Many years ago, Dr. KP Yohannan picked up a news magazine from his desk, and as he turned the pages, a disturbing picture grabbed his attention.
The photograph showed a severely malnourished African woman sitting on the dirt floor of her hut, holding two tiny infants in her arms. She was literally skin and bones. Her eyes had sunk into their sockets, her stomach was caved in and her ribs were sticking out. Please take a minute to look online at pictures of starvation in Africa. You will find just the kinds of picture he was looking at. It was heartbreaking.
But there was more to her story. She was staring in despair at her almost lifeless looking babies, as if she was asking herself a question without uttering words. The caption under the picture read: “Which one will she let live?”
Her body was so depleted by starvation that she could no longer produce enough milk to keep both infants alive. If she let one die and only nursed the other one, perhaps that one would have a chance to survive.
We can hear so many facts and figures and needs, but when we look at a picture, when we go there ourselves, it becomes so much clearer that this is truly a way of life for people around the world today.
According to the UN, “More than 90 million children under age five are still undernourished and underweight.” Think about that. Think about how many children today are just trying to find a meal, and this is their way of life. You may find modern skyscrapers, businesses, affluent houses and shopping malls in major cities around the world, but within walking distance there are slums and poor inner-city neighbourhoods. No area of the world is immune to this. Just think of the poverty in places like New York City and London or the homeless population in San Francisco. Millions live in slums like Ciudad Neza in Mexico and Orangi Town in Pakistan. No doubt, there have been great advances in education, technology, medicine, business and international trade. However, even though according to the United Nations “extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990,” the need is still great. The following statistics are all current poverty-related issues.
Can you imagine the massive task it would be to get the world’s 767 million people out of poverty? That’s more than twice the entire population of the United States. It’s like moving the Himalaya mountains! No one man, government or organization can do it alone. It takes everyone who is blessed to have their basic needs met to help make it happen.
In December 2017, Dr. Yohannan was able to help hand out blankets to people living on the streets in Delhi. It was cold out, and he saw people laying on the side of the road with no blanket. It was heartbreaking to see the conditions they were living in and to know there are people all around the world in the same plight. Lack of warm clothes, sanitation, clean water and food are a result of widespread poverty, and end up resulting in malnutrition, sickness and death, especially among children.
The poverty-stricken are often forced to live in overcrowded slums or are homeless on city streets, unable to meet their most basic needs. To survive, some may work as unskilled labourers, while others may end up resorting to being scavengers or prostitutes. They can all be easy targets for exploitation. Looked down upon by society, they live with constant pain and rejection. It is not uncommon that in their hopelessness, many resort to alcohol and drugs or even commit suicide.
We recognize the value God has placed on every person.
- Dr. KP Yohannan
As human beings, we can only relate to the world through time and space. We see everything from the perspective of this present world. From the teaching in the Bible and from believers of the early Church, we’re challenged to see things from God’s perspective—in the light of eternity. And in this light, we recognize the value God has placed on every person He created and our responsibility to do something about their poverty and suffering.
That’s why GFA World is passionately involved in helping to care for the sick and needy. It can be from community development and disaster relief to supporting programs that enable the poor to get out of poverty.
Dr. Yohannan also visited one of the many leprosy colonies where Sisters of Compassion are working. Sisters of Compassion is a ministry supported by GFA World. These are women who are specially trained to show Christ’s love by physically serving the needy, underprivileged and poor. As he joined these Sisters of Compassion in giving out medicine and bandaging wounds, Dr. Yohannan was once again amazed by how these precious sisters embrace those afflicted by leprosy, serving them so faithfully in the name of Jesus. These leprosy patients, some without fingers or nose or ears, have faced so much rejection in their lives. But now they are finding hope, knowing that someone cares about them.
The most important step toward breaking the terrible cycle of poverty, exploitation and slave labour, which hold people captive for generations, is for the poor to become literate and receive an education. It opens the door for them to get a job, support their families and learn skills that will improve their health, home life and environment.
Unfortunately, the daily struggle for survival leaves millions of desperately poor families with nothing left to send even one of their children to school.
When Dr. Yohannan took this burden to his ministry leaders several years ago, GFA began the Bridge of Hope Program.
Today, more than 70,000 needy children are enrolled in Bridge of Hope in four nations. With the support of thousands of kind and generous people from around the world, these children are getting a quality education, loving care and the opportunity for a bright future. They will be the ones to break the cycle of poverty for their families and help transform their communities.
Not only that, through GFA World’s gift catalogue, over 1.7 million families have received gifts like blankets, sewing machines and goats, which raise their standard of living and help free them from the poverty they’ve been trapped in for generations.
As we begin a New Year, it is a good opportunity for us to think about ways we can personally get involved. Each of us can help at least one poor person get out of poverty this year and together we can transform entire communities and uplift poor nations.
The poor of this world are loved by God, and He has given us the opportunity to love them too.
A simple way to bring hope to the suffering and help eliminate poverty is to give to GFA’s Christmas Gift Catalogue. Gifts such as goats, sewing machines and rickshaws are distributed all year long, and so we receive financial gifts all year long to enrich the lives of the poor and most needy!
Learn more about Bridge of Hope.