Where is the most difficult place on the planet to survive?
You could certainly make a case for a few of the countries where Plant With Purpose works.
Experts frequently mention the Democratic Republic of the Congo among the most difficult countries for someone to live. Frequent episodes of violent conflict, rampant hunger and poverty, and a lack of stability threaten the wellbeing of many families within its borders. A high deforestation rate only makes these problems worse. This year the country has also had to endure political uncertainty and the threat of ebola outbreaks.
Across the border in Burundi, things can also be harsh. Moments of peace seem extremely fragile and are under threat. The country was recently named the most food insecure nation in the world, and this lack of food security has made life uncertain for its mostly agricultural population.
You could also make a case for Haiti. This country is one where poverty is most harsh, and there are not many signs of improvement on the horizon. Political instability has further contributed to frustration, and in spite of the charitable sector’s large presence, Haitians often experience being over-promised and underdelivered. The environmental conditions in Haiti stack the odds against its rural farmers, as most of the country’s soil has been depleted of its vital nutrients, and frequent storms and hurricanes threaten whatever is left.
Even in countries with better national conditions, like the Dominican Republic or Thailand, many segments of their populations have been left out of their development. This includes the rural poor, refugees, or the stateless.
People often think of these places as weary lands.
These are places where the environment is exhausted and depleted, where resources have been extracted and removed. The people are also often weary. They are tired of false promises of things getting better, seeing conditions only further deteriorate, and having to work unimaginably hard only to continue to struggle to survive.
These are places where life isn’t easy. But these are also places close to God’s heart.
All throughout Scripture, we find God in proximity to suffering. Psalm 63 is a prayer from this this sort of place- perhaps metaphorically, perhaps literally:
“I thirst for you
My whole being longs for you,
In a dry and parched land
Where there is no water.”
God remains present.
The Psalm reflects that in places where life may be unreliable, unpredictable, or harsh- God is still present.
“On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
Your right hand upholds me.”
Plant With Purpose works to alleviate suffering in these weary places. We believe that part of the way God brings restoration to these communities is through the work that we have the opportunity to do. No matter how much enthusiasm, determination, and innovation we bring to our work, we are must remember that God was there long before we arrived.
In the moments where our partners may have been praying for their next meal, God was listening.
“He heard our prayers; I ask for your continued prayers so that things can be better in Haiti,” our partner Ronald told us.
Being able to be part of the change taking place in Haiti and in places like it is nothing short of a gift. It’s important work, but in the end, it only follows in the footsteps of what God has been doing long before we arrived.