I’ve had almost 2 months now to reflect on our trip to Ghana, and it is now that I have been able to realize many ways in which I have been changed from our experience. Now that we are home the memories from our trip continue to swirl around in my head, and yet, I have found that my feelings and thoughts from the trip are becoming more clear and organized. I am starting to be able to verbalize ways that I feel changed. I’ll share one way with you today.
Since we’ve been back from our trip, I’ve been asked this question a lot - Hasn’t your trip just made you so thankful for even the little things we have here? We are so blessed with what we have.
And, another comment is like it. I saw this exact comment in response to the Haiti earthquake tragedy:
In light of everything going on in the world, I am so thankful today for my family, friends, and home.
I’ve noticed a change in my response to these sorts of comments since coming back from Ghana. I now believe that if these statements end right here, then all they are showing is consideration for self. Go back through those statements and notice the common thread - all the I’s, My’s, We’s – just the general focus of what these statements entail is….SELF! Yes, God tells us to be thankful, don’t get me wrong. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says that our attitude should continually be joyful, prayerful, and thankful in all circumstances. Thankfulness is good. However, when our thankfulness comes in the wake of someone else’s hardship, or tragedy, or trial, it is then that I believe God is tugging at our heart strings. And, I don’t think the end result that he is looking for is thankfulness. Consider this verse:
1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with ACTIONS and in truth.
This is our wake up call to do something! If we feel God tugging on our heart about a certain situation/person/people group then this verse tells us that we must have COMPASSION (pity) for the person/people involved and that our next response needs to be ACTION, ACTION, ACTION! Have you ever prayed that God would use you to touch the lives of others in a powerful way? Pray it. I dare you. He will give you the opportunities. And, your opportunities might not look the same as mine. You might not adopt an orphan from Africa. But, maybe orphans are on your heart and you could consider sponsoring a child. I am talking about a monthly or yearly donation to a reputable organization that will provide food, clothes and an education to a child in need. Here are just two organizations that I know of that are doing AMAZING things through child sponsorship:
The Raining Season (Sierra Leone, West Africa):
This sponsorship program is unbelievable! You can choose from different amounts/types of sponsorships that will best suit your personal financial plan. For $40/month you can sponsor food/nutrition for a child; $40/month would also cover an educational sponsorship; a medical sponsorship is $30/month for a child; and a clothing/personal sanitary items sponsorship is just $20 a month. The website link above goes into great depth about each of these sponsorships, and the reasons why child sponsorships for orphans and those in severely impoverished families are so DESPERATELY needed. Click here and look into the eyes of these children awaiting sponsorship: http://www.therainingseason.org/The_Raining_Season/Children.html With a commitment of monthly support you will also receive the opportunity to build a relationship with the child you sponsor. You will be sent letters, photos, school and medical updates, and personal artwork from the child you sponsor. Not only that, but The Raining Season will soon have wireless internet access which they will use to have regular Skype visits (video conferencing) between each child and his/her sponsor. Really, can you beat that?
Here is one more child sponsorship program that I know of-
Amazima Ministries International (Uganda, East Africa):
For $300 a year you can sponsor a child and give him/her an education, a uniform, two hot meals per day, school supplies, and any minor medical care. You will be sent a picture and letter from the child you are sponsoring.
Amazima also has a handful of other projects going that are making a huge impact. You can read about them here: http://amazima.org/projects.html How amazing is it that you can donate 15 cents and provide a healthy meal to a child, or $2.10 will provide a week’s worth of meals, and only $15 provides 100 meals!!!!! To see this ministry in action visit this blog: http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/
Alright people, I hear some of you out there saying, what about here in the U.S.? Let’s help our own country too! Okay, let’s do it. I talk about Africa so much because it is constantly on my heart, and it truly takes SUCH LITTLE AMOUNTS OF MONEY to make such HUGE IMPACTS there. But, maybe God is tugging at you to do something here in the U.S. Can I give you some ideas?
