I'm sitting in my living room, drinking an eggnog latte, which E brought me this morning. She's reading a book on the couch with a puppy in her lap and one (dressed in a t-shirt--due to an infection the skin between his shoulder blades which he just won't leave alone!) sleeping next to them. In short, we're all very comfortable. We have everything we need, plenty we want, and could stand to get rid of enough to feed and clothe an entire family for a very long time. I'm more than a little aware of this as I begin this post. That is, I'm absolutely aware of the contradictions between what I write and how I live, admit them straight out. I am one of the privileged rich in this world, when it comes right down to it. And if you are reading this blog on your own computer, or even if you can afford to sip a coffee drink in some other establishment and use a public computer, you're wealthy. Do you have more than a single pair of pants, and actually own shoes, for crying out loud? You've got money, people.
So we're all rich. Let's start with that premise. OK? Because today I'm thinking about the poorest of the poor. The 90% at the other end who live in what is a single band in the eastern hemisphere. This is called the 10-40 window for the latitudinal lines 10 degrees south and 40 degrees north of the equator that mark the window in a somewhat fluid way (meaning some countries, like Indonesia, aren't actually within those boundaries but fit every other criteria of the window). The 10-40 window, a term first coined by a missionary in the early 90s, has three basic elements: 1. A large percentage of the world's population lives within it. Though some estimate only 2/3s of the population, other sites I read today suggested 90% of the world lives within those latitudes. 2. These countries tend to have extreme poverty and with it, low quality of life. Given the geography across much of this band--littered with deserts and heat, and not enough clean water to offset this terrain--this isn't surprising. But it is sad. 3. This band is largely non-Christian and much of it can even be considered hostile to Christianity. It is Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Animist, Jewish or atheist, and many governments are opposed to Christian work of any kind, formal or informal, which makes it difficult to share the gospel.
The 10-40 window, however, is exactly where God made a covenant with Abraham, renewed that covenant with Israel. He spoke to Moses in a burning bush that didn't turn to ash and moved His chosen people around a pane of that 10-40 window for 40 years before settling them in another pane of that broad, unforgiving section of this earth. And, finally, of course, after an on-again, off-again relationship with His chosen people (where He was always the faithful One and they were always flirting (if not more!) with other gods), He finally put on His best suit and showed up in the flesh to claim His beloved once and for all. Right where they lived with all their rules and regulations by then. Knowing all the while that even this would come to nothing. But He also knew the covert operation going on beneath His human clothing. He knew the very human flesh He'd put on was made to die for His beloved. Right there in the backwater, poorest place on earth.
The 10-40 window. Where everything that ever mattered in all of history happened. The poorest and most outcast of the world live there and that's exactly what God intended. For us to get it. Jesus meant it when He told the parable of the great banquet about the rich and well-dressed refusing to come in. He knew that it was the poor and lost who He'd come to. Because we all are. No matter how we live, no matter how much we have, we have NOTHING without Christ. NOTHING. If you think otherwise, you have entirely missed the boat. I'm not kidding. So, though it may be difficult to share the gospel in such places, it is not impossible. And we have friends who have taken it on, in small and large ways. Jesus says that when we see the good works of others, we will glorify Him. And it's true. On behalf of the long journeys, hard beds, grit in their faces and sand in their eyes, because they sacrifices comfort and ease and their coffee and ESPN, and because they left family and friends to follow Christ to the 10-40 window, and minister to His beloved poorest of the poor, I glorify God for their good works. It was hard and He knows it. But it has been good.
Our friends have been centered in Africa:
Ethiopia (actually, two different sets of friends from two completely different parts of our lives who are both working with orphans there. There are more orphans in this country than any other on earth) Mark, and Kristi B
Senegal--John and Kris
Sudan--Bryan (who lives permanently there)
Then, south of the window, but also on the most impoverished continent:
Kenya--Logan and Elizabeth
Tanzania--Ruth and Alan
Zimbabwe--Pardon (ok, he's our foster child, but you can pray for him too!)
South Africa--Jay. The Whitworth Jan. Term class
Not all of us are called to go. However, all of us who are followers of Jesus Christ are responsible for the poor among us. And for orphans, especially. As we keep vigil through these weeks before Christmas, will you pray with me for the poor who are among us. The poor in the 10-40 window, and those elsewhere in the world. And will you pray for those in the field who work among them, live as Christ among them, to be light in their darkness of poverty and salt to cleanse, preserve and season their lives.