A President Continuing to Serve the Developing World

Jimmy Carter is the only former U.S. President who still helps build houses (Habitat for Humanity) in many of the world’s impoverished places, funds research for fighting a tropical disease called river blindness, and still teaches Sunday school at his small hometown church in Plains, Georgia.

At age 93, his net worth is around $7,000,000 (according to Google). Most of that came from writing 32 books. He has a very intellectual mind and a “down to earth” approach. If he wanted to, he could simply retire to some luxury place and have other people take care of all of his needs. That’s not his style. He and his wife, Rosalynn, still live in the same small two-bedroom house where they have been for many years. According to a recent Atlanta newspaper account, she usually cooks their meals, and he washes the dishes afterward.

I first met him when he was campaigning for presidency in 1976 at a shopping center in my community. My older son (then seven years old) was with me. He leaned over, shook my son’s hand, and said: “How are you, young man?”

The Bible (which President Carter reads regularly) tells us that Jesus was a carpenter before his public ministry. Then he went about healing people as he preached. On several occasions, he healed people from blindness.

River blindness is one of the neglected tropical diseases and causes many thousands of people in developing countries to become blind. It is transmitted by an infected black fly. President Carter has made eliminating it one of his highest priorities. He is also interested in other health concerns in the developing world. They are among the main areas of focus with the Carter Center.

President Carter has also helped in many peace and conflict resolution issues and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping bridge differences between Israel and Palestine.

Although he had a very serious form of cancer that could have taken his life a few years ago, he recovered and is again a source of inspiration to millions of people throughout the world. Maybe I can meet him and shake his hand again someday. Even better, I could use one of his Sunday school lessons. He exemplifies the biblical mandate in James I: 22 to “be doers of the word and not hearers only” both in the more fortunate places and the most impoverished ones.

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All We Have Left is the Blue Sky

As you probably know, Haiti is by far the most materially impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere and is among the most impoverished worldwide. Haitians have shorter life expectancy, must deal with more health issues, lack schools, often do not have clean water, sanitation, and sufficient food, effective and honest government. Nearly all of the existing roads are extremely dangerous, especially in the mountains which cover most of the country. 97% of the trees and other vegetation has been stripped from the steep mountainsides — making them very vulnerable to flash floods and taking away the topsoil necessary for food crops. I have been there twice and saw some of the problems first-hand. Many organizations on my website are involved in Haiti.

The worst disaster to hit Haiti in modern times was the 2010 earthquake which destroyed much of the capital city, Port-au-Prince and much of the surrounding area. It took approximately 200,000 lives, and many of the bodies were never recovered. At least that many more were left homeless and had to exist in squalid tent cities.

The biggest disaster after that was Hurricane Matthew which hit the southwestern part of Haiti on October 4, 2016. It took the lives of 2,000 or more people and left many communities isolated from other parts of the country. Making matters worse, the part of Haiti where the hurricane did the most damage was where the country produced the most food. Who knows when that will ever come back?

David Diggs is an American who leads a Christian organization called Beyond Borders. It focuses on needs in Haiti. Their website is www.beyondborders.net and his e-mail is ddiggs@beyondborders.net Recently he sent me an e-mail based on a conversation with a Haitian friend whose community had been destroyed by Matthew. “All we have left is the blue sky,” she said. All of the buildings, gardens, farms, and farm animals in the area were destroyed.

Beyond Borders is among the many very reputable organizations seeking to make positive differences in Haiti. If you are not already involved in something to help there, especially in view of the recent hurricane emergency, I suggest that you contact Beyond Borders. To end this blog on a happy note, I can also report that I heard about large numbers of Christians in Haiti going to church and rejoicing on the Sunday following the earthquake — even though their buildings did not have a physical structure. I wish that my faith could somehow approach the strength of theirs.

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Circling the Globe for Christ

The church to which my wife and I belong is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches/USA and the American Baptist Churches of Michigan. As you can probably guess, we are in Michigan.

A little over 200 years ago (1812), Adoniram and Ann Judson, became our first international missionaries when they went to what was then called Burma but now called Myanmar Republic. It was very difficult to get established there, and she died a few years after arrival. However, he persisted and the Burmese churches eventually began to grow. Then their growth picked up at a much greater pace.

