Sitting at the restaurant with about fifteen ministry leaders at a ministry conference a few years ago, I was totally taken back as the man in charge bragged about the brand new $50,000 pickup truck he just got because of an increase in offerings at his church. Soon others began talking about how "God blessed them" with new cars, trucks, boats, tickets to a professional game or a vacation to an exotic destination.
I was both utterly amazed and disgusted by this childish and selfish behavior, especially since each of these men had pleaded poverty when I asked them to lend their financial support to various projects I was attempting to find funds for. Somehow they had plenty of money to pamper themselves but had none to share with someone living in a cardboard box eating out of a trash dumpster.
This conference, in 2007, ended up being the final one I attended. In all honestly, I gave up. I had spent the preceding 18 months trying to solicit funds from churches, ministries, old acquaintances, family and people I was told to talk to. Although some manifested interest or concern, very few were willing to offer any help. Almost without exception the reasons given were either poverty or the belief that the only way to help someone is to preach at them by way of books, CDs or DVDs.
Time and again I was told all available funds were earmarked for evangelical trips to distant countries where the heathen still abode. Time and again I was reminded of the "Great Commission" and how we must spend all our resources on converting the native in some jungle as opposed to the crack addict two houses from the church.
I realize that helping a family whose home has been destroyed by a storm is not as exotic and inspiring going to a distant village with people who cannot speak the language but have a brochure that tells how to "get save". But, are we to neglect those souls next door who have desperate needs just to gain the recognition of helping someone one half a world away?
It both intrigues and distresses me that far more money was poured into Haiti after the earthquake than has been donated to storm and flood victims in this country. Somehow those whose lives and livelihood are destroyed here are not worthy of the same level of giving as those in some far away land.
My dentist goes to Haiti every year for a week to provide free dental care. I asked him one day if he would consider going to Alabama to help poor people there. He laughed and said "NEVER". When I asked why, I was told because they are just lazy and should get a job, get insurance and help themselves. Some things just make no sense to me at all.
Simply put, if we see a need and have the means to help (financially, ability or time wise); we are instructed in the New Testament to give. This pertains to the person in Siberia who has never heard the Gospel as well as the family struggling to survive down the street. Need is need no matter where it is and who has it.
One of the things which drew me to the church I now attend is that their "global" vision also includes "their neighbor". Yes, they do lend support to ministries abroad. Rather than start their own, they partner with missionaries and ministries which are already there. However, "mission teams" do not just go abroad. They also have teams which go right in our own backyard meaning right here in the U.S.
There are opportunities to volunteer for organizations like "Feed My Starving Children", however, there are volunteers volunteering for a program which feeds the homeless in a nearby city and another one which ministers to people in the inner city. Volunteerism is, of course, encouraged within our own community.
I benefited from people from our church who would bring in meals while I battled my various illnesses and I also received some financial support from our church benevolence fund after my ruptured brain aneurysm and my sick days had been used up. When visiting me in the hospital, one of the pastors slipped a grocery gift card for $100.00 into my husband's hand. While I didn't get to eat any of the food which was purchased because I was uh... busy elsewhere... I know that was greatly appreciated by my family! It was just one more additional expense they didn't have to think about.
I guess what I am trying to say is I agree with you. We must not forget who "our neighbor" is and we must be willing to reach out to those in need... whether it is across the ocean or... right next door!
see a need , meet the need if you are able with no strings attached is what i was inspired and encouraged with ..( not the "you do this for god and God will do this for you blah blah blah, yadie yadie yadie.. be blessed
Wow, I sure do understand your frustration, I have had many similar thoughts...especially about the "addict next door" not so much about Haiti, (as there are no wealthy Christians, or welfare agencies to help them in Haiti, which would be readily cleared up if the first problem you mentioned weren't the case, if we all pitched in and helped there would be more than enough left over for Haiti).
On your second question, I too, was always questioning for many years (voiced it many times to people) why they sent missionaries out to other countries when we obviously need them here! I had also heard that there were missionaries coming our way from other countries, so I just couldn't make sense of why we were still sending missionaries to other countries.
Then one day I was driving to church, and while going through town I had to stop for an alcoholic man stumbling across the street, obviously still drunk from the night before...and I just said, to what I thought was thin air "why do they send missionaries to Africa when they are obviously needed here?" And suddenly I heard "because their hearts are softer over there". God had answered a question I had been asking or years.
After that I started keeping track...and I started hearing about the huge revivals that were happening over there...100,000 being saved in one night...people that many of them would be dead of HIV, starvation or disease in less than a year...and I started thinking about the kids here in our country, how you can't tell them anything, they are so deaf to what you say...they see TV...and it mocks God and we sit and laugh...and there are so many other examples of how our hearts heartened.
I no longer ask why God sends missionaries to Africa...though I ask myself...why can't I witness to that addict next door? Sounds like you do...so brother, your blog speaks to me...and I confess I am guilty. May God help me to get out and start caring for those in need that are around me...(my excuse has been...well where are they? What exactly does that look like?) But I see that as an excuse, I need change.
In Christ Shirley