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Q. What is causing the international food crisis all of a sudden? It seemed to come so fast and out of nowhere. What can Christians or churches do about it? How do I know that what I'm giving is used for what I intend?
Rising Costs for Production
Note to our Readers:
Although this was written in 2008 and the crisis is over, we expect inflation to return again probably by 2012. Fed Chairman Bernanke has said so. He plans to inflate the money supply. So we are looking at higher gas prices and food costs most likely by late 2011.
There are several causes of increased food shortages and famines today. One is the rising cost of fuels and resources. It costs money to keep farm equipment running and to apply fertilizers and insect controls on crops. It costs money to ship foods to markets. Another reason is the use of crops for non-food products such as Bio-diesel fuels.
Another cause of current shortages and famines is a fall in donor aid commitments. As food costs rise and people try to meet their own needs they become fearful of shortages and they donate less to charities around the world.
Jesus warned us there would be famines and other natural disasters. He said there would be "great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences (pandemics). And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven" (Luke 21:11-12, ESV).
He warned we would see these things before he returns to our planet. Clearly we are living in the days of increased earthquakes and famines and terrorism. I think we will see even more including pandemics in the future.
"The Economist," April 19th, 2008 issue says,
"The middle classes in poor countries are giving up health care and cutting out meat so they can eat three meals a day. The middling poor, those on $2 a day, are pulling children from school and cutting back on vegetables so they can still afford rice. Those on $1 a day are cutting back on meat, vegetables and one or two meals, so they can afford one bowl. The desperate - those on 50 cents a day - face disaster."
"Roughly a billion people live on $1 a day. If, on a conservative estimate, the cost of their food rises 20% (and in some places, it has risen a lot more), 100m people could be forced back to this level, the common measure of absolute poverty" (pg. 13).
For example, in Haiti there were terrible floods in 2007. They lost many of their food crops.
In Afghanistan wheat prices rose over 100 percent within one year.
In West Africa there are major food riots. People are protesting the spiraling costs of food staples.
In Bangladesh Cyclone Sidr devastated their food crops. Some families lost their entire harvest in this storm.
In Somalia there is increased malnutrition and disease especially among the children.
In Jordan food prices began to spike. Refugee families try to water down their yogurt because milk prices are so high. They have no fruits or other proteins because of the high expense.
In South Sudan food assistance is necessary because of a war-torn region.
Australia lost most of their wheat crops due to drought.
Wars, Floods, Drought
The list of devastations and crop failures in the various nations goes on and on. The causes of food shortages vary from wars and floods to drought to freaky storms or crop failures due from other causes.
Sadly, some reasons are due to the U.S. devaluation of its own dollar. As the Federal Reserve prints more and more money, it takes more dollars to buy gasoline, foodstuffs, insurance, and everything else. To remain competitive in the world markets other countries in turn devalue their own currencies so they can still sell their products to Americans.
In other words, the reason Americans can still buy cheap products at places like Wal-Mart is because other countries have devalued their own currencies so they can sell products even though the United States is devaluing its own dollar. As they devalue their own currencies, it takes more of their own money to buy things in their own countries, too.
Yes. We are a reason there are spiraling food costs worldwide.
God Cares for the Poor
Regardless of the reasons there are food shortages, God has a heart of compassion and mercy for the poor.
"He will rescue the poor when they cry to him. He will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them" (Psalm 72:12, NLT).
"The Lord our God lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the garbage dump. He sets them among princes!" (Psalm 113:7-8).
"He has brought down princes from their thrones, and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands" (Luke 1:52-53).
We are His Hands
Some of these things will be accomplished when Jesus returns to rule during the Millennium. But, meanwhile we are expected to help the poor and needy. We are "His Hands" reaching out to them.
"Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon" (Isaiah 58:10).
What we have belongs to Him
All that we have belongs to God first, anyway.
"Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!" (1 Chronicles 29:14, NLT).
Even if we fear not having enough ourselves for the future, we should still give to others. God will provide for us.
"Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing" (Proverbs 28:27).
"God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others" (2 Cor. 9:8).
Our first responsibility is to make sure those in our own families are taken care of - including distant relatives and widows.
"But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Tim. 5:8, NASB).
Not Just Caring for Nuclear Families
This is a strong statement and we must take it seriously. We must make sure that our children, parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins are cared for - all those whom God has put in our immediate families.
Remember that the Bible does not think in terms of "nuclear" family - or only our own immediate children or grandchildren. That is a recent phenomenon and a selfish one. The Bible thinks in terms of broad families which include what we might think of as "distant" relatives.
Rescue Mission Neighbors
Next we are to care for poor neighbors, widows and orphans and those in our churches. One way to do this is to contribute to your local rescue mission. If you are unsure how to do this please consider visiting your existing rescue mission. Meet the directors. Tour the facilities. Call them. Ask about projects in which to get involved.
If you have no rescue mission don't forget the Salvation Army. At any rate, these are ideas on how to get involved with needs in your communities.
Does your church have a "Joseph Closet" or a pantry filled with goods for the poor? Contribute to your church's welfare program. You might want to encourage your church to hook-up with your local rescue mission to broaden its outreach to the community.
Consider thoughtfully the following verses:
"If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?"
"So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:15-17, ESV).
In other words, if we do not assist the poor among us as an outward expression of our faith, our faith is useless - dead!
Finally, we can donate funds to charitable organizations which assist the poor in neighboring countries. There are long lists of good organizations. But, let's keep our focus on perhaps 3 or 4. These are known to make good use of our funds.
Samaritan's Purse - Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham's outreach: www.samaritanspurse.org.
World Vision - www.worldvision.org.
Voice of the Martyrs outreach: www.persecution.com.
James and Betty Robinson's outreach mission: www.lifetoday.org.
We suggest that believers start a method of giving to these organizations through "auto-bill" on our credit cards. This keeps funds smoothly coming in for desperate people. If we can afford to buy new shoes, or Easter baskets, or "happy meals" for the kids with our credit cards, then we can afford to spend $15-$50 or more monthly for the poor.
Please remember our persecuted brothers and sisters and their needy families, too. This is also scriptural:
"Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill treated, since you yourselves also are in the body" (Hebrews 13:3).
…"For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one" (Hebrews 10: 32-34, NASB).
Thank you for caring, and remember that "my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
Some Photos courtesy of: US Dept of Energy and Agriculture Websites
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