A blessed Thanksgiving to you all!!
As I prepare to celebrate the holiday this week, I’m trying to remember all the things for which I’m thankful – and the list is long, indeed. A friend of my older son’s helped me with this task a couple of years ago. On New Year’s Day 2017, Lucas posted a photo of a well-written journal on Facebook with the caption: “On Sept 7, 1997, I began to record 5 things I was thankful for to God in this 200 page notebook and never missed a day. 7056 days later and 35,280 entries later, the notebook is filled and I start a new one tonight.” Lucas was a freshman in college when he began his journal in response to the suggestion of a long-forgotten camp counselor. When I read Lucas’ post, I grabbed an empty journal of my own and began my journey of thankfulness.
I’ve almost completed two years of journal entries. At the end of each day before I pray Compline, I review my day and try to remember five events, people, activities, realizations, or blessings for which I am grateful. Some days are much easier than others yet I’ve learned that when I have to dig deeper to remember something specific, I am even more ready to acknowledge that all of our lives – even the tough times and challenges – are filled with gifts from God if we take the time to look for them. With Thanksgiving upon us, I can look back over the last two years of journal entries and am filled with gratitude.
I am thankful for The Episcopal Church and her commitment to live as the Beloved Community that together we might make a difference for the oppressed, the marginalized, the refugee, the needy, the homeless, the addicted, and the poor – all of God’s children. One way our Church addresses these concerns is through the good work of the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN). It’s been a while since I have highlighted our call to #PrayFastAct with EPPN’s campaign “For Such a Time as This.” You’ll recall that this is our opportunity to advocate for different issues on the 21st of each month, the day chosen because it is often the third week in the month that 90% of SNAP benefits run out for families. And November is the second-to-last month of this initiative which ends when Congress adjourns for Christmas in December.
This month we are asked to focus our attention on international programs that are working to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other global health concerns. The EPPN website reports:
Over the last two decades, the world has seen tremendous progress in the fight against these diseases, in large part driven by the faith community. The dramatic investment in research, prevention, testing, and treatment have led to a decrease in new HIV and TB infections, and increased availability of and access to medicines that treat these conditions have helped to save millions of lives. The commitment by the international community has had a major impact on global health. The Global Fund, a public-private partnership, has led the way with the result that:
In 2017, in countries where the Global Fund invests:
- 27 million lives have been saved
- 5 million people are on antiretroviral therapy for HIV
- 5 million people were treated for TB
- 197 million mosquito nets were distributed
The U.S. and other donor countries provide funding, human resources, and technical support to countries heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Continued government funding is essential to ensure we stop the spread of these diseases.
We are called to:
Pray for those impacted by health issues wherever they are, that they may receive the treatment they need to return to full health.
Fast in recognition of the work done by healthcare professionals and those working to build stronger healthcare systems around the world.
Act together by calling on our policymakers to support strong investments in HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria programs. These programs have expanded access to treatment and care to millions of people around the world.
The Office of Government Relations of The Episcopal Church produced a paper that gives more background information:
WHERE ARE WE ON HIV/AIDS, TUBERCULOSIS, AND MALARIA?
Over the last two decades, the world has seen tremendous progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Expanded investments in research, prevention interventions, testing, and treatment have led to a decrease in new HIV and TB infections and have increased availability and access to medicines that treat these conditions. Millions of lives have been saved because of commitments by governments and the private sector to address these major global health threats.
Scriptures tell many stories of Jesus healing those who were sick (Luke 4:38 – 40). In addition to healing people himself, Jesus also commands his disciples to heal those who are sick, without expectation of pay — just as they had received his grace and healing free of charge (Matthew 10:7 – 8). This practice of caring for those who are sick is an integral part of Christian identity. One of the ways we have responded as churches and faith-based organization has been through provision of health care services to people around the world, including providing care and treatment to people affected by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. In some communities, hospitals and clinics run by churches/faith -based organizations might be the only available health care facilities. More often faith-based healthcare facilities work in collaboration with governments and multilateral entities to ensure people have access to health services wherever they may be.
The U.S. and other donor countries provide funding, human resources, and technical support to countries heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. While churches and faith-based organizations provide vital services to those affected by any of these illnesses, governments and multilateral organizations play a critical role because they have more resources that make it possible to scale up services and research activities. Despite the progress we have made, more than three million people die from these diseases annually. It is imperative for governments, including our own, to continue investing in programs that work to combat these global health threats. As lawmakers work to finalize the FY2020 budget, we urge Congress to provide robust funding allocations for the following programs:
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) – founded in 2002, the Global Fund is a public – private financing mechanism that works in partnership with governments, civil society, the private sector to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria globally. We urge Congress to dedicate no less than $1.6 billion to this program.
The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – PEPFAR is the bilateral U.S. government’s response to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic and represents the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history. Created in 2003, PEPFAR has been credited with transforming the global HIV/AIDS response. We ask Congress to allocate $5.5 billion for PEPFAR
The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) – launched in 2005, PMI is a U.S. government initiative that works to reduce malaria-related deaths in heavily impacted countries by 50 percent. We urge Congress to appropriate no less than $850 million to ensure continuation of malaria-elimination activities.
As we celebrate our day of gratitude for all of our many blessings, let’s reach out to bring better health to those around the world who are experiencing these dreadful illnesses. You can go to the EPPN website, click on the “take action” link and fill in your contact information which the good people there will use to contact the right legislators on your behalf. And then remember to pray, fast, and act on the 21st. You might remember to pray for solutions to these crises at your Thanksgiving dinner table the next day and, perhaps, one way to act might to be to tell your family and friends about these concerns as you share your holiday dinner. Together, we can make a difference.
Let us pray –
Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before you
all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us
to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick,
and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those
who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow
into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for
our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council