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27 Weeks: Why It Matters Where You Live

At 27 weeks pregnant, I find myself considering the world this child will enter. If born today in my passport country, our baby would have a 90% chance of living. In rural West Africa, the survival rate (without surfactant, ventilators, or NICU level nursing care) is zero. Zero. Nobody lives here when born this early. Nobody. This is just the beginning of the vast disparity in options that life affords those born in the minority and majority worlds.

Where we are born dictates so much about our lives: what (if) we can eat, whether our children can go to school, how we worship, whether we can participate in government, whether we are exposed to war, and what how long we can expect to live. When I read the litany of complaints Americans launch against all things American on social media, my head spins. Have any of us really considered giving up our citizenship and moving elsewhere? Do we not realize that any poor person in any developing country would gladly trade places with even the most unfortunate and discriminated against American? Have we even considered, once, the plight of the poor in other countries? What our lives would look like if we traded places?

American citizenship awards privilege the majority world will never experience: access to entirely free education, clean water, sewage and garbage disposal, high nutrition food supplementation programs, freedom of speech, relative safety, and the possibility of upward social and financial mobility. When I describe these conditions to friends abroad, I am met with bewilderment. They can only imagine people living in such a world, while theirs is a daily scramble for food, an annual struggle for school fees (or even the possibility of schools being open), and a lifelong battle for any improvement in standard of living for their families.

Yes, America has problems. No, they are not comparable to the problems among the worlds' very poor. While I've heard the argument, "we have enough problems here" from many Americans regarding why we shouldn't get involved in foreign affairs, I've never once heard it from someone who has seen firsthand the plight of the impoverished abroad. You can't see children starving, en masse, and look away to resume complaints about whether or not people have access to the bathrooms of their choice.

Should we address America's problems? Absolutely. We should probably start with the situations of immigrants, refugees, homeless, and foster children, who are the least empowered and the most likely to benefit from interventions. Should we address the world's problems? Absolutely. Americans are not our only "fellow citizens". We are citizens of earth, and suffering abroad is just as serious as suffering at home. There is no reason to think American lives matter more than those in any other country, or that we are any less "responsible" for those abroad.

As Christians, we have an even more important citizenship: a citizenship in Heaven, where all nations and tongues will join together in worship. There will not be an "American" section in the afterlife. This eternal, cross-cultural integration is intentional on God's part. Furthermore, Scripture is clear that we are to treat foreigners as we treat brothers and sisters while on earth.

So what? Is this a feel-bad post, after which we walk away lamenting the ethnocentrism of Americans? I hope not.

There are very real ways we can improve the situations of those who suffer in the U.S. and abroad. First, we can consider suffering around the world. This is a first step, because it's one most of us never attempt and is a necessary precursor to any further steps. Do our news providers focus nearly entirely on concerns unique to our social circles? If so, we could consider subscribing to broader sources, and praying about issues these bring to mind.

Second, we can bring this newfound knowledge into our conversations. Think about the last subject you discussed with your spouse, your best friend, or a stranger. Did anything of significance enter the equation? After thoughts and prayers, words are the next thing we can leverage for good.

Finally, we can bring these concerns into our actions (financial and otherwise). How much of our money and time goes to addressing the needs of the poor? Scripture's focus on this group suggests the percentage should be significant.

Most of us were born into one of the most privileged societies of all time. Likely we have never been food insecure, nor will we bury multiple children. We have never seen war in our homeland. We are exceedingly unlikely to die in childbirth. We have completed primary and secondary education (at a minimum), without missing any years due to government strikes or inadequate finances. All of this means we have incredible experiences and resources that we can use to improve the lives of those who were not afforded such opportunities.

When I consider this little life inside of me, not yet ready for the world here, I pray he or she will use every ounce of privilege for good. You were made in Africa, little one. I hope that continent will always be near to your heart.


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