You can’t help them all

As a missionary we get to help a lot of people. We want to help spiritually and physically. We get to open schools, clinics, orphanages, and other training centres.

But I get asked all the time to help people.  I am asked to help transport sick people to the hospital. I am asked by widows to buy their goods or loan them money for seeds to plant their fields. I am asked for rides to.  the city all the time. I am asked for work. I am asked for money – to help in illness, to help in funerals, to help in church building projects, to help in running seminars, to help in court cases, to help educate kids, to help transport family members, to help build homes, etc…

How can you say, “No.” and yet it is impossible to say, “Yes.”  Sometimes I will loan money and most of the time it is not returned.  So I have learned to start with small loans until I have proven someone’s character. 

I am asked to pay for training all the time. But when you give someone something and they don’t pay for it themselves, even a little bit, they don’t value it. 

So we pray for wisdom to know what needs must be met and who to help. We pray for grace to learn to say, “No.” while still maintaining the relationship. We pray for strength to say, “Yes.” over and over again knowing that we won’t necessarily have even a thank-you in return let alone the debt repaid.

We pray that when we do say, “Yes.” we aren’t crossing that line of enabling which has hurt to missions in the past.  We pray for our hearts not to be hardened to the many requests, but to remain tender and willing to help when and where we can.  We pray for wounds to heal and forgiving souls so that we can trust again after being burned so often.  We pray that we would never forget that what we own is the Lord’s and these people are His.

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to Help or not to Help?

confusedI’m always hearing stories, parables, illustrations, sermons, and quotes about helping people. They are always telling you that need to look out for the little guy. They say you need to give without expecting in return. They tell you that if your brother is hungry, feed him.

I agree and I am not here to disagree with God. But there is a point when you cannot give everything away and then starve yourself. There is a point when the beggar that asks for money needs to get a job. There is a point when you have helped 20 people already by noon and cannot get anything done because of your schedule.

There must be a fine line. A line to recognize those really in need and those taking advantage of the system. 

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:5 For each one shall bear his own load.

I’m not here to delve into all the theology of this passage, but just to show that even Scripture doesn’t want someone to beg. God expects us to work so we can eat. He expects us also to help those in need.

As a “white” person in Africa, I am often seen as the bank of free handouts.  I cannot go anywhere without someone asking for even a few cents. From my cultural background it really rubs me the wrong way because we don’t ask in my home culture. So when someone knocks on your door here and asks for help, it shocks you the first time. When you see a scruffy looking kids on the street you are compassionate. But then you learn the rest of the story. They aren’t afraid to ask and usually not offended if you say, “No.”  The scruffy kid is often sent by parent to beg so that they can buy drugs and alcohol, when he should be sent to school that day.

What I may consider as “hungry” is “normal” for others. So how can you draw that line and know when to help and when not to help? How can you hear the cries of so many who want to get to a better doctor, who want to educate their kids at a higher level.

  I can’t. I have to trust God for wisdom in who is really in need and who I’m merely enabling.

Giving

images (5)Bear with me as I ramble. I recently listened to a sermon by Andy Stanley about Giving.  He talked about how if everyone would give to their local church on a regular basis (tithe), then we would not have the need for near as many special fund raisers and projects.  Most of the funds needed for expansion projects would already be there in the church account ready to be used if all the members would regularly give.

He said that right now the average giving of Americans, based on tax reports, is 1.5%. That’s a far cry from the 10% mentioned in Scripture. Even if you set a goal to tithe 8% of your income or 5% and regularly did so, our local churches would have a lot more to work with.

We would be able to increase the mission work around the world without individual supporters because each church would put forth an amount from their account. 

He talked about many of the projects that we support that deal with things like drugs abuse, domestic abuse, broken homes, etc… If the church was healthy we would have reached more people and these cases would be less.  Preventative Giving.  Raising up faithful Christians in the church rather than people leaving the church and then ending up in a mess or some sort and needing help. 

The truth we teach changes lives and makes better citizens.Of course there are always projects to help, but do you preventatively give? 

To be honest, as a missionary I find it hard to give regularly. Yes I give of my time and resources and life more than most, but my money? I run into these dilemmas –What is my home church?  Do I set up something to automatically withdraw from my account and go into my “home” church in the States?  Or do I just give to the church I attend regularly—which right now is in Africa.  If I tithe 10% of my income to the village church I would mess up their budget and cause great dependency issues.  I also am constantly asked for help from local people who have real needs based on illness, death, accidents, etc.… If I start counting all the funds I hand out to help these needs, sometimes it goes above and beyond my tithe, and yet it didn’t go through the local church. I’m not saying that the way I do it is proper, but it is how it is. 

I’ve heard somewhere that the poor often have trouble learning how to manage their money thinking it impossible when in reality they need to pay more attention to managing funds than the wealthy. Step one in any Christian money management course is to set a percentage aside for the Lord.

How do I better implement this teaching in my life? How do I teach this concept of giving to these nationals?