Dion's random ramblings

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Resources to guide your prayers, thoughts, and choices during World Hunger relief week.

Did you know that Hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined!?

This week is World Hunger Relief week. I would encourage all Churches to insert some prayers into their liturgies, service sheets, or weekly devotionals.

From the links below you can get Prayer resources, Bible verses, and even games to help focus your prayers, and the choices and thoughts of your cell group, or Church during world hunger relief week.

Here are a few facts about world hunger:

You can download a MS Word prayer guide that has 40 prayers, with additional information, to guide your prayer during the week by clicking on this link.

  • 854 million people are hungry
  • 20 million people are undernourished
  • 1 billion people live on less than $1/day
  • 146 million children under age 5 are underweight
    • 10 million children under age 5 die every year, over half of hunger-related causes
  • 1 in 6 people is hungry
  • 1 in 6 people lacks safe drinking water

  • In the developing world, 20 million low-birth-weight babies are born each year. They are at risk of dying in infancy or suffering lifelong physical or cognitive disabilities.
  • 3/4 of all deaths in children under age 5 in the developing world are caused by malnutrition or related diseases.
  • Each day in the developing world, 16,000 children die from hunger or preventable diseases such as diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, or malaria. Malnutrition is associated with over half of those deaths. That is equal to 1 child every 5.4 seconds.
  • Hungry children are more likely to be ill and absent from school.
  • Hungry children suffer from 2 to 4 times more individual health problems--such as unwanted weight loss, fatigue, headaches, irritability, inability to concentrate, and frequent colds--as low-income children whose families do not experience food shortages.

Africa quick facts - hunger and HIV/AIDS

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that there are 206 million people who are hungry in sub-Saharan Africa. This region accounts for 13 percent of the world's population, yet it is home to 25 percent of the world's undernourished population.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, 24.9 million people live with HIV/AIDS, which is 63% of the world's 39.5 million total cases.
  • In half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, per capita economic growth is estimated to be falling by between 0.5 and 1.2 percent each year as a direct result of AIDS. (Bread for the World)
For detailed information, resources, and a truly wortwhile read, please visit Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's website.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

'Merdeka' and miracles in Malaysia

Please forgive me for not posting any updates on my Malaysia visit sooner. Whilst my time in Oxford was busy (starting with the first session at 7am and ending with the last session after 10pm), my Malaysian trip has been even busier! Not only do we start early and finish late, but there is also a 6 hour time difference between here and South Africa. So, I stay up until after midnight to phone Megie, Courts and Liam (when it is midnight here it is 6pm there). The long and the short of it is that I have been capitalizing on my ability to get by on about 4 hours of sleep a night. Those who know me know that 4 hours is just about as much as my A.D.D. body cope with... Anything more than that and I start to feel sluggish.

Well, my time in Malaysia has been remarkable. I flew in via Singapore (which is the same route as I took to South Korea last year). However, the Malaysian Church is so different from the Church in South Korea! I have felt very much at home here. This is not only because of the magnificent hospitality of Bishop Hwa Yung and his team (not to mention that I am staying in an incredible hotel in Kuala Lumpur - the photo above is taken from my balcony and shows the inland wave pool of the Sunway Spa and resort), but also because the Malaysian Methodist Church has such a similar history to that of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Both our Churches come from Methodism in Britain. Both our contexts have a rich and varied racial spread, and both contexts have significant contextual challenges.

Whilst the Church in South Africa struggles with issues relating to poverty and HIV / AIDS, the Church in Malaysia faces the challenge of being Christian in a Muslim nation. Less that 8% of the 26 Million people in Malaysia are Christian. The Methodist conference at which I am speaking has about 4000 Methodists from the 6 annual conferences, and one mission conference, of Malaysia. Here's a photo of the main hall in which we're meeting for our plenary sessions.

Last night I did my first session in the plenary. It was extremely well received. There is such an openness to the gospel of Christ, and such a longing to see society transformed and renewed to reflect the values of justice, mercy, equity, wholeness and grace, which are central to the Kingdom of God. I had a 30 minute slot (translated from English into Chinese and Tamil) in which I spoke about the Transformation / Global day of prayer movement that combines:

  • 10 days of ecumenical fasting and praying for change, renewal, and God's blessing in society.
  • a one day gathering (often in large stadiums or churches) where persons gather to pray, repent, and witness to the unity of the Christian faith (there is an eschatological dimension to this of course - having to pray together for 10 days, and having to organise an event at which there may be 30 000 or 40 000 people soon teaches us that we have more in common with each other than what we have a distinctive difference). This event takes place on Pentecost Sunday each year.
  • 90 days of blessing, ministry, and service that follow the prayer event. Here the Church has an opportunity to be an answer to its prayers. The emphasis is on using the 90 days after Pentecost to try and address some of the practical issues that the community is struggling with (e.g., feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, rebuilding schools, blessing the elderly, building homes for the homeless etc.)
I have found a great deal of resonance with the balance between prayer (showing that true life, and new beginnings are ultimately reliant on the God who makes all things new), and Christian social action (showing that as Christians we have the incredible responsibility, and privilege, or matching our personal piety with social holiness - i.e., we need to become the instruments that God uses to bring about change and transformation in society). For me, this is the way in which the Gospel is made real, it relies upon God, yet it expects active human participation in God's mission in the world. Today I will be doing a two hour workshop with 1000 people. I hope that it will convince many of the the balance that is needed between personal piety and social holiness. God is glorified by our devotion to God, and our devotion to God's will for the world.

Yesterday was a national public holiday here in Malaysia - it is called Merdeka day. Merdeka means liberation, freedom, and independence. The Malaysian nation celebrated 50 years of independence from Britain on the 31st of August. The Celebrations outside our hotel where magnificent!! Here's a picture of the fire works that went off at midnight on the 30th. It was loud and spectacular!

I have experienced God's Merdeka among these wonderful Christian people. We can learn a great deal about racial diversity and religious tolerance from our Malaysian sisters and brothers. Of course there are some things that they can learn from us as well.

I always enjoy new contexts, and particularly meeting new people! Here's a photo that was taken yesterday. In it you can see Bishop Hwa Yung (I am seated to his right). Tomorrow the Bishop will lead a service in a local stadium for about 13 000 Methodists. It will be largest Christian gathering of its kind in the history of Malaysia. This is significant in a Muslim country!

On Monday I will travel to STM to spend some time with the academic faculty and students of the Methodist Seminary - I will be speaking on the role of the Methodist Church in South Africa in working against Apartheid, and dealing with violence and oppression in society. I hope to be able to blog some more in the next few days.

Please keep Megie, Courts, Liam and I in your prayers. All four of us have been sick with flu in the last two weeks.

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