So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us… (2 Corinthians 5:20). While Paul can go on at times, this half verse in today’s language of fast communication, would make a perfect sound bite for the overarching vision of the mission of the Church. Whether we provide food for the hungry, shelter for those who have none or hope and opportunities for the poor, we do this as ambassadors for Christ. As ambassadors we exclude no one in the welcome and invitation to relationship, especially those that are most different and whose origins are on foreign soil. Times of great need or distress can often propel people to step through the open door toward relationship. To trust just enough to reach out to even the people they understand the least. In the process, all parties are transformed and something new is created.
It is inconceivable given our own experience, to understand the immense needs that exist in poor countries. To put it in perspective, if we look at just one measurable indicator, hunger, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recently stated that 1.02 billion people are undernourished. This is a sizable increase from its 2006 estimate of 854 million people. And 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty means living on less than $1.25 per day. Over the last few decades communication has so vastly improved that these statistics are no longer abstract. They immediately conjure up real images of the faces of extreme poverty. The images make words unnecessary. We know these haunting images are God’s appeal to us and as Christ’s body in the world we respond.
Nine years ago, under the leadership of the United Nations, a blueprint for a better world was adopted. The Millennium Development Goals set as its target the eradication of poverty, the promotion of universal primary education and the improvement of health worldwide. It is nice to have a blueprint. But we are part of the Anglican Communion so we also have a vast network through which to work. From Africa to Latin America, to the Caribbean where the need is great, our wider community already knows how to help. Our partnership in these countries is not new; our commitment is serious and the response is often generous and immediate. In just two months, the reported Haiti donations that have emanated from the Diocese of Newark reached $135,000. Is there any better manifestation that Christ, the true bread that gives life to the world, is living in us?