Last week we learned God provides opportunities for us to be the church in a big way. Our response should be to say ‘yes’ to the invitation with faith knowing that serving God is more important than our occupation, our family or even our very lives. We say yes trusting God for answers, resources and courage to enable us to do far more than we ever imagined possible.
Can it be that simple? A few years ago, I would be struggling to give you a good answer. Our church was growing and active in the community but we were not a mission oriented church. Then several members traveled to Jamaica to offer medical aid and church construction help. Their stories affected us all. At this point we were becoming eager for more opportunities.
On December 26, 2004 a massive Tsunami swept the Indian Ocean. More than eleven countries were struck by the enormous waves with a loss of life estimated at more than 300,000 people. Quickly, we raised funds. But, now what could we do? How could we become more directly involved? As we searched for answers, God began to change me and our church.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter asking others to help a sister church in trouble: “For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the gracious privilege of sharing…” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4) As followers of God we are judged not by church attendance, Bible study, Hymn singing or the size of our offering. Pursuing these aspects of our faith will help us become better Christians. But in the end we will be judged by how generously we respond to the needy in the world around us.
But giving is about so much more than money: giving is a lifestyle and a ministry that radically involves your time, skills and enthusiasm. Paul goes on to write: “Since you excel in so many ways-you have so much faith, such gifted speakers, such knowledge, such enthusiasm, and such love for us, now I want you to excel also in this gracious ministry of giving.” (2 Cor. 8:7)
As a part of becoming more giving, we chose ten areas to center our priorities:
- Tsunami Aid – We focused our financial aid toward a specific rebuilding project.
- Local Families – We seek to adopt families and provide much more than just a handout.
- Our Troops – The Iraq War is taking a toll. We can send care packages of support.
- Homeless Shelter – A local shelter provides regular hot meals with our involvement.
- Immigrant Relief – We provide language and cultural training in addition to financial aid.
- Prayer Ministry – Always a critical foundation for everything we seek to accomplish.
- Mentoring Newcomers – As people visit we want them to feel loved and appreciated.
- Short-Term Missions – Whether building churches or providing medical aid we’re active.
- Condemned Housing Repair – This ministry helps families stay together in their homes.
- Transportation Aid – Going to church, to the doctor or buying groceries, we want to help.
We then visited “Gleaning for the World,” a local aid agency specializing in getting equipment and supplies to other areas where needed. Rev. Ron Davidson, the CEO offered two projects. The first involved receiving and sorting large bales of used hospital linens then we boxed them to be shipped to third-world countries. The second involved shipping 40,000 pounds of rice, enough to feed at least 150,000 people several meals. Rev. Davidson then asked: “Would you like to go with me and see the rice for yourself, assess the damaged area and look for opportunities to help Sri Lanka in the future?” Ten days later, I secured a passport, received my shots and began a series of flights that would last over twenty-six hours and take us half way around the world.
Amidst the rubble-strewn beach of tsunami-devastated Kalmunai in Sri Lanka, I picked up a cluster of fishing net to show several fishermen as they described a desire to go back to work. “We must fish to survive!” one man emphasized. We later learned that for approximately $3,000 we could buy a new boat made in Sri Lanka equipped with a motor and nets. Four families with each new boat could then go back to work. We were beginning to find answers and hope.