On August 19, the world celebrated World Humanitarian Day, an international day dedicated to recognize humanitarian personnel and those who have lost their lives working for humanitarian causes. In the commentary that follows, João Martins, regional director of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Europe, reflects on the meaning of that day in 2020 and the role the humanitarian workers of the agency are playing during the current pandemic.—Editors
There are moments in our collective memories that come into our minds when we talk about events that affected the course of history during our lifetime. If I think about it, I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall; September 11, 2001; the Southeast Asia tsunami; or the Iraq wars. In 2020, we are experiencing another of these events: the global COVID-19 pandemic. For as long as we live, we will never forget this year and the disruption it brought into our lives.
When we recall past events, even if they affected our lives globally, the direct impact was very local in the areas where they happened. The pandemic is a global humanitarian crisis affecting all the countries in the world, with the virus contaminating many of us, our families, neighbors, and friends. Indeed, we are all in this together.
The pandemic has also shown that the experience ADRA has gained in responding to emergencies worldwide has been essential in responding to this global event. Particularly in Europe, we have witnessed the emergence of many projects, even in countries where we had never before implemented any projects. Suddenly, Europe became an emergency continent, and we had to mobilize our workers, volunteers, and church members. We were able to respond to the need of those most affected by the pandemic.
We recently celebrated a special date in a special year, World Humanitarian Day 2020. As I think about this day, I recall all the tireless efforts of ADRA workers and the volunteers in Europe who had to instantly become humanitarian workers on the front line of a global crisis, often putting their own health at risk. I have listened to many stories and read many reports about how almost 2,000 people became a blessing to others in their hour of deepest need. ADRA leaders were able to partner with the local churches and mobilize church members to be an active blessing in their communities.
In moments like this, we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in the most obvious way. While He was on this earth, He was the noblest example of a humanitarian worker that we can find, always seeking the wellbeing of those He got in touch with. We have the privilege of following His example.
History will recall this crisis for many years. But even more than the crisis, what I will never forget is what Jesus will also always remember: the loving way His children became a blessing to others.
I want to pay special tribute to ADRA workers and volunteers, who, by forgetting their self-interest, have shown justice, compassion, and the love of Jesus. I have no doubt that from His throne in heaven, Jesus is telling each one: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matt. 25:34-36, NIV).