How about becoming a big brother or big sister in your local boys and girls club, or taking part in a mentoring program. There are NUMEROUS kids all around us who desperately need good role models. Imagine growing up without a mom or without a dad. This is the reality of many children in our schools and neighborhoods. They need direction, guidance, and someone to just take an interest in them and care about them. Becoming a mentor or role model for one of these children can create a long-standing impact on their life. Maybe your opportunity for this is right down the street in your neighborhood. Check out: www.mentoriowa.org
Consider becoming a licensed foster care family for a child that has experienced abuse, abandonment, or neglect: http://www.iowakidsnet.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.theprocess
Did you know there are over 100,000 children in the U.S. waiting for adoption and a permanent home? Here is just one of the many adoption agencies aiding in domestic adoption: http://www.bethany.org/A55798/bethanyWWW.nsf/0/5588CA5EFD85C57C852574A4006E92F5
For domestic infant adoptions go here: http://www.bethany.org/A55798/bethanyWWW.nsf/0/54C135013A9102E885256CE600590922
There is also an URGENT need for adoptive families for African American infants within this agency in particular: http://www.adoptionassociates.net/news/families_urgently_needed_for_africanamerican_infant_adoption_program/
Other than adoption, here are some more ideas-
Maybe you are good at making conversation with people. Get in touch with your local Meals on Wheels program (often coordinated through hospitals) and deliver meals around to the elderly in your town. Don’t just drop off the meal. Take 5 minutes each day and get to know the people on your route. Maybe you could even make visits to some of them during your after-work hours. I actually was just talking with someone last week who had taken a visit to the house of an elderly friend. Once there, he found out that this elderly man was desperately trying to make ends meet (he had been disabled for quite some time and was out of work) and so he decided that one way he could do this would be to keep his thermostat set at 50 degrees to save on heating. He was wearing about 6 layers of clothes just to keep warm in his own house. The man who was visiting him decided that this was an opportunity God had given him to help this man financially. And, it all stemmed from a simple visit.
Maybe you know how to cook a good meal. You should invite over that new family in your son’s first grade class that just moved to town. Or your elderly neighbor who just lost her husband. Or you could cook a meal and take it to the lady down the street that just had surgery. I also just heard of a mom in town who has discovered the desperate need of families in our local schools who cannot put together meals during school breaks. Many struggling families rely heavily on the free breakfasts and lunches offered to their children through special programs at school. But, when school is not in session, they do not have the means to put together 3 meals a day. This mom packs up boxes of nutritious meals, and works with the school lunch lady to get the meals dispersed to the families in need before spring break, Christmas break, and summertime.
Maybe missionary work is more your style. Has God blessed you with the skill of knowing how to do construction? Sign-up for your church’s mission trip to help build homes in the Phillipines, or for a Haiti relief trip. (My church is planning to take a group to Haiti to help in relief efforts over spring break. Email me or leave me a note in the comments section if you want more information.) Do you know how to sew? Do you know how many lives you can change in Africa if you know how to sew? Save up for 6 months and buy yourself a plane ticket to any impoverished country in Africa and take a week and go around and teach women how to sew. I am serious. If you teach an African woman how to sew she will be able to provide for herself and for her family.
Maybe none of these things seem appealing to you. If that’s the case, then just start serving someone, at some capacity, and watch for open doors that may lead to other open doors that may just lead you to the exact place that you are supposed to be. And please hear me LOUD and CLEAR: Some of these things may seem small gestures, or some might seem not as important as others. But once you start obeying God’s command in these small ways, it will become much easier to obey when God gives you ‘bigger things’.
You also need to expect that you will at some point be completely thrown out of your comfort zone. That is a good thing. Do you think Simon Peter was comfortable leaving everything (his job, income, life as a fisherman) behind to go and follow Jesus and become a ‘fisher of men’? (Luke 5:1-11) Do you think he even knew what this new ‘occupation’ as a disciple entailed? You can expect that if you decide to take up your cross and follow Jesus as He asks you to (Mark 8:34), that you probably won’t be able to sit comfortably in a little bubble. Carrying a cross is difficult work.
God has given each of us unique gifts and talents that are to be used. I know you’ve heard that one before. So, if we know we have been given these, then we’ve got to be praying that HE would show us how to use them, and where. If we are praying about this, when the opportunity comes we will not miss it. Yes, be thankful that it’s not your 3 year old who died while waiting in line to get medical attention at a Haiti make-shift hospital, be thankful that your nice cozy house doesn’t lay in ruins, be thankful that you don’t live in a shack in the dust of Africa that wouldn’t even be fit be fit for a dog in America, be thankful that it wasn’t your family member’s body being thrown into a mass grave, be thankful that you have food to eat and clothes to wear. But don’t stop there. Do something. God is pulling on your heart strings for a reason. He’s pushing you beyond your thoughts. He’s pushing you into action. Into obedience of His commands that are blatantly clear. I just read back through this post and noted that I used the word DESPERATE over 4 times because that is the word that kept coming to my mind. And, that pretty much sums this post up. We live in a world that has DESPERATE needs. If we call ourselves Christ-followers, then as the verse above says, we cannot merely love those in need with just our words. It takes action.
If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.