to help.
Then there’s the story of one man in a village who said, “I’d never met any Christians in my life. This is my first chance to see a Christian, but you look like us.” When the team member spoke to him about Essa (Jesus) the man replied, “No person from my faith came to help us, but you came from a distant place. Surely you are true followers of Essa.”
Communications from team members are like letters from a close relative as Lori shares excitedly about a team member able to create henna dye designs. Each included a Bible story and the message of God’s love so that illiterate women would have a daily reminder of God’s love when they looked at their hands.
With rising water, no electricity and the continued threat posed by monsoon season, the OM teams realized that packaged meals were the answer. Thousands of the food packets designed to provide two weeks worth of meals for six members of a family have been distributed along with clean clothes.
Because the floods came during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, there were additional challenges for team members with extensive food distribution schedules since eating or drinking is prohibited until after sundown. Time after time God provided teams with favor.
Miraculous provision reminded the team of the type of “fast” described in Isaiah 58:6-8. The type of fasting that God has chosen, “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” and then it makes some extraordinary promises, “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”
“Not to turn away from your own flesh and blood ”
Isn’t that what it comes down to? OM has a goal of providing supplies for 3,000 more Pakistani families over the next few weeks. A donation of $35 provides food for a family of six for two weeks but what cannot be understated is the impact of the gospel. In a country where millions have no credible witness or even the chance to have met a single Christian, it becomes that much more poignant to hear the response to the smallest kindness, “We will never forget this moment; while we were hungry, you fed and visited us.”
Lori adds, “The Lord is speaking to people through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the sacrificial giving of the people here. It’s not just what we can do but what God is doing and us joining in it and being a part of it. I want to stress the hope that’s given. The power of Christ that is going forth; the opportunity to make a difference. The Lord says He gives us the opportunity to help. The difference we can make with just a couple minutes online and the click of a mouse is eternal.”
For more information, e-mail Lori at [email protected]