Did You Know?

April Newsletter, 2014  Rick McPherson

Not long ago, I used some of the following statistics in a talk.  I had read them and was startled, even shocked, because of the numbers.  Most of us never dream that there is a culture in our country that deals with such things.  But there is.

Did you know that Native Americans have the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the United States?  The poverty rate is 25 percent.  Native people living in Indian country have incomes that are less than half of the general U.S. population. 

Did you know that only 36 percent of males in high-poverty Native American communities have full-time, year-round employment?

Did you know that nearly 10 percent of all Native American families are homeless?  The rate of Native homes without electricity is 10 times the national average and 20 percent of Native homes have no running water. 

Did you know that the infant mortality rate among Native people is about 300 percent higher than the national average?

Did you know that the poorest county in the United States is the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota?  The unemployment rate there is a mind-boggling 80 percent.  Life expectancy on this reservation is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, except for Haiti.

Did you know that the rates of violent victimization for both men and women are higher among Native Americans than for any other race?

Did you know that from 1999 to 2004, Native males in the 15 to 24 year old age group had the highest suicide rate compared to males of any other racial group?

It’s true when we read these facts that we can feel overwhelmed.  Perhaps we can even say, “What’s the use?  It’s hopeless.”

But before we despair, let me remind you that we as Christ followers are called to be two specific things…salt and light.  These two metaphors give us a practical application of how we are to live in the midst of a decaying and dark world.  You see it doesn’t take much salt to affect the flavor of the whole meal and it doesn’t take much light to drive the darkness from the room.  Jesus said:

“…that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Mt.5:13

I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the little boy who was walking on the beach one day and found thousands of Starfish that had been washed up on the shore by the tide and stranded to die in the sun.  One by one, he began to pick them up and throw them back in the ocean.  A fellow beach-comber asked him what he was doing and he said, “I’m throwing these Starfish back in the water so they won’t die.”

“Well, there are thousands of them on the sand; you’ll never be able to throw them all back in the water.  What difference does it make any way?”  the stranger asked.

“It’ll make a big difference to the ones that I’m throwing back in the water!” said the boy. 

So it is with our work at Pacific NW Outreach.  We are following the directives of God’s Word to be salt and light…doing the best we can to glorify God.  And, we’re tossing as many Starfish as we can, back in the ocean.