Saturday, May 05, 2007

Christmas for the Poor in Brief

The lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation is the greatest health problem in the world today. According to the second UN World Water Development Report, “… 1.1 billion people still do not have access to an adequate supply of drinking water and some 2.6 billion do not have access to basic sanitation. These people are among the world’s poorest.” Without clean water, water-borne diseases needlessly kill many children, and the daily difficulty of obtaining even contaminated water consumes enough of the productivity of the world’s poorest to present a formidable barrier to climbing out of poverty. The Report states:
Poor water quality is a key cause of poor livelihood and health. Globally, diarrheal diseases and malaria killed about 3.1 million people in 2002. Ninety percent of these deaths were children under the age of five. An estimated 1.6 million lives could be saved annually by providing access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene.

The good news is that although the political causes of this crisis are complex, there are some amazingly simple solutions at our disposal. Ministries, charities and other non-governmental organizations are already at work delivering the equipment and knowledge needed by poor communities in developing countries to establish clean water supplies along with proper sanitation. Low-tech, low-cost solutions such as drilling wells, protecting water sources from contamination, and constructing filters out of common materials like gravel, sand, and concrete are the answer in the vast majority of cases. This type of simple construction combined with basic education on sanitation and hygiene can transform communities and save many lives.

Providing clean water to the world’s poor requires money on the order of tens of billions of dollars, which is well within the ability of the Christians in the United States to give with little sacrifice. What an opportunity! We can save millions of lives by sacrificing a small portion of our wealth in the name of Jesus. The question for the Church in the United States is this: how can we withhold the resources desperately needed by the world’s poorest when we possess them in abundance? How can we expect the world to receive the Gospel if we neglect to implement such an achievable solution? This leads to the following proposition: raise $10 billion for water projects on Christmas Day 2009.

Here is how it will work.

Plan of Action

For Individuals and Families:

Instead of purchasing gifts for your family and friends, donate toward water projects on behalf of each of those people. In addition, ask those who might normally give you a Christmas present to donate toward water projects instead.

For Pastors and Christian Leaders:

Lead the people in your church or group to participate in Christmas for the Poor. Share the vision for the effort and explain its biblical motivation. Lead from the front by openly sharing about your own participation.

For Organizations Working on Water Projects:

Prepare to receive and utilize the new funds donated for water projects. Post a link on the main page of your organization’s website that will allow people to easily donate toward water projects under the banner of Christmas for the Poor. Communicate the unique opportunity that Christmas for the Poor represents to previous donors, partner organizations, and churches with whom you have an established relationship. After Christmas Day 2009, report the contributions you received for Christmas for the Poor to be tallied with the totals from all other participating organizations.

A Few Important Details

• Christmas for the Poor is a plan of action, not an organization. Funds will be donated directly from individuals to the participating organization of their choice with no middleman.

• By the numbers: 20 million people giving $500 each makes $10 billion. According to Forbes magazine, Americans spent $580.56 each on Christmas gifts in 2005. According to the Barna Group, there are 101 million people in the United States who describe themselves as born-again Christians.

• The current central reference is the blog and the point of contact is Sam Peterson at christmasforthepoor [at]


The Christmas for the Poor plan is not the only way for the American church to address poverty in the world, but it is a definitive plan of action that can efficiently get everyone on board and working together. Safe water and sanitation is certainly not the only grave yet treatable threat to human health worldwide, but it is the biggest and most easily addressed, so why not start there? And what better time to unite the efforts of Christians across the nation to provide for the basic needs of the poor than when we celebrate the incarnation of our Lord and Savior, who, “…though He was rich, yet for your sake, He became poor…” (2 Cor. 8:9)? If our desire is that Jesus be revealed to the world, then to that end let us imitate Him, caring for the poor in His name to the glory of God.

Spread the word; tell every Christian you know about Christmas for the Poor.

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