Fourth Sunday of Epiphany – February 2, 2020
Scripture: Isaiah 55
How poor are the poorest people on earth, and where do they live? Just a quick Google search indicated that in some countries the Gross Domestic Product per capita per year is a meagre $700, which translates into about $2 a day or $60 a month in the Central African Republic. [i] How possible is it for one person to survive with so little on a daily basis?
Against this utter poverty, there is a passage in Scripture that speaks out loudly to the contrary. It addresses people who “have no money” to “come, buy and eat!”
This chapter from the prophet Isaiah speaks with an outrageous dream. The vision of something virtually impossible from Isaiah is meant to bring a spark of hope to the hopeless. “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” If you live in Canada it might sound almost ridiculous that there would be a situation where something like milk or wine being freely available can be such a big deal.
But when it comes to our Presbyterian Church in Canada’s outreach by means of Presbyterian World Service and Development (PWS&D) it’s not only poverty that gets addressed. The abundant life of which we read in our Scripture this morning expands to so many other possibilities.
Looking at our denomination’s PWS&D resource for Feb 2 (which is obviously today), there is no shortage of stories about development programs, food security projects in Guatemala and Nicaragua, which help vulnerable families gain skills so that they can provide food for their children.
There are many stories about how PWS&D responds to provide food for famished families. When disasters strike and crops are destroyed, such as with Cyclone Idai in Malawi as well as Mozambique, or flooding in South Sudan, short term assistance is provided to help families make it through to the next harvest.
Why are development programs necessary?
Even in our world of abundance, we know that there are many areas of the world where young girls, youth and women do not have access to the education or vocational training that will allow them to provide for their families.
Why do we need to provide food assistance?
Even in our world of abundance, when disasters hit, local governments and organizations are unable to respond to the needs of those affected.
Why are there refugees?
Even in our world of abundance, there are countries where people are forced to flee for their lives due to war, political pressures, or their ethnicity.
Even in our world of abundance, which is full of unfathomable wealth, why are people still going hungry, struggling to receive basic education and going without primary healthcare?
In our world of abundance, abundant life can seem so far away….
And yet, through our ongoing work of following God’s call to be the salt of the earth and light to the world, God provides glimpses of the kingdom, where there is abundance for all.
In Northern Malawi, in a small village, Kaluhoro, there is a self-help group of women between the ages of 30 to 50 who have started a rural bakery. Since 2018, with PWS&D support, this group of about 30 women had been trained in food preparation, received some grant money to construct an oil-drum oven in the yard of one of the leaders, and their bakery was born.
The women rotate responsibility for baking the bread, donuts and scones each day and sell their products at nearby villages. Being a 45-minute drive from the nearest town where bread can be purchased, the women sell out of their delicious baked goods nearly every day.
This modest bakery operation is transforming their community and the surrounding communities. Not only are villagers receiving access to affordable bread, but the self-help group is earning money. Some of the profits go to the individuals to support the basic needs of their families, and some is invested in their business and community.
The women have their sights set on building a new well closer to their oven and buying a bicycle to sell their bread to further villages. While life is still quite hard by North American standards, the small act of providing some training and capacity building has transformed the women and their community.
Abundant life is not about having enough money to live in abundance. In God’s economy, money is no good. Abundant life, as God promises, is where whole lives are transformed, and people are able to delight in God’s freely-offered love. [ii]
Show PWS&D video
[i] Research through Google delivered the following: https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/top-10-countries-with-the-lowest-gdp-per-capita-1538993483-1
Copyright 2020 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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