In late February, when the Trump administration was poised to unveil a budget of deep cuts to the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, a group of retired U.S. generals and admirals put pen to paper in defense of foreign assistance. “Now is not the time to retreat,” the letter to the U.S. Congress, signed by over 120 military leaders, concluded.
I am not in the “ignore President Trump’s tweets because they are a distraction from important things” camp. His most recent micro-harangues — accusing (without evidence) a news executive of wrongdoing, hinting that a television host may have been involved in murder and embracing the debunked anti-Muslim rantings of Britain’s alt-right — indicate some type of degeneration. The president seems to be in a downward spiral of anger, compulsion, conspiracy theorizing and prejudice that is alternately offensive and frightening.
A decade and a half ago, we came together to bridge the political divide and address one of history’s worst public health crises. In 2002, 3.1 million people worldwide died of AIDS-related causes and 11 million children in sub-Saharan Africa had lost one or more parents to the disease. The AIDS epidemic was only getting worse; immediate action was necessary.
Beth O’Connell became a Frist Global Health Leader in 2010, completing an internship in rural Rwanda for her Bachelor of Public Health. She received the award again in 2013 for an internship in rural Guatemala for her MPH. Today, Beth has earned a DrPH and works as an Assistant Professor in Public and Community Health at Liberty University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate public health courses, while continuing to serve and conduct research to improve health in low-resource communities both domestically and globally.
In March, President Trump issued a budget that recommended a 32 percent cut to foreign assistance. Faith-based organizations across the nation fought back and notable leaders in the nonprofit world—including those from Hope Through Healing Hands, the organization I work for—wrote and signed letters to Congress. They argued against cuts to a program that provides health care, food, emergency relief, clean water and education to the most vulnerable populations on the planet.
Following years of involvement in global humanitarian efforts, I was privileged recently to travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with some of our Congressmen to discuss the importance of preserving this line item in our U.S. budget. What fuels my passion for this work are stories like the one I share here and Christ’s compassion flowing through me for those in direst need.

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