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Working Upstream

Today’s world is in crisis. Everywhere you turn, everywhere you look, people are hurting and the earth is reeling from the impact of man. Drought in California has reached epic proportions as wildfires rage across the Western United States. Children numbering in the thousands stream across Southern U.S. borders as they flee Central America searching for a safer, better place to live. The situation in Gaza is a volcano about to erupt, adding uncertainty to the Middle East, and putting the world’s oil supply in question. A commercial jetliner has been shot out of the air by unknown assailants, as territory disputes in Russia heat up. Much of the food grown in the United States is genetically modified, stressing the land it is grown on, and often causing health issues for the people it feeds. In the past century the world’s population has grown from 1.5 billion to almost 8 billion, exponentially increasing tensions between people, and putting an incredible strain on the planet we all call home.

Something needs to be done. Yet when you look at the variety of problems facing the world, it can be very overwhelming; there is an abundance of poor leadership, spiritual confusion, world hunger, educational inequalities, poor health and disease, human injustice, and environmental decline (the seven i-61 areas of global crisis). So how do you provide food, water, fuel, energy, health care, and education to 8 billion people? Where do you start? How can one person, or even one church or one agency make a difference? The answer lies not in looking at these problems as separate and unrelated, but instead in understanding that all of these issues are connected and bear impact on each other.

As i-61 continues to work to set up a worldwide network of churches and agencies to address these problems, we have come to understand that a holistic approach is needed. 7 Villages on the River of World CrisesThe environment has a direct impact on hunger and health. Leadership and education impact all of the other areas. There needs to be cross-pollination between agencies. Is malaria a health issue or an environmental issue? The answer is yes. It is both. Poor stewardship of the environment and a lack of education are the upstream part of the problem. The health issue, the actual disease, is the downstream manifestation. Decades ago, malaria was almost eradicated through the use of DDT. Sadly, that same DDT resulted in polluted water and a mutated, stronger and DDT-resistant strain of mosquitoes. So how do we deal with malaria? If approaching the problem upstream, we go to high-risk malaria regions. We educate the people about the use of repellents, medicine, and mosquito netting. We help them understand that areas of standing, stagnating water breed malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and show them how to modify those areas. We use a holistic approach combining education, the environment, and health. Downstream, we treat the disease, and help the people recover.

In Zambia, an upstream program was introduced where village leaders were put through an educational program regarding basic health and environmental issues. Upon successful completion of the course, they received a printed certificate that they could display in their homes, and were then asked to pass on what they had learned to other members of their village. The program dealt with some very simple issues, things that would seem to be common sense to those living in developed countries. It covered topics like: don’t defecate on your back porch, don’t eat fruit with flies on it, wash your hands, and where to place your wells and how deep to dig them. For example, you don’t dig your well and your latrine to the same depth within 10 yards of each other. Seems simple, yet if you don’t know these things, and understand the reasons behind them, the results can be devastating. This very popular program was a huge success.

Recently, the Texas/Mexican border has become a war zone of confrontation. Flag-waving Americans and immigration officers have been trying to stop busses at the border, which have been crowded with Central American children fleeing poor living conditions and gang violence in their home countries. The children are not at fault. The flag wavers are standing up for what they believe. The officials are only doing their job. So what’s the answer? Do we spend untold millions on building fences and border patrols? We can, but the problem will still persist if we fail to address the root of the problems. We need to go upstream. If we went there, they wouldn’t be coming here; meaning, if we helped the local communities determine sustainable solutions to the crises they are experiencing, they wouldn’t feel the need to send their children away for a better life. We might have a better chance of making a difference and preventing the border crisis if we can help them in areas of education, law enforcement, vocational training, and health care. We can educate and empower them to clean up their environment, purify their water and use it wisely, and create sustainable crop systems. If we could help equip them for a better quality of life, they would be able to stay– rooted in their culture, community, and their family unit, which is what God’s heart would be for them.

This brings up a big question. Who is going to do all of this? Today, the most likely answer is the church — not a single church, but the church body.  Church is called to be the body of Christ doing God’s work. We seek to function as a worldwide network of interdenominational Christian churches working together to heal the world.  The vision of i-61 Ministries started as a Christian Peace Corps, as we seek to bring help, hope, and the Word, to anyone in need. As we grow, we intend to follow the Franciscan model of missions, and develop sustainable bases of operation across the globe that deal with all seven circles of crisis, and bring the kingdom of God in the midst of it. God’s kingdom will break forth through His people, as they act as His hands and feet of hope. The Franciscans didn’t wait for the hurting to come to them…they went out and pursued them. So don’t wait. Contact us and get on board. Whether your heart is to work upstream on root problems, or downstream providing healing and hope, we have a place for you. Put your passion to work in God’s kingdom and just start somewhere.

~ Written by the i-61 Ministries Staff Team
i-61 Ministries is directed by Pastor Tri Robinson, Founder of i-61 Ministries and the Vineyard Boise Christian Fellowship