What does famine teach us?

The thing that has moved me the most about the current famine in the Horn of Africa is learning of the women and children who have been robbed and assaulted as they have fled Somalia.

Their plight reminds me of a boy called Maror Bol. He was about 13 years old when I met him in Sudan. Maror was in similar dire straits and was also robbed. He also taught me one of the most important lessons of my life.

In 1998, bad weather and factional fighting had provoked a famine in Southern Sudan. Maror had walked about 50 miles to reach a World Vision feeding center for malnourished children -- located at a rough camp in the middle of nowhere. I spoke to Maror as he joined a line to register for assistance. He explained that his brother had kicked him out, saying there was not enough food to go around. So he took a long walk across Sudan’s parched landscape to see if he could get assistance.

When I saw him, he had not eaten for days and was naked. He is the only person I have ever met who had absolutely nothing.

Technically, Maror did not meet the criteria for assistance at our feeding center, which was designed to feed pregnant women and children under age 5. But we felt compelled to have him admitted. So Maror sat with the other moms and their babies and received a large cup of UNIMIX -- a nutritious porridge. He also received a bag of dry UNIMIX to take away with him.

13-year-old Maror Bol. ©1998 World Vision

The next day, I hopped on a small plane to return to Nairobi, Kenya, which was then the headquarters for World Vision’s operations in Sudan. I had seen hundreds of starving children, but Maror stuck in my mind. Other children had moms to look after them, but Maror had no one. I bought him a t-shirt, a pair of shorts, and some flip-flops. I wanted him to know there was one person who cared about him. I sent the parcel of clothes for Maror via cargo plane to our staff working in the field where I met him.

It was a month or two before I could return to the center to find out what happened to Maror. I was told that he had returned the day after I had first seen him. He had been in great distress. After he had left the center on that first day, he wandered some distance away, found somewhere to sleep on the ground, and used his bag of UNIMIX as a pillow. That night, someone snatched the bag from under his head and ran off. Maror was inconsolable. Though our staff replaced the food, Maror never again came back and never got the clothes I sent.

The life-changing lesson Maror taught me that day was that most of my own troubles are relatively minor. It's something I need to keep reminding myself of on a daily basis.

Right now, I’m involved in a protracted legal dispute connected to the cost of repairs for a condominium I own. If things go badly, I could lose an awful lot of money -- something that might cause my family to suffer financial hardship for several years. The problem has been at the top of my prayer list for weeks.

But should I be worried? My children could miss out on some luxuries, but they will not starve. When we see how relatively small our problems are, they cease to be the giants that we make them out to be.

For today, I’m going to lay off primarily praying about my legal problems for awhile -- except perhaps as an afterthought. Instead, I’ll devote myself to praying for the thousands facing hunger in the Horn of Africa. No matter what problems you face at the moment -- legal, financial, marital -- perhaps Maror’s story can persuade you to join me.

And, who knows? You might just find that the Lord takes care of those other little things that are troubling you as well.


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    God bless you for the good work . These problems would be reduced, if man's wickedness & greed could reduce; the Somalia war is senseless. As for you, remember the bible says in prov 11: 25 'he that waters shall be watered' Heb 10:25 says He is faithful to His word& in another place, He says He won't forget your labour of love. God bless you & your team. I sure ll join you in prayer!

    This is a good reminder to keep things in perspective. May the Lord gather the poor and hungry in the horn of Africa and be their provider and protector. Thank you for your ministry to the poorest and hungriest of Africa.

    I would like to add that it would be very helpful to add to this blog just how much a cup of UNIMIX porridge costs. I believe it is 25 cents. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Wow Great blog. Extremely eye opening. It makes you want to take for granted all the little things in life.

    if only many people saw it this way ...

    Woh! indeed this is very inspiring....many a times we take things for granted...concentrate on eating Pizza or driving 4x4 cars yet for Maror, an eighth of a dollar earns him precious life! How i wish the world was responsible for such people!

    some people starving to death and the others throwing away their damn money..i just don't get it why people complaining about stupid stuff when their life is fine..i can't even imagine what he had been through,it's a terrible world !!

    there is no shortage of any thing but it is only due to lack of proper distribution that on one side there is surplus of any thing where as on the other side it deprived for the same things . so we must not think for the physical boundaries but for the sake of human being one must help to other for the god.
    thus the world will be most beautiful as it is really in actual sens.

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