Mark 9.36-37 He put a child in the middle of the room. Then, cradling the little one in his arms, he said, “Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me—God who sent me.” [msg]
On 11th March 1993, photojournalist Ken Carter, travelled to famine-stricken southern Sudan with the UN onboard Operation LifeLine Sudan. Immediately after his plane touched down in the village of Ayod, he was told he would only have 30 minutes (which was the time it took for them to unload the food supplies from the plane). He quickly began snapping photos of famine victims.
Seeking relief from the sight of masses of people starving to death, he wandered into the open bush. He heard a soft, high-pitched whimpering and saw a tiny girl struggling to make her way to the feeding centre. When he crouched to photograph her, a vulture landed in view. Careful not to disturb the bird, he positioned himself for the best possible image. He would later say he waited about 20 minutes, hoping the vulture would spread its wings. It did not, and after he took his photographs, he chased the bird away and watched as the little girl resumed her struggle. Afterward he sat under a tree, lit a cigarette, talked to God and cried.
The photograph was sold to The New York Times where it appeared for the first time on March 26, 1993. Practically overnight hundreds of people contacted the newspaper to ask whether the child had survived, leading the newspaper to run a special editor’s note saying the girl had enough strength to walk away from the vulture, but that her ultimate fate was unknown.
A year later Kevin Carter went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his shocking picture. However he came under heavy criticism for just photographing and not helping the little girl. On 27th July 1994, (just 15 months after taking the photo) at age 33, Carter committed suicide. His photo is accredited as one which helped change the world and one which helped highlight the plight of children in poverty, yet I can’t help but think that it did little to help this little girl.
Jesus took a child in His arms and embraced him and said whoever does the same, is showing God just how much you really love Him.
Most of my Christian life has been about me. Dealing with my sins, my habits, asking God to supply my needs while millions of children all around the world face each day without hope. Alone. No one to embrace them. But what difference can I possibly make to starving children in Africa?
The problem with poverty is that it seems so big and we are so small. I once heard a story about a man who asked the same question. He was walking along a beach and came across a young man busy throwing the starfish that had washed ashore back into the ocean. When he was asked why he was doing this, the young man replied, “The sun is coming up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them in they will die.” Upon hearing this the man commented that there were miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish. Can he really hope to make a difference? To which the young man picked up a starfish, threw it back in the ocean and as it hit the waves simply said, “It made a difference to that one!”
I may not have the skills, the influence or the resources to solve the difficult problems of extreme poverty but I can do something – I can change the world for one child.