You might be interested in knowing that there are many Burmese ethnic and language groups. It’s somewhat like saying that someone might be European, but he or she can only speak English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and so forth. Thus being from Burma does not guarantee that you will know the language of another Burmese.

In search of better lives, many Burmese people have come to the U.S. during recent decades. Here in Michigan, they are the fastest growing ethnic group in our denomination. We are happy about that and the fact that we will be holding our Annual Gathering soon at a Burmese church in Battle Creek.

Having started in Burma, International Ministries of American Baptist Churches (www.internationalministries.org) has now expanded to more than 70 other countries.

Although my first loyalty is to churches and activities within my denomination, I am also glad to publicize other Christian ministries that are reaching Burmese people both in their home country and elsewhere. One good example is Friends of Burma (www.friendsofburma.org). They are located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I suggest that you look at their website. The idea for this blog came from their director, Neil Sowards, two days ago. He had copy of what I had written ten years ago and contacted me to ask if I am still involved in with my directory and website. Yes I am, and I hope that my efforts are doing some good.

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Do You Have a Cell Phone or a Flush Toilet?

If you live in a developed country, this would seem like a stupid question because you probably have both. However, according to a 2013 United Nations report, only 4.5 billion of the world’s 7.2 billion people have a flush toilet or other means of adequate sanitation. Compare that to a report by Digital Trends saying that over 6.8 billion people are expected to have cell phones by the end of 2014, and soon there will be more cell phones than people.

The point of this message is not to criticize cell phones. They are becoming more useful every day — both in developed and developing countries. In many places, they are a lifeline.

Matt Damon is a famous U.S. actor and advocate for clean water and sanitation projects. He helped establish www.water.org Some of his findings in 2011: Every 20 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. About 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged without treatment. The average American uses 100 gallons of water daily; the average African uses 12 gallons per day. Nearly one billion people lack access to clean water. Millions of women and children spend several hours daily collecting water from distant, often polluted sources.

Think about this the next time you use a cell phone, flush a toilet, or turn on a water faucet.

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Ebola, Empathy, and Equipping

Tonight (August 4, 2014) the lead story on NBC World News was about how the deadly Ebola virus is sweeping through much of West Africa. At the present time, there is no cure for it. The primary focus was on Dr. Kent Brantly, an American physician volunteering in Liberia with an excellent Christian organization called Samaritan’s Purse. He got Ebola while helping patients. Mrs. Nancy Writbol is another American volunteer, serving with a top-rated Christian group called SIM, who got it there. He was evacuated from Liberia to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on a special jet that arrived today for the best possible treatment, and she will be following him there soon.

The news story showed how Dr. Brantly’s church people are praying for him and other Ebola victims. I consider prayer as being empathy taken to the next level and offer my prayers along with many other people.

As you read this blog, you may wonder why I put the word equipping after Ebola and empathy. The answer goes to the purpose of my website: to gather and disseminate information to help in the most materially impoverished places on the planet.

Unlike Dr. Brantly, I have no medical expertise. However, I can try to help people who do (or do not) by providing material about finding ways to volunteer medical and non-medical skills, find medical supplies, and various other subjects on my website. Perhaps you could call that a form of equipping. Hopefully you could be an equipper in some manner — including time and finances. At least, you can get information and pray.

Let’s all pray for the people who have Ebola — as well as many other challenges across the world and right outside our doors.

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Finding Another Bruce Who Writes Blogs

Like many of you, sometimes while doing an internet search for something I find another item of equal, if not greater, interest than my original quest. Such was the case recently while looking through the website of the Accord Network and its links. By going to the Links section of their website, you can find Across Two Worlds (www.acrosstwoworlds.net). It was developed by Bruce Wydick, PhD, an active Christian who is a full-time professor of economics at the University of San Francisco. One of his main specialties is known as development economics.

The term “development economics” may not be nearly as familiar to people wishing to help in the developing world as medical missionaries, those who help with clean water and sanitation, and many other forms of service. However, Dr. Wydick has very impressive academic credentials and is an excellent writer. I call him to your attention in hopes that you will look at his site and give thought to his findings. Some of them might challenge your present thinking. Others may reinforce them. You can get regular updates on a wide variety of topics at no charge by contacting him. He shows his belief in putting Christian faith into action.

