The Best Trust Network in the World - President's Note, May 2022

“A third of the world’s population are aliens from a much better world, displaying what this world could be like...”

In the 1980’s, I worked as a legislative aide to a U.S. senator interfacing with the U.S. State Department. As we addressed various international crises including famines and natural disasters, I was constantly told “Hunger is not due to lack of food in the world, but lack of trust to get it from those who have surplus to those who need it.” Various studies in the last 2 decades seem to indicate, theoretically, that the world has enough resources to feed everyone, clothe everyone, house everyone, and provide a sustainable living for everyone.

As a global university focused on these issues especially in urban areas, BGU tracks unprecedented progress in technology, distribution logistics, housing solutions, economic growth, medical breakthroughs, communication access, and justice advocacy at many levels. Improvements in many of these areas in the past 20 years overshadow the progress of the previous 20 centuries. We live in a unique time of idealism, focus, and progress toward solving world problems by people around the globe from a variety of cultures with a wide diversity of political and faith worldviews. U.N. reports show that the percentage of undernourished people in the world declined from 15% in 2000 to 8.9% in 2019. Poverty estimates by the World Bank show that extreme poverty has drastically declined in the last 20 years.

It would seem that these advances would create a global atmosphere of hope. Yet, during COVID many of these trends reversed. The war in Ukraine is projected to create significant food shortages. Political polarization in the U.S. is broadcast throughout global media, creating discouragement. What was thought to be a hopeful model for other nations is becoming much less so. Each day we see horrible scenes of massive bombings, amor and infantry warfare in Ukraine that we thought would never happen again after World War 2 yet they are now present again.

As Christians we work along with others in the world to create solutions through philanthropy, innovative technologies, leadership training, peacebuilding, economic opportunity, environmental stewardship and justice advocacy. We are as much caught up in the exhilarating highs of progress, and the debilitating lows of seeing our attempts fail and our worldview attacked as everyone else. Our faith is not like Buddhists who remove themselves from caring deeply, or Hindus who retreat from interfering with a deterministic world. We are involved personally, and we care. Hope and discouragement are very much a part of our faith.

As Christians we have at least two powerful tools that no one else has. Too often we don’t use them. First, even in our highest hopes, and lowest discouragements, we know there is a God who is good beyond our imagination and powerful beyond our understanding who is very present in us, and through us. We know we are not the “Atlas” that holds up the world. This hope should propel us to take risks beyond anybody else. It should allow us to dream bigger and hurt deeper than anyone else because we have a hope bigger than any results we can see. When we “fail” in our intended goal and respond with faith, we have succeeded in the much more important goal of pointing people to God’s goodness. Yet too often, we allow this “safety net” that should propel us to risk become an excuse for inaction, comfort, and passivity.

Second, we have a profound global network like no other that is so amazing that we don’t dare to believe in its power. After the fall of Genesis 3, the world is full of lies and none of us are fully trustworthy. However, there are over 2 billion people in the world who identify as having received Jesus as their Savior, have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, and are called to demonstrate what the original Garden looks like by displaying the Kingdom in their lives and praying for it to come more fully. These 2 billion people are organized in local communities in more locations than any other organization on earth. Each local community is committed to help each other trust in God’s power to make them more trustworthy, more caring about the world, more able to see truth beyond the pervasive haze of Satan’s lies, and more able to trust others who are on this same journey with them.

A third of the world’s population are aliens from a much better world, displaying what this world could be like as they trust God, and how it will eventually be under God’s control. These people all have God indwelling them creating connections of trust, understanding, common values, and love that go far beyond any communication technology or political affinity. A third of the world’s population has a common identity that supersedes their location, culture, race, gender, political views, language or economic standing.

BGU has a unique vantage point to see this network at many levels in relief efforts to Ukrainian refugees. BGU’s marketing director lives in Budapest and has spent much of March in her parent’s home, 10 km from the Ukrainian border caring for refugees arriving at the local train station. Her story is personal. It shows the work of local churches in Hungary and beyond serving with love that goes far beyond what any news media can understand. In a bigger picture, BGU also leads the global training organization for the World Evangelical Alliance which represents 650 million global Christians in 143 national evangelical alliances. The WEA has the status in the United Nations in New York and Geneva to present resolutions as well as connections with the largest global relief and media entities. The WEA has assisted with the distribution of hundreds of tons of relief supplies to local churches that are in evangelical alliances of countries bordering Ukraine and in Western Europe. These supplies go to local churches who distribute it to local families who have refugees living in their homes.

Small loving actions of Christians crying alongside those who afraid. Large, well-coordinated action utilizing local church distribution networks that no government agency or global non-profit relief organization could ever build. Trust in God is our power to activate trust with each other that begs the question, “What makes you people so different?”

Brad Smith