In a little over a week, on Saturday, May 8, World Concern will have its annual fundraiser focused on protecting children, called the Free Them 5k. Many of you reading this have signed up, either to run, jog, or walk, or have agreed to sponsor someone – thank you!
But what is protection? What does it mean, in practice? The idea of protection has gained real momentum in recent years, as people in general become more socially aware in an inter-connected world. But is that all it is, an idea whose time has come, in a world that has the capability for better social reflection? I think not…
Those of you who are familiar with the bible will know that the broad issue of ‘justice’ is a constant throughout scripture. It is not new. It actually reflects who God is at the core of His being. Ancient Hebrew law talks about not extracting everything from your field or vineyard, in order to leave something for the poor and the widow, and even the ‘foreigner’ in society. The prophet Isaiah berates his community, Israel, for being super-religious, but neglecting the fundamentals of being a caring society, and reflecting the nature of God in how they cared for the needy. In Jesus, we see His care often in those He ministered to. And in the early church we see it in how they sold their belongings to help one another and shared everything.
As we lead up to the World Concern Free Them 5k, I think about where this money we raise will go. One of my favorite projects World Concern does that illustrates what ‘protection’ looks like is the work we do to keep young girls in school. So many young girls are taken out of school, or never even get to go, because their parents have no money to pay basic school fees. Some can’t afford to feed their daughters, so they sell them off in an arranged marriage.
World Concern works in Bangladesh to provide girls with scholarships so they can stay and school and not have to be married off.
These practices lead to so many other things, such as abuse, neglect, early pregnancy, and in the end, a continued life of poverty. Keeping them in school dramatically alters their trajectory, often preventing early marriage, and launching them into society at a productive level, where their income earning potential is radically different to what it would have been otherwise. And they are unlikely to experience a life of grinding poverty. These are all relatively small investments.
So, whether you run or jog or walk in your neighborhood on May 8th, support someone who is running the 5k, or are perhaps exploring the idea of child ‘protection’ for the first time, know that your involvement is vital and changes the trajectory of a child’s life.
There’s still time to join the Free Them 5k. Sign up for free today, or donate here: www.freethem5k.org
A female student takes notes in class in rural Bangladesh.