by Katharine Baker, PhD, Faith Outreach Director
On May 16-17, 2017, Hope Through Healing Hands took a team of Christian artists and pastors to Washington, DC, to meet with members of Congress and communicate their concerns about the devastating effects that would result from the severe budget cuts to foreign assistance funding proposed by President Trump. “More than 50% of Americans still believe that our foreign assistance amounts to 25% of the U.S. budget. In actuality, it is less than one percent,” said Jenny Dyer, Ph.D., Executive Director of HTHH. “If Congress accepts President Trump’s 28% cut to foreign assistance, the historic progress we have led over the past twenty-five years to prevent the deaths of mothers and children around the world will halt.”
Participants in this “Christian Influencers Advocacy Trip” included pastors artists Jennifer Nettles, Matt Maher, Dan Haseltine, Brandon Heath, and Steve Taylor and pastor Josh Rouse among others. All of them were eager to share their personal experiences in working to alleviate the extreme poverty and dire health threats in the developing world. For example, Steve Taylor brought his adopted daughter Sarah Taylor, who was born in Uganda, who gave her first-hand account of becoming an orphan because she lost her parents to disease.
Pastor Josh Rouse, of Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, emphasized the role of faith in motivating advocacy for the funding of the International Affairs Budget, explaining that sometimes Americans have difficulty imagining how they can make a difference when confronted by the overwhelming needs of global health. “But this is where the church leads,” he stated, “Our scripture calls us to care for the poor, to love our neighbor, even if that neighbor is in Bangladesh or Malawi. We must transcend our nationalism to care for the poorest world-wide. My goal as an outreach pastor is to help our congregants understand the variety of ways we can take action, such as advocating for international assistance.”
On the first day of the trip, May 16th, the HTHH team partnered with Friends of the Global Fight (FGF), the U.S. advocacy organization supporting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria around the world. Thanks to front-line programs such as the Global Fund, the number of deaths from malaria and tuberculosis has been cut in half since 1990. To share this good news and insist that the fight continue, Chris Collins, FGF President, and Mark Lagon, FGF Chief Policy Officer, joined the Christian Influencers for meetings with Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), Senator Todd Young (R-IN), Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and counselors to HHS Secretary Tom Price.
On the following day, May 17th, the HTHH team collaborated with the ONE Campaign. Tom Hart, ONE’s North America Executive Director, explained: “Our foreign assistance programs are among the few places in the government where funding translates to lives saved. Cutting foreign aid would put in jeopardy those who depend on life-saving assistance like anti-retroviral medicines for HIV/AIDS, food assistance for those in famine, bed nets for those fighting malaria, and anti-corruption measures. These programs have had strong bipartisan support for generations and we're going up to the Hill to ensure it stays that way.” HTHH championed the entire International Affairs Account, or the 150 account, and we visited Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Congressman Diane Black (R-TN), and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY).
Participants agreed that the two-day event was a success, given the congressmen’s sincere attention and willingness to listen to the message that the U.S. must continue its moral leadership in improving health around the world by preserving foreign assistance funding.