{faith} How Do You Respond?

I'm going to write straight from the heart today. There have been some questions running around inside my brain -- questions I'd like to ask you.

The topic? Relief/humanitarian work and how we, as Americans, respond to requests for financial support.

When someone brings up the topic of raising money for refugees and orphans, the disabled and handicapped, the starving and naked -- what is your response?

  • Do you wince and try to change the subject? 
  • Do you wonder how our small help will ever solve the world's problems? 
  • Do you wish you could do something, but struggle to know what to do when your own finances are so tight? 
  • Do you give out of guilt? 
  • Do you wonder which organization will use your financial gift best? 
  • Would you rather nobody asked at all?

My earliest memory of an organization asking for money takes me back to pre-teen years, in the early 90's. Those World Vision telecasts -- with photos of naked and starving children, flies on their sad faces, hearing stories of lives being changed by simply sponsoring a child. I would sit, glued to the TV, wanting so badly to help. But we didn't have money for that. We often wore thrift store clothes and at times, accepted financial help from others. I couldn't ask my parents for money to sponsor a child.

As soon as I became financially independent {college grad, apartment, job}, I sponsored a child. And I felt like finally, I was doing my part. Money automatically came out of my account. Then I got married and money came out of OUR account. I didn't really think about it beyond that. No letters. No gifts. All the mail I got from World Vision became kind-of annoying.

I just wanted to give and not feel guilty anymore.

Can you relate?

Fast forward a few years. I become aware of Global Hope Network International and learn about their work in villages. I decide to sponsor a village {really -- only $12/month}. I initially love the idea of Transformational Community Development and working with a village for the long-term. Then I had the opportunity to GO to Ethiopia.

My understanding of the world's needs has broadened. My understanding of how we can help has deepened.

I've followed other bloggers on compassion trips. I've listened to other trip leaders talk about local ownership and sustainable aid. I've read books about long-term relationships developing out of gospel mission shelters right here in the United States. I'm beginning to understand the difference between short-term aid {"catch and release"} and long-term aid {all about relationships with people}.  I'm beginning to understand aid-dependence and it's harmful effects on people groups.

I'm beginning to let the idea of helping others take over my life. Long term.

For me, it's about separating my wants from my needs. It's about tightening the budget in order to give more. It's about sharing my stories and my new understandings.

We're buying less yogurt and eating more oatmeal. We're eating less vegemeat and meeting our need for protein with legumes. We're replacing cheese snacks with carrot sticks. I'm washing my hair every other day instead of every day. We drink lots of water instead of other costly beverages. We don't have cable TV. We don't have all the latest and greatest Apple products. We love the idea of hand-me-downs.

Would you believe being frugal might also improve your health and give you more time with your family?

We are adjusting our lifestyle to be in a better position to give.
Of our money, but also of our time and talents.

People like Julie, of Rebuild Globally, have done just that. She visited Haiti as part of an earthquake relief organization and decided to stay and help rebuild the economy. Her story is incredibly inspiring to me.

My response? Love it. Share it. Buy it. Spread the word.

Check out this short video, introducing Rebuild Globally and the work they are doing in Haiti. And be listening for more info on the sandals they are selling and a potential giveaway! I am saving my shekels in order to buy a pair for myself and a pair for one of you!

How do you respond? Would you tell me how you feel when someone approaches you about a humanitarian need? I'd love to hear your perspective.