Monday, September 2, 2013

Stinging Numbers

I'm about to start a Bible study with my friend Sammy.  It's called 7 and it was written by Jen Hatmaker.  It's a seven week fast from excess, basically a rebellion against the American Dream. 

One of the weeks is about creating simplicity in our diets.  Sammy and I are currently deciding whether or not we will eat from seven basic foods all week or if we will choose to eat like the poor of some of the seven poorest countries of the world for a week.

While doing some research, I was looking at statistics about the ten poorest countries in the world.  Usually I like to focus on stories, like the 4-year-old boy in Kenya who sleeps on a hard-packed dirt floor with his mother and ten brothers and sisters every night, but today I want to share statistics.  Facts.  Numbers.  Stories change hearts, but numbers and statistics cannot be overlooked.  They are perspective-changers.

Here are some facts about the ten poorest countries in the world.  

1.) Haiti
This country has a 77% poverty rate.  According to the World Bank, 80% of the country lives on less than $2 a day. 

2.) Equatorial Guinea
This small country has a poverty rate of 76.8%.  Only half of the children in Guinea have been enrolled in primary school.

3.) Zimbabwe
The poverty rate of Zimbabwe is 72%.  Its inflation rate as November of 2008 is 89,700,000,000,000,000,000,000%, making $1 in US currency worth more than 430,000 Zimbabwean shillings. 

4.) Democratic Republic of Congo 
This country has a poverty rate of 71.3%.  The infant death rate is the second worst in the world (behind Sierra Leone) while the primary school enrollment is also the second worst in the world.  The GDP per capita is a shocking $231, the lowest in the entire world. 

5.) Swaziland
Swaziland's poverty rate is 69.2%.  This country has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the entire world, as well as a horrifyingly low life expectancy of only 48.

6.) Eritrea
There is a 69% poverty rate in Eritrea.  Its primary school enrollment is the third lowest in the entire world.

7.) Madagascar
The poverty rate is at 68.7%.  More than 80% of the population work in basic farming jobs.

8.) Burundi
This country has the second lowest GDP per capita in the world at only $271.  Burundi was severely affected by genocide 20 years ago.  Burundi's infant mortality rate is double the worldwide rate. 

9.) Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone has a poverty rate of 66.4% and the second lowest average life expectancy in the world.  It has the world's highest infant mortality rates; nearly 114 babies die out of 1,000 births. 

10.) Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe 
This country's poverty rate is 66.2%, meaning that more than half of the population faces a daily struggle to survive.

I took this list from Fox Business.  Another list by Global Finance going completely by Gross Domestic Product per capita rather than by a combined poverty rate, would be:

1.) Congo
2.) Zimbabwe
3.) Burundi
4.) Liberia
5.) Eritrea
6.) Central African Republic
7.) Niger
8.) Malawi
9.) Madagascar
10.) Afghanistan

Regardless of how you measure poverty, there are billions of people in this world who are struggling this very day to survive. 

Jen Hatmaker said in 7, "What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can't manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount?  Fifty thousand times that amount?"

Let me share a powerful quote from Ugandan missionary Katie Davis: "The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or under other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children. And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians. The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left."

These statistics deal with literally millions of people, numbers far too large for my mind to even begin to comprehend.  But today, I want to spend time thinking about the big picture.  

The Lord placed 7 billion people on this earth.  He created little Sharon from Tanzania with just as much love and purpose as when He created me.  And that's what is difficult to believe and speak aloud.  Because Sharon in one in 164.8 million needy children.  Because I live in a whole lot of excess while knowing very well the numbers.  Because I've been called to love my neighbor as myself, and yet I'm allowing my neighbor to starve.

I'm excited to begin this Bible study because I'm beginning to become frightened by how comfortable I am in self-centered excess.  I'm ready to learn what it is like to live simply, love fully, and taste the Lord's compassion for all people.

If you would like to join Sammy and me in our 8 week Bible study, we begin on Friday, so you still have time!  I'll be blogging weekly about my perspectives and learning experiences.  I would so love to hear your own.  Buy the book now: 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  (We'll be using the workbook as well.)

Two years ago: A Tour of My Dorm Room


  1. Emily, do you have an email or somehow I can talk to you? I'd really like to ask your opinion/help about something, but I don't really want to post it as a public comment.

    1. Yes! You can email me at emilytheperson(at)yahoo(dot)com. I wrote it that way so robot spammers don't notice it as easily.