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Call To Go And Do Likewise
“Our sicknesses are sicknesses of poverty.”
By Jennifer Wilmore
These words rattled around in my head as I sat under the warm sun in Nicaragua and reflected on all the people sick with poverty that I had met over the last few weeks. Countless faces emerged from my memory—the young Roma girl in Romania who couldn’t go to school, the baby boy wasting away from malnutrition in Ethiopia, the mother in the slums of Uganda who asked us to pray that she could make rent and keep a roof of rusty tin over her children’s heads. And there I was in Nicaragua, preparing to witness the daily struggle to get by as a subsistence farmer.
I was on an incredible journey sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to see what is being done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in five countries on three continents. I was exposed to some of the poorest places in the world—places where God is using people of faith to diagnose and treat the sicknesses of poverty that the MDGs address. And as I encountered so many people who suffer from these illnesses, I began to develop a deeper understanding of the biblical call to follow in the footsteps of Jesus the healer.
Jesus could have chosen any number of powerful ways to introduce himself to our world, but scripture tells us that throughout his public ministry on earth, Jesus went among the people and healed them of every disease and sickness. He dared to reach out and lay hands on those that society deemed sick—and deserving of their sickness. He shared meals with outcasts and sinners, all the while saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:12). Then, calling some of those same outcasts to be his disciples, he taught them and sent them out with the authority to do the same.
And I, too, am called to go and do likewise.
The signs and symptoms of the sicknesses of poverty seemed to be all around me after what I saw this summer. As a follower of Christ, I began to see that I am called not only to simply respond to the symptoms, but to work to eliminate the causes of the sicknesses. To seek healing. This is where the advocacy that Bread members practice comes in. Just as Jesus did not simply place a bandage over the leper’s hand but healed the illness completely, so we are challenged to match our acts of compassion with solutions that get to the roots of poverty and work to heal those sicknesses.
There are many forms of sickness in the world. God has called me to the sicknesses of poverty—the conditions that keep that Roma girl out of school and deny children in Africa the nutrients and resources they need to survive and grow.
The voices of more than a billion people sick with poverty are calling out for healing, and through God’s gift of our citizenship, he has given us authority to join our voice with theirs and do the same.
Jennifer Wilmore, a former Bread intern, is currently working on development projects in Uganda.