USA (MNN) — The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States is a celebration for some and a great concern for others. With discussions ranging from immigration reform to affordable healthcare and public education, many are wondering what changes to expect from the new administration, and how individual lives will be impacted by those changes.
Gary Edmonds, President of Food for the Hungry, works with both government leaders and non-profit leaders around the world as the ministry develops programs to end all forms of human poverty in more than 20 countries. He believes the first thing Christians need to remember in times of political change is which liberties remain constant. Edmonds shares with his staff at Food for the Hungry that “political leaders matter, but they might not matter quite as much as we think they do. We have freedoms, we have opportunities to make a difference in the world, we have opportunities to walk with the poor, the vulnerable, the hungry — regardless of the position the government will take.”
Edmonds has seen the devastating impact of people and countries choosing to isolate themselves – and he believes it is imperative for government and non-profit leaders in the United States to foster cooperative dialogue with other countries.
“You know, one of my points on a repeated basis when I speak with government leaders and other non-profit leaders is to say that right now, for us to actually work and identify with the poor, the vulnerable, the needy on a global basis, we’re working in contexts or environments that tend to — if left alone, if left in isolation — will actually radicalize their young people and their citizens. And then if they radicalize those people, then we’re going to end up paying later.
“We’ve literally got an opportunity to come against the whole radicalization impact or effect of leaving these people in isolation and in extreme states of hunger and poverty and a place of brokenness. Let’s identify with who we are, and let’s figure out, how do we actually walk humbly and do it in a way where we can live out the biblical adage of, ‘To those whom much is given, much is required or much is expected.’”
Headlines and breaking news reports from across the globe deliver daily stories of struggle and loss. While fear abounds, Edmonds says he sees this as a time of opportunity for Christians.
“It’s a time of opportunity to say, ‘Let’s help these people rise to a place of knowing what it means to be made whole, to be full.’ Jesus said, ‘I came to give you life, and give it to the full,’ so let us be praying that people would experience the fullness of life and the fullness that Jesus came to give. And it means that it’s going to be physical, it’s going to be spiritual, it’s going to be relational or social, it’s going to be intellectual or educational. We have a time of opportunity to actually help people rise, to help communities rise, to help entire countries of people rise. And the result of that is, rather than us staying in isolation and seeing these people [as] vulnerable, that we become mutually beneficial one to the other.”
Edmonds recounts a story he believes holds three significant keys to fostering cooperation in times of change. After ministering to the people of North Africa, he asked leaders what engendered trust and goodwill.
“First of all, they said, ‘You’ve come and you’ve gotten to know us by name.’ That might sound very simple, very novel, but we’re talking about real people with real names –they’ve got real identity, real worth, and real value. The second thing they said was, ‘You spoke well of us, regardless of the context.’ The last thing they said was, ‘When you came, you actually worked with us in loving ways.’
“Part of what I think the government needs to see right now is they need to ask the question, ‘How can we get to know people by name?’ The second thing is, ‘How do we speak well of them? How do we honor their strengths, their skills, their abilities, their courage?’ And then the third piece is, ‘How do we walk with them, build friendships, build relationships that become mutually beneficial?’”
The three keys aren’t simply recommendations for government leaders in this season of change, but Edmonds says they should be the way government leaders are treated as well.
“On a regular basis here at Food for the Hungry headquarters, I invite in government leaders, and many times they come in reluctant to talk or even fearful almost of, you know, what am I going to try to do with them,” he shares. “But I just talk to them about common things, you know, do they have a family, what’s their background. I remember one congressman – I told him, I pledged to him, ‘I’ll speak well of you, you speak well of us, and we’ll continue to go forward and try to find common solutions.’
“I think that’s what we need to do – not demonize each other but humanize each other. And I think that follows what Jesus came to do. He literally came to show us what a full human being is, and He came to help us be more human than we otherwise would be without Him.”