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Finding Another Super

There are many uses of the word “super.” Boys in the U.S. like to wear shirts that say “Superman.” Girls wear “Superwoman” shirts. The biggest football game in America is called the Super Bowl. Sometimes huge hurricanes are called “super storms.”

Today I learned about another “super.” It is super cereal. Developed by food scientists in cooperation with the United Nation’s UNICEF, it uses common ingredients to provide nutrition to children over the age of 24 months and adults. It does not use milk and has a shelf life of 12 months. In view of the fact that much of Africa is going through some of the worst drought in a half-century or more, with food plants and food animals in short supply, this is making a huge difference. For more information, visit www.worldvision.org or unicef.org/supply. Google also tells about it. As Jesus said, feed the hungry. This seems like a very effective way to do so.

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Foreign Assistance: Why It Works and Why We Gotta Do More

Unlike the other blogs in this category, I (Bruce Carr) did not write it. Instead it was written by Rev. Noel Andersen of Church World Service on February 24, 2015, and I am quoting, summarizing or paraphrasing what he said.

“The average American believes we spend a whopping 26 percent of the U.S. budget on foreign aid–but the fact is that we actually spend less than one percent. On top of that, the amount actually dedicated to humanitarian response and alleviating poverty, disease, and hunger is only 0.5 percent. Yet one of the best kept secret about U.S. relief and development aid is that it works.”

He notes that the number of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has been halved between 1980 and 2010, that far more children are being protected from sickness and premature death, and “ordinary people around the world are now able to feed their families, contribute to their developing societies, and become self-sufficient.” The world’s refugees are also being helped — despite their numbers being higher now that at any time in nearly two decades.

Rev. Andersen observes that “the U.S. is one of the largest supporters to foreign aid in the world, yet we give one of the smallest percentages of our budget compared to other nations.” He urges us to meet with (or make other contact with) our law makers, and educate our congregations and communities to do more. Along with Church World Service, another excellent organization working to help mobilize the U.S. Government towards these goals is the Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance.

Now I think I (Bruce) need to start thinking about how to best write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper as well as to the people who represent me in Washington. Perhaps you should too.

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God’s Orchestra

A few years ago I saw this on Mission Aviation Fellowship’s website: “For each of us, God’s call takes on a slightly different form. Just as an orchestra blends different instruments to produce a symphony, the ministry of reaching isolated people and sharing the Gospel throughout the world relies on a wide variety of activities and skills as well as a large number of people who work in our Heavenly Father’s vineyard.”

I especially like classical music and appreciate how a good conductor brings everyone in his or her group together. You might ask what the above paragraph has to do with my website. No, I am not a conductor and never have been one. Nor do I play any musical instrument. However, I am trying to gather a wide variety of information that I hope can be helpful to people in the most economically and health-challenged areas of the world. You might compare me with a reference librarian or someone who answers the switchboard telephone and says “to whom may I direct your call?” We all have our special skills. You may be a medical professional. Someone else is an economist, engineer, technician, or educator — and the list goes on indefinitely. I try to be a networker and bring information together. Hopefully it does some good.

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Have You Ever Been to a Dentist?

If you ask this question to someone in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Australia, or most other parts of the so-called “developed world,” the answer almost certainly would be yes. I have had well over 100 dental visits–perhaps twice that amount. Almost every child in the U.S. who is five years or older has been to a dentist, and some adults continue to do so beyond their 90th birthday.

However, if you live in a developing country, especially in an area that is remote and extremely impoverished, the answer probably would be no. About half of the world’s population have never had dental care and must deal with the pain of rotten teeth and gums–and often worse. According to World Dental Relief (www.worlddentalrelief.com), dental disease is the most rampant disease in the world, affecting 95% of the population.

While at the Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville a few years ago, I met Rev. Kingspride Hammond. He serves in the northern part of Ghana where there are about two million people, but there was only one government dentist (and very few other ones). Fortunately, an American dentist came and taught some very basic skills to lay people — especially how to pull teeth more effectively and with less pain. Everyone was happy, and now Rev. Hammond’s activities have greatly expanded. See www.alabasterproject.org

Last summer my own dentist donated two used dental chairs and professional lights to World Medical Relief (www.worldmedicalrelief.org) so they could be sent to Kenya. I am happy to have helped make that connection.

The next time your teeth or gums hurt, think about how most of the world lives and feels.

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