“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” -Luke 4:18-19
Have you ever been on a missions trip? Well, I have. I was 12 years old and my youth group was heading down to Panther, West Virginia for a week to do some repair work on homes and run a vacation bible school for the local children. Panther is in McDowell County, which is the poorest county in the state with a poverty rate of over 36% and an average yearly family income of just around $20,000. Panther is tucked away in the Appalachian mountains, where coal mining is the county’s biggest export. And in turn, many of the workers end up with terrible, and sometimes terminal diseases due to the polluted air.
Poverty is a problem here in the United States. Did you know that the top 1% in the United States hold 42% of the wealth? And that the lower 80% only holds 5%? The global statistics are even more shocking. The top 0.7% holds nearly half of the world’s wealth, and the lower 80% holds only 3%. We might have poverty and homelessness in this country, but it is nothing to what is seen around the world in places like India, China, and Africa on a daily basis.
It’s been 11 years since I visited Panther for a week, but I still remember the poverty, the lacking, and the desperation of the people I met. That trip changed my perspective on the reality of the world.
And that’s what happened here at Teen Camp this morning. Campers were transported to Zambia in chapel today. They were split up into 10 groups, and were told that they were taking a journey into the daily life of a Zambian family. One member was immediately told that they were born with AIDS. Then, the families had to find their homes throughout camp, where they would find water buckets. Teams then had to travel to the lake to fill up their pails for their water for the day. At this point, members of the family were told that they contracted a bacterial disease from unclean drinking water. After trekking back to their homes with their water, the teams were sent to work sites. Zambia is known for their mining industry, so teams participated in manual labor that included digging for minerals, clearing roads, and moving wood. At the beginning of their work day, teams were told that they would receive their daily wage of $0.10 if they worked hard without complaint. But at the end of their time, regardless of their efforts, each person was awarded with $0.05 for their labor. Several more members were told that they had contracted malaria from working out in the sites. Afterwards, the families would have to decide how to spend their wages. They had the choice for food for one person for the day for $0.05, or medicine for $0.15 per dose for those inflicted with either malaria, a bacterial disease, or AIDS.
At the end of the activity, everyone reconvened in the Tabernacle to process the experience. They had everyone stand up who had contracted malaria, and sit down if they were cured. Only 25% were cured of their disease. For those that had AIDS, only 20% received the daily medicine they needed to survive. Everyone who had a little something to eat was asked to stand, and every person in the room rose from their seats. Then, those who received a full portion of food for the day remained standing. Only 5% received enough food to sustain themselves.
For nearly 3 billion people across the world, that is their reality. 1 out of every 9 people don’t have access to clean drinking water, and over 800,000 people die each year from contaminated water. Over 795 million people across the globe don’t know when their next meal is going to be. And today, the campers and staff got to experience that reality. Sometimes, it’s important to look at the world from a different perspective, to experience a different reality, to understand how so many people of the world live.
And when you do, it’s an incredible thing.