“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8, 9, NIV)
In an election year filled with campaign promises that may never take shape, it’s easy to become disenchanted with politics. However, there are political issues even more pressing than the upcoming election, and our elected officials are making decisions every day that affect these issues.
One such concern is poverty-focused development assistance, the foreign aid dollars that make up less than one half of one percent of the U.S. federal budget, but make the difference between life and death for people around the world every day. In fact, thanks in large part to U.S. foreign assistance, last year over six million fewer children died before their critical fifth birthday than in 1990.
Speaking Up on Capitol Hill
Last week, faith leaders took advantage of an opportunity to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves–people living in extreme poverty. These leaders converged on Washington, D.C. to meet with Members of Congress and their staffs. The day of advocacy was sponsored by the Interfaith Working Group, according to Lucas Koach, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for Food for the Hungry, the meetings were held to talk about why people of faith care about development assistance.
Pastor Brad Steele of LCBC Church and Lucas Koach of Food for the Hungry advocated to members of Congress on Capitol Hill.
“Faith communities share a common religious call to respond to poverty, hunger, sickness, disasters and displacement,” said Koach. “Our faith traditions and scriptures also testify to the moral imperative of a robust government role in caring for and empowering the impoverished and vulnerable.”
Brad Steele, Campus Pastor of LCBC Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, participated in the event by meeting with the staff of his congressional representatives. Steele said that advocating for foreign assistance is an important part of his role as a Christian.
“Just as it would not be healthy for me to think of only myself, or for my family to only be concerned with our needs, or my church to not encourage our community to see and meet the needs they see in those around them, it is the same if our nation would only think about ourselves,” Steele said. “We hold a place in this world as a nation to make a difference to those who are our ‘neighbors,’ especially those who lack resources, and we as a nation are better and more healthy when we help those in need around the world.”
Boots on the Ground
As pastor of a large and growing church, Steele does not see advocacy as the church’s only role in alleviating poverty. His church also partners with Food for the Hungry in Belle Vue La Montagne, Haiti. They sponsor over 400 children and take short-term teams to Haiti each year.
“We have a desire to help people on their spiritual journeys, but also assist in their physical journeys,” Steele explained. “The reason we partner with FH is because we don’t know how to do that, but FH has a plan to walk alongside communities providing that infrastructure in sustainable ways. Walking with Haitian leaders to accomplish goals they have identified creates ownership and excitement for their own neighborhoods as they move into a hope-filled future.”
LCBC Church’s involvement in Haiti is one of the reasons that elected officials are attentive to faith leaders’ perspectives on the budget for foreign assistance. Churches have a track record of supporting and carrying out development work, which shows their commitment to the cause.
Koach pointed out that the work of faith communities in development is both long-term and broad in scope. “Faith leaders can buttress their message with real world examples of what their own faiths are doing abroad to save and improve lives,” he said.
For Steele, it comes down to finding ways to live out the Gospel. “We believe as a church that God has given us a role to play around the world. The question just becomes, ‘How?’”
Download your prayer guide right now and remember to pray for our leaders throughout the year!
In addition to contacting congressional leaders and giving financial donations to help end poverty, one way you can help make a difference in the world is by praying for leaders. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders, whether or not we like or agree with them. In this FREE resource, you’ll discover: