End times signs given by Jesus include famines and pestilences. Both are occurring in our times along with so many of the other signs such as apostasy and lawlessness.
“Then he (Jesus) said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and in various places famines and pestilences.“
“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:12-13
The Good News is that churches are rising to the occasion providing opportunities to complete the Great Commission.
Extreme poverty and food insecurity are on the rise.
In 2020, Oxfam and The World Food Bank predicted that half a billion people would be pushed into extreme poverty and a “famine of biblical proportions” would be ushered in by the pandemic. Today, we’re seeing those predictions play out:
- 296 million people worldwide are going without food — a statistic that’s up 111 million from April 2020.
- 56% of the world’s children now lack access to education or health services (up from 47%).
- And the estimated number of COVID-induced poor is expected to rise from 119 million to 124 million.
World Relief President and CEO Myal Greene reflected, “The pandemic is basically undoing a decade’s worth of human development around the world in terms of progress in getting people out of poverty. We’re certainly seeing that in many of the communities where we work.”
COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting those in already vulnerable situations.
When Mount Nyiragongo erupted in DR Congo earlier this year, coronavirus was not the first concern on anyone’s mind. “When people were fleeing, nobody cared about COVID-19 preventive measures,” said Jean Nyandwi, World Relief DR Congo Country Director.
“After the people who had fled returned back to the city, the government announced the third wave of COVID-19,” he continued. “We believe partly this volcanic eruption may have increased COVID-19 cases.”
While the volcanic eruption may have increased people’s exposure to the virus, a lack of access to vaccines, as well as vaccine hesitancy, is most certainly putting women and men at a greater risk of contracting the virus.
In a country that already faces one of the world’s worst food security crises, vulnerability to one crisis made increased vulnerability to the COVID crisis inevitable.
And these stories of increased vulnerability are not unique to DR Congo. Across the globe, those in vulnerable situations are experiencing outsized impacts of the pandemic.
“It’s making the poor poorer,” Nyandwi said. “When people get sick, they have to pay for their hospital bills. Burials also cost money. Many people have lost their jobs. Prices have increased for basic commodities, particularly in the city of Goma, and likely this is true for the rest of the country as well.”
And it’s not just the poorest of the poor who are being affected.
When we talk about the poorest of the poor, we’re referring to those who live on less than $2 a day. That number is increasing by several hundred million people globally, and that is significant.
But, as Greene mentioned in a recent interview, “other tiers of poverty are also increasing as people are moving down the scale of development. We’ve had to do food distributions among middle-income populations where we haven’t typically had to do such activities before.”
This was the case in Cambodia where an April lockdown affected people like Grandma Phyn Phally who lives in Phnom Penh province. Like many small business owners, Phun Phally relies on daily market sales to afford food and basic necessities. Job losses and decreased incomes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have made it harder for people like her to afford these necessities, and this latest round of shutdowns only intensified the fragile situation.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused the government to limit travel during this time, so I and my family members are unable to go out and do business and earn money,” Phun Phally said. “Because our family owns a small business, we don’t have as much money to spend over such a lengthy period of time. That is something we are very concerned about.”
Churches and local communities are being equipped to respond.
In Cambodia, World Relief partnered with local churches to supply and distribute food relief packages to the neediest households in Phnom Penh. Grandma Phun Phally was one of the recipients.
“Thank God. He heard our plea and answered it,” she said. “A food shipment from WRC, our church’s partner, was another blessing. This package is extremely beneficial to us in continuing to fight through this difficult period…Pray for everyone to come out on top in this difficult situation.”
In total, World Relief Cambodia gave $20,000 in grants, which funded food relief packages for 1,378 families.
World Relief continues to reach local communities across the globe with accurate COVID-19 prevention messages. Thanks to a $2.3 million grant from USAID, this work is expanding in DR Congo, Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda.
Churches and faith leaders are being equipped and mobilized to rally their congregations and communities around infection prevention efforts including supplying community members with cloth masks, handwashing soap, and other community care supplies while also providing accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines.
Faith leaders, who are often seen as trustworthy authorities in local communities, are playing a key role in accelerating equitable access to and widespread use of COVID-19 vaccinations and prevention measures. God often uses catastrophes for His purposes. Check out my post “God Uses Catastrophes for His Purposes” September 21st, 2020