“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25:40
When I was a teenager, I went on several mission trips. One stands out in my mind more clearly than the rest because of the sheer poverty we encountered. I still remember the day clearly when we arrived at our site where we would complete the majority of our mission work – a garbage dump. I stepped out of the van and immediately was overwhelmed by the strong stench of rotting food, oil, and feces. My eyes struggled to take in my surroundings. Giant mounds of garbage towered around us, and along the base of the mounds were shanties, no larger than my entryway, with shreds of fabric for doors and roofs of cardboard and other materials they had scavenged from the dump. Children, with barely scraps for clothes and stomachs extended due to malnutrition, ran haphazardly around us kicking a soccerball. I remember one mother standing in her doorway with a screaming baby in her arms, staring at us and wondering why these rich suburban kids were invading her neighborhood.
That week was life-changing for me. As the week went on, and we interacted with the families in the neighborhood more, I came to a realization that these people were richer than me. They were rich because they had nothing. In that nothingness, they could only do one thing – rely on the Lord for strength and to make it each day. Money can’t bring happiness or deeper faith. These people proved that to me.
On that trip, I also realized that these people were only a small fraction of the extreme poor in our world. Although their faith was strong in that community, their human needs were still great.
Coming back from mission trips, you want to change the world. You hate your possessions when you get home, and you often can’t stand living where you do. However, many of us lose that over time and return to life as normal. Sometimes it is easier to forget that there is a need than do something about it.
Recently, God has been stirring my heart to remember those feelings from my trips long ago. My husband and I are givers, but I felt like we gave comfortably. There is a huge need out there, and we can be doing something more about it. Many discussions and books about helping others later, we are heading in what we hope is the right direction.
We have taken on the philosophy of family, community, world.
Family: What needs do we need to meet in our family? Are our children getting their needs met with food, shelter, education, and therapies? Are we getting our own needs met as well? I’m not talking about WANTS. I am talking about needs.
Community: What needs need to be met in our town and country? These could be functional needs or spiritual needs. For example, my husband is heading up a ministry for men addicted to pornography at our church. It is incredible to see men brave enough to take on this addiction and lean on each other and God to overcome it. He saw a need for a ministry like this in our church, and he decided to do something about it. Mandy Pagano, our incredible Deliberate Women leader, saw a need for women to be more deliberate about their faith, and she did something about it by starting our ministry which continues to grow and reach more women, by the grace of God. Participate in opportunities like The Great Valentine's Day Give or start one in your own community. Help feed the homeless or participate in angel trees for local organizations. The list goes on and on, but your community is filled with opportunities to help others.
* Over 300 million children go to bed hungry every day.
* There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of USA, Canada and the European Union.
* The cost of eradicating world poverty is estimated at 1 percent of global income.
* Almost half the world -- over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
We can’t ignore these facts. With the wealth we have comes responsibility. Many people don’t want to help others in the world because they can do nothing to help us in return. But we are all part of humanity. Christ called us to help the needy over and over in His Word.
Luke 12:48b “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted they will demand the more.”
Proverbs 31:20 (The Proverbs 31 Woman!) “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”
Not all of us are called to be missionaries in a third world country, and that is OK. Yet that doesn’t mean we should ignore what is going on. We can help those suffering in the world in many different ways:
1. By giving to organizations and missionaries who are actively serving them.
2. Your family could sponsor a child (or children) through organizations like Compassion. I looked the other day, and there are children who have been waiting over 300 days for a sponsor (see this link to see those children). You could be their answer to prayer. 38 dollars a month (one dinner out!) is all it takes to change a child’s life forever.
3. Your family could also take mission trips. It is a great opportunity to help your children see that the world isn’t just what they see in their neighborhood.
4. Participate in Operation Christmas Child and make an impact on a sweet child from a different country.
Whatever you decide to do, we are called to help the needy – the needy in spirit and the physical needs of others. What changes can you make in your own life to start doing that? Don't ignore the stirring in your heart.
A word of warning – Some of us (*cough* me) can sometimes take on too much in our desire to change the world. We can’t change the world by ourselves, and that is not what God is calling us to do. We can, however, make a difference for a few lives. If each of decides to do that, and we multiply the lives changed as a result, perhaps then…we might just have a chance to save the world.