The United States went on full security alert this week, shutting down embassies around the world this past Sunday. Intercepted communications from terrorists indicated planned attacks on United States and other country targets. Some work furloughs will be extended even further, depending on the threat.
It’s prudent, of course, to limit the damage to people and property when there is credible evidence that such attacks are planned. I have a relative at an embassy overseas right now, and I’m glad our government is taking steps to keep him safe.
I’m also thankful that my son, a U.S. Army officer, will be returning home from Afghanistan. I’m grateful to all the men and women who serve overseas, who sign up for their jobs knowing the potential dangers.
Hidden heroes of relief work
What is less appreciated, perhaps, is that men and women of agencies like Food for the Hungry (FH). These people continue to work in dangerous places, unprotected by high walls, barbed wire or lethal armaments. They follow the call of Jesus to minister and implement relief work to the “least of these”—the poor and defenseless.
Some people need assistance because of natural disasters. Some of those natural disasters are the noisy kind—earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis. Others are the quiet variety—inexorably rising flood waters or persistent daily droughts. Both need someone to be present to do relief work. FH’s disaster relief team has experience fighting those problems, rushing temporary housing and food aid right to victims.
But most of the world’s poor live where governments are not functional. Places where basic needs like food, education and personal security are in short supply. Fighting these kinds of threats requires a different touch. We have to build relationships with local power structures. While some of them are governmental, often there are ethnic or family relationships that play important roles.
Living with the poor
Our staff sign up to live in these dangerous environments to continue relief work without the backstop of the U.S. Army. They model the Christian message in places like South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
They work in refugee camps. They work with subsistence farmers who lack all control over the environment. Staff live under the same conditions of insecurity that usually lead to poverty among our beneficiaries. And they do it willingly.
So I’m glad our government can take steps to avoid problems. I’m delighted to have my son home out of harm’s way. But I remember in my prayers our staff taking on their own risks daily, armed only with good intentions and the resources our donors provide.
I’m in awe of them.