One Person Can Make a Difference

Augusty 2009 Pastor’s Monthly Newsletter Article I've been concerned about issues related to poverty, hunger and injustice for many years. I have spent a lifetime living in the comforts of the first world, and I am deeply grateful for the advantages that provides for my family and me. But at the same time, I live with an awareness that the reason I am able to consume as many of the world's resources as I do, is that others have to live on so much less. I have long wished to change that. But over the years I have developed the impression that the problems are just too big, the situations are just too complicated, and the need is just too desperate for one person to do anything of significance.

On a recent trip to Tanzania, I realized I was absolutely wrong.

If there is anything we all learned on that trip, it is that one person can make a difference in this world. While there, we visited a village that had been transformed by the influence of the Heifer Project. We visited a girls' school started by a Lutheran Missionary, where young women are being freed from having to become mothers by the age of 13 or 14. We visited an orphanage started by a young college graduate, where homeless and orphaned children are receiving love and education and the hope of a better future. We visited a home that was established by an Occupational Therapist, where children can recover fully from surgery before returning to their families. In each of these instances, the initiative and efforts of one person is making an incredible difference in the lives of so many people - helping to break the cycle of poverty and hunger and illness that plagues so many in Tanzania.

We often imagine the causes of hunger and poverty and illness to be so complicated and so vast that there really is nothing that any one person can do, but that is not true. The resourcefulness and determination of the care-givers we met on this trip opened our eyes in a new way to the possibilities that exist in this world. One person can make a difference - and our visit to Tanzania has provided us with some specific examples of how that has happened.

You and I can make a difference too. That doesn't mean that we all need to sell our possessions and purchase a one-way ticket to Africa (although it may be that God is calling one or two of us to do just that...). There are a variety of other ways that we can join these servants of Christ in the work they do, beginning with our prayers, and continuing with our efforts to raise funds, make contributions, and provide them with the resources they need to do their work.

This trip was a delightful and enjoyable one. But it was a challenging trip as well. Our group returned to the States determineded to become involved ourselves, and to encourage others, so that we all might discover what God can do through our efforts, and how that can make a difference in the world.

I am deeply grateful to the missionaries and health care workers I met in Tanzania - grateful for the work they do, grateful for the challenge they have presented me, grateful for the hope that one person can, indeed, make a difference. I hope you'll join me in praying for them and supporting them.

God's peace to you all,

David J. Risendal, Pastor