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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