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Heard of the COVID-19 parable?

Preview of the Unite to Fight Poverty concert, airing Aug. 28 at 8:30 pm ET.
Preview of the Unite to Fight Poverty concert, airing Aug. 28 at 8:30 pm ET. | Credit: Dace & Mohr/Jen Bates,

A man was traveling alone on a dirt road when he was attacked by a gang of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him, took his belongings and left him in the ditch, clinging to life. Over the course of time, three travelers, also journeying down the same path, see the naked, bloodied victim on the side of the road. Only one stops to help.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

It’s been nearly 2,000 years since the parable of the good Samaritan was first spoken by Jesus. The lesson is as valuable now as it was back then.

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Today, COVID-19 has taken a disastrous toll on nearly every country on the planet. But for the world’s poorest, the virus is especially frightening.

Before the world had ever heard of COVID-19, humanity had made tremendous progress in fighting global poverty. Some studies show the number of people living in extreme poverty had been cut more than half in the last generation. That’s an incredible achievement. But this pandemic looks to undo much of it.

For those living in extreme poverty, health care means a rural clinic that may take hours to reach on foot and little to no access to ventilators or hospital beds. Being a front-line health care worker often means doing your job without access to even basic personal protective equipment or soap and water. Even for those who do not get sick, the impacts of the pandemic may mean no income at all and no safety net. No food on the table. No money for shelter, medicine or other basic necessities.

With more than 800 million people in our world chronically malnourished, starvation is already becoming a real and present threat. According to a recent report in the The Lancet, 10,000 more children a month are dying from hunger due to the pandemic.

The world’s poorest have been battered, stripped of what little they have, and cast onto the roadside of the world’s economy. It is not hyperbole to say this is a global crisis of biblical proportions.

Now let’s reimagine the parable in today’s context. What if all three travelers stopped and shared their own gifts and talents to bring restoration to the man left on the roadside? What if the first traveler bandaged his wounds? And the second offered his home? What if the third traveler arranged for food and a nurse?

World Vision, Compassion International, and Food for the Hungry see the need of our global neighbors. We can’t pass by. And we are asking Jesus-followers from around the world to join us.

Our three organizations have nearly 200 years combined experience fighting global poverty. We understand poverty. We know its root causes, the feeling of helplessness it creates, and the destruction it leaves in its path. We also see how simple interventions can save lives and, over time, empower families and even entire communities to lift themselves out of poverty.

Through our work, we see firsthand the devastation of COVID-19 on the global poor, and we felt compelled to join forces and unite against this common enemy.

On Aug. 28, we’ll be hosting a concert. We’re bringing together some of our most talented partners, with one message and one goal in mind: for all of us to be the good Samaritan in helping those who are most vulnerable during this time of global crisis.

Hosted by Sadie Robertson Huff and Carlos Whittaker, the “Unite to Fight Poverty” concert will air on Aug. 28 at 7:30 p.m. CST/8:30 p.m. EST and will feature two dozen of the top names in Christian music, as well as appearances from some of our favorite cause-conscious personalities.

Why respond globally now, when so many in the U.S. are also suffering? The third traveler in the story stopped to help without regard to the victim’s nationality. He saw someone in need and “he went to him and bandaged his wounds.”

So can we.

Jesus calls us to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. Every single person on this planet is feeling the impacts of COVID-19, yet some are in much greater risk than us. As the body of Christ, we are in a historic moment when Jesus’ call is more important than ever.

When Jesus spoke in parables, it was always to teach us something important. At the end of the story, he asks, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

And the expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The question is no longer, “Who is my neighbor?” We understand the global meaning of the term. The question is more about what Jesus might be doing in our hearts with the answer.

Join us on Aug. 28 as we Unite to Fight Poverty.

Edgar Sandoval, Sr. is the president and CEO of World Vision U.S.

Santiago “Jimmy” Mellado is the president and CEO of Compassion International.

Mark Viso is the president and CEO of Food for the Hungry.

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