Two years ago, when COVID-19 was just emerging as a global crisis, many of us in the non-profit sector speculated how the pandemic would shape our world. We threw around the phrase “new normal,” despite not having any idea what that would look like over the next month, let alone in the years to come.
Since then, we’ve watched as three converging crises have dramatically impacted the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable — COVID, conflict and climate change.
The UN estimates that the number of people living in extreme poverty has increased by 100 million as a direct result of the pandemic — the first time in my lifetime this indicator has risen.
Global conflict is also on the rise, with more coups occurring worldwide than any previous year since 1999. Conflicts in Ukraine and Afghanistan have increased the total number of displaced people from 84 million to more than 100 million.
We are currently facing the worst displacement crisis in recorded history, and all the while, climate change continues to exacerbate these crises and more.
A Convergence of Crisis
At World Relief, we’ve seen firsthand how these three intersecting crises have converged to produce unimaginable suffering in vulnerable communities worldwide.
The war in Ukraine cut off much-needed grain exports, intensifying food shortages in places like Turkana where prolonged drought is killing livestock and putting people at risk of malnutrition and starvation.
In South Sudan, flooding caused by increased rainfall has destroyed land and local infrastructure, leaving farmers and pastoralists to feud over fewer resources.
And in places like Democratic Republic of Congo, the COVID-19 pandemic has further depressed an economy already bending under the weight of instability fueled by ongoing conflicts.
The situation is grim. If you’re feeling weary or overburdened, you are not alone. So many of us are feeling the weight of the world’s suffering on our shoulders, and yet, I believe we can still have hope.
In the midst of these complex crises, I believe God still moves through the church to bring hope and healing to the world. I believe this because I see it every day.
Hope Amidst Converging Crises
I see it in Rwanda where the church remains a source of help, hope and information in the fight against COVID-19. As a result of church-led efforts, we support across East Africa, nearly 100,000 people have been vaccinated.
I see it in Kenya, as communities face life-altering climate crises such as drought and resulting famine. There, the church is at the center, revealing new transformative ways of living and teaching people like Lomita to grow drought-resistant crops to restore their bodies while also providing spiritual food to nurture their souls.
I see it in Democratic Republic of Congo, where, several years ago I visited Rutchuru and listened as community members recounted terrible acts of murder committed by rebel groups just months prior to my arrival.
Today, in that same community, World Relief staff are unifying pastors from different tribes, families and denominations — some of whom were once in open conflict with one another — and facilitating a process of communal healing.
These same churches are now supporting village peace committees that help resolve conflicts in the absence of effective governance structures.
And of course, I see it right here in the U.S., as refugees and immigrants arrive in need of a safe place to call home. Here, the church is revealing time and time again that better days are ahead as they help people rebuild their lives.
Jesus Says Take Heart
In the hours leading up to his death on the cross, Jesus took a walk with his disciples and told them of the hardships they would soon be facing. He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
World Relief was born to respond to urgent suffering and overwhelming humanitarian needs. Today, we find ourselves once again facing a crisis of historical proportions, and in the midst of it we feel God calling us, again, to take heart! To go further and reach deeper as together, we reach more people in this time of immense need.
Where others might pause in the midst of adversity, our faith in Jesus compels us to keep going, moving toward a ministry that leads to the restoration of others.
The challenges of COVID-19, conflict and climate change are great. But together, I believe we can move forward as the church Jesus intended us to be — not divided by partisanship, but as a body of compassionate believers, united in the Spirit to bring hope and restoration to those in physical and spiritual need around the world.
Join World Relief this season by signing up for our exclusive 4-part podcast series. Leaders from across the globe share how God is creating change through local churches in their communities. In the midst of converging crisis, God still moves through the church, and you’re invited to be a part of it.
Myal Greene has a deep desire to see churches worldwide equipped, empowered, and engaged in meeting the needs of vulnerable families in their communities. In 2021, he became President and CEO after serving for fourteen years with the organization. While living in Rwanda for eight years, he developed World Relief’s innovative church-based programming model that is currently used in nine countries. He also spent six years in leadership roles within the international programs division. He has previous experience working with the U.S. Government. He holds B.S. in Finance from Lehigh University and an M.A. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Global Leadership. He and his wife Sharon and have three children.