Our country has been pounded—fires to the left of us, hurricanes to the right. This is nothing new, although having so many disasters happen at the same time sure makes it seem that way. As a Christian, my initial response is, how can I help?
The first thing we can do is pray. For one, prayer is something we can do right away, and keep on doing as long as the situation demands. And two, prayer releases God’s power and resources—so much more than ours! Ask God how He would like you to pray for these things. Our first inclination is usually to pray the problems away, but God may have something different in mind. (That’s a topic for another post someday.)
(This is the third article in a series on poverty. If you missed the previous two, please back up a few weeks and read those posts.)
What does poverty look like around the world?
Before we get any further, let me clarify some terminology. It turns out that sociologists use the terms absolute poverty and relative poverty, and it’s important to know the difference. According to the UNESCO website,
Absolute poverty measures poverty in relation to the amount of money necessary to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. The concept of absolute poverty is not concerned with broader quality of life issues or with the overall level of inequality in society. The concept therefore fails to recognise that individuals have important social and cultural needs. This, and similar criticisms, led to the development of the concept of relative poverty. Relative poverty defines poverty in relation to the economic status of other members of the society: people are poor if they fall below prevailing standards of living in a given societal context.
Death and destruction never take a holiday. Intense persecution in the Middle East. Famine and war. Tsunamis, tornados and hurricanes. And now a disastrous earthquake in Nepal—there are always horrific circumstances that break our hearts and motivate us to help. So we should. God blesses us so that we can bless others.
Within hours of the first news reports out of Kathmandu, my inbox was flooded with pleas for donations. Relief ministries, friends, and friends of friends all told stories of suffering and begged for aid.
Continuing the series on What to Give God for Christmas…
Jesus didn’t stop with telling us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. He wants us to love other people as much as he loves them. That’s a tall order! How do we go about loving others?
There are as many ways to love others as there are others to love. This is where we get to be a bit creative.
By all means, do something special for those on your Christmas list. One of my love languages is “gifts” so I can appreciate how well a carefully chosen present will convey the love of the person giving it. Even here, there are ways to help others while blessing your friends and family. I always check out the gifts on fair trade websites, especially for those hard-to-shop-for people; these organizations are a good source of handmade, one-of-a-kind items. For starters, I recommend Trade As One. I’ve been more than pleased with both their products and their service. (See last year’s post on fair trade.)
“There are places in the world many fear to tread, places of darkness where most have given up hope of ever trying to make a difference.”
The young man was standing in front of our Sunday school class, showing photos and telling hair-raising stories about smuggling food and Bibles into North Korea. Finding families for children orphaned by genocide in Myanmar. Even extracting persecuted believers from these and other nations that have targeted them for execution.
The U.S. military has special forces teams that engage in high-risk missions. Alpha Relief is one of God’s special forces teams.
I’ve been commenting on an article by Shane Bennett that appeared several years ago in Missions Catalyst.
In his two-part post on Top Ten Myths about Missions , Bennett explained:
I want to understand how the average Lou and Sue, sitting in the pew, think about missions stuff. … From what I’ve seen there are some serious misconceptions floating around in our churches, at least some of our churches. We could call these collective assumptions, beliefs that simply don’t reflect reality, “myths.”
If you want to read all ten myths now, check out the article online. You can see my other articles on this topic by choosing God:World under “Categories” on the right-hand column of my blog page.
In my post last Friday, I stated my opinion that the best way to help the poor and unreached in far away places is to send money.
I don’t want to minimize the importance of hands-on ministry—how being personally involved is so much better than merely throwing money at a problem. We have so much to teach one another, and the Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives as we share our lives with others.
But we also need to reach out across political boundaries, languages, and cultures. Sometimes the only practical way to do this is to “just” send money.
With the media inundating us with heartbreaking stories and photos about the suffering in Haiti, we naturally want to do something to help. However, not all organizations are equally effective at providing the relief they promise. Sadly, some even seek to profit from the situation, more than they intend to help. I suggest you read the article I’ve linked to here, as it provides some well-thought-out guidelines to help you give generously yet wisely: GuideStar’s Tips for Giving Wisely to Haitian Relief.
That being said, here are several organizations we know well, that I unreservedly recommend:
They are all already working in Haiti, have infrastructure there, and understand the situation. They will make effective use of your donation. And, they will minister in Jesus’ name.