Lent Remixed, Week 5: Niger

March 11, 2013

This week we’re focusing on hunger and the country of Niger. In fact, you almost can’t think about starving people in the world and not have Africa come to mind. It’s become cliche to tell our kids to eat their dinner because “there are children starving in Africa!”

Which, actually, is quite true. There are children, whole families in fact, that are starving. In Africa alone there are approximately 276 million people without food. People who will have woken up without anything to eat and will likely go to bed with no food in their stomachs.

And why is this? Is it because, as I’ve heard some argue, people are lazy, unmotivated, or unwilling to do what is necessary to provide for themselves and their families?

The answer, I believe, is simply no. After just a little research, I found that Niger and its occupants have been the victim of drought the past several years, followed by an increase in global food prices, pushing many who are already poor deeper into poverty. With 90 percent of the people in Niger depending on agriculture for their livelihood (and being so poor to begin with), this allows them very little hope of anything to fall back on during hard times -- no family to call, no savings account or even credit cards to tide them over, no government programs -- they learn to do what they can to survive, selling what little animals they have, eating seeds and sometimes clay-packed mud pies, and taking turns eating each day with what little they have.

So where do we start? With facts and figures so overwhelming, what can we do?

Pray. This week, we will pray for the people of Niger. We will pray for an end to their hunger. We will pray that this will not be a year of drought, but of harvest, for the people there.

Fast. This week, we will fast two evenings. We will go without food to remind ourselves of the hunger many around the world face on a daily basis. Because my children are older, they will also join us this week by eating two meals of just rice and beans: the staple for many poor people who have nothing else to eat. We will tell our children of the needs around the world during their meager meals and then we will pray together as a family. I encourage you, if you have never done this before with your children, to try it. I have been amazed and humbled by the compassion my children have for others once they are aware of the need.

Give. This week we will take the money we would have used for the two meals we fast from and instead give it to those who are hungry around the world. World Vision is one of many wonderful organizations meeting the needs of those who are hungry around the world today.

Do something. Did you know that there is actually enough food in the world to feed everyone, including those who are starving? Did you know that last year we wasted almost half of the world’s food? Wasted. Did you know there are simple things to do to decrease the amount of food we waste each year? Ideas such as planning meals, using what’s in our cupboards and refrigerators, requesting smaller portions and using our freezers more often. For other great food saving ideas click here.

I know that it is hard for me to wrap my brain around such staggering numbers. I wonder: What can my little bit really do? I’ve heard that if every person gave just $1/week this year, we could end world hunger for the year. Our giving, no matter how small, matters. It all makes a difference.

“Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’”
Matthew 25:40

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