This situation made me think about the numerous "asks" that are coming to my mailbox, and likely to yours, at this time of year. Many requests by well-intentioned, sincere Christian ministries, as well as numerous requests from those with whom we are not quite as familiar. How can we make good decisions that honor both our desire to give, which comes from a compassionate and sincere desire to share in the blessings we have received, and our desire to make sure that the giving actually makes a difference for the intended recipient?
|Sometimes our helping can look like this...|
For example, there are people who could look at the ministry I am involved in, Discipling Marketplace Leaders, and not understand where compassion enters the picture. Helping businesses grow could be perceived as capitalistic - a desire to "create wealth" rather than helping the poorest of the poor. But let's unpack this a bit. Why are many children in orphanages in Africa? The majority are actually not orphans - they have at least one parent, if not two, but they are social orphans - their parents can't afford to raise them and school them, so they are given to an orphanage. What is the most compassionate thing that we can do? Rather than giving money to a child sponsorship program, which potentially strips the parents of the dignity of providing for their own children, let's help parents run a business or find a job in a business, where they can use their gifts and talents AND provide for their own children. Why do so many people give to ministries that pay for medical expenses or educational scholarships for children in Africa? Again, it's because the parents are not able to afford it. Why not invest in something that increases the ability for the parents to be able to make their own decisions and invest in their own children by helping them have jobs to do just that.
My encouragement at this time of year as we consider year-end giving is for us to whether the ministries we support are creating dependency or opportunities for real, long-term change. Is the organization working with nationals on solutions, or only doing things "to" those in poverty? Are there impacts and goals that will move people away from the handout and toward empowerment and a "hand-up?" Relief is necessary when there are emergency situations, such as natural disasters or war. But soon after the emergency is over, we must move toward development, building more rungs in the ladder for people to climb out of poverty, rather than inadvertently establishing a system that creates dependency and thereby keeps people in poverty.
here with instructions on how to get involved.
There are many good ministries operating around the world. Take your time, do your homework, and be sure that your gift is achieving actual long-term sustainable change, affirming the dignity of all.