As I read again Rich Stearns’ book, The Hole in Our Gospel, I am challenged to think intentionally about the poor living across the globe from my well-lit, well-watered, bountiful corner of the world.
This week at the conclusion of our small group discussion, I challenged the group to catalog at least ten blessings for which to be thankful, and beside each one to list an appropriate, proportional way to pay that gift forward. In this way we can decide to actually DO something, however small, toward helping the poor. We can’t claim ignorance any longer.
My attempt at this exercise, with explanatory notes, follows.
First, I am grateful for my family. I have a supportive husband who shares my desire to help others as much as we can. I have three children and a son-in-law, who are all healthy and working out their purposes with many options in life.
To pay this gift forward, in a way, we sponsor four children in Swaziland, who are AIDS orphans. They find family only when they are helped by others, sometimes a grandmother, sometimes a kind care-giver. World Vision offers community and love and essential services. As sponsors, we can give special gifts to our sponsored children as if they were in our family. Sponsorship costs a little more than a dollar a day, something I can easily afford. And I can send messages to them by email. I will do this tomorrow.
Second, I am grateful for food, especially here in New Orleans. I rarely miss a meal, and hunger is not something I fear. There is always enough food, and the food is delicious and of good quality.
This week at Rouse’s, my local grocery store, I saw pre-packaged brown bags containing food for a local food bank. I put one in my cart. It was a $10 bag of canned goods, and it only cost me $5. That’s a partnership I can’t pass up. I should do this more often, like maybe every time I go to the store, which is pretty often.
Third, I am very thankful for books and the ability to read them. I love to read and read and read. I order books on Amazon whenever I want, and they stack up on shelves and tables all over the house.
One thing I have begun recently is placing my used books at one of the many “little libraries” on street corners near my house. I also buy extra copies of books I like and give them to folks who might read them. I could tutor children in a community center near me. I could work in a library as a volunteer, or in an ESL (English as a second language) workshop.
Fourth, I’m thankful for my education.
And so I teach. I love to lead group studies at church. I write Bible studies for teens and young Christians of all ages, based on biblical characters. I help friends write books, like Chilar: Journey of a Lifetime, written by my dear friend, Kaye Kvam during her last year of life. And I write devotionals and short pieces for publication.
I am grateful for healthy and thick hair. Many people lose their hair during chemotherapy.
Instead of spending money on monthly color jobs at my local salon, I’ve decided to let my hair go naturally gray. I save a lot by doing this and that money can be donated to a cancer fund, or toward clean water funds, since health is a direct benefit of drinking clean water. A friend of mine started Hair Peace Charities, to provide wigs and hair pieces for women battling breast cancer.
And by the way, I’m super thankful for clean, abundant fresh water in my home.
Both my husband and I are deeply committed to helping end the world water crisis. World Vision has accelerated the delivery of clean water to poor communities to the point where every ten seconds someone is receiving the life-changing gift of clean water. We have pledged a significant amount to World Vision’s efforts through the Every Last One Campaign, and we have seen first-hand the effect of clean water on children and families in Ethiopia. In fact, in January we plan to visit a new water pipeline funded by our friends and family. We realize all our bank account is God’s and we want to use it how and where He would want us to.
Transportation via a reliable, safe automobile is a blessing we often take for granted.
While I don’t think sending my car to Africa would be a cost-effective gift, I have decided to forego buying a new one for a while. My car is 11 years old, and has 100,000 miles on it. I thought maybe once it hit 100,000 miles that I would need to get a new one. In fact for a couple of years I tried to get the mileage up as quickly as possible, so I could get a new car. But now that I’ve crossed the magic odometer point, I realize the car is still in fine working condition and I really don’t need a new car. Maybe this one can work for a couple more years easily. Instead of that large expenditure, I can give more to the charities that are making a difference in our world. Giving brings more joy than new machinery ever could.
I’m daily thankful for technology. I use social media, blogs, google searches, for so many things. Time saved is huge, but knowledge shared is also very valuable.
To pay this forward, I like to share things like news stories about people doing good things for others, or stories about World Vision making huge progress in water delivery, or in health, or in caring for refugees in fragile areas around the world. I love the work International Justice Mission does in saving young people from human trafficking. The more people know about the needs and the work done to help others, the more they will consider their own capacity for giving, for loving the poor of our planet. So whenever I can, I share things to spread good news.
For my physical health, though I’m not in the best possible shape, I am still quite thankful. I can walk, if not run, and the only medication I take is a daily vitamin.
Last year I hosted a Global 6K run for Water. We started on my front porch and ran/walked twice around a nearby park. 17 people joined me and we raised over $1500 for clean water. Each $50 registration provided water for the child on the runner’s race bib. It was a wonderful way to become aware of the struggles of women and girls in the developing world as well as provide for the relief of many of those same people. I had the support of Team World Vision and joined 27,000 others around the world running 6K on that day. Anyone can do this! I encourage everyone to have this kind of party with a purpose!
Finally, I am blessed beyond measure for God’s love expressed through the gift of Jesus Christ. I am thankful that God gave us his Word and encourages us to learn and obey his commands. The characters in the Bible and their stories of faith lived and lost have so much to teach us all.
So I love to give Bibles. There is a simple way to give Bibles to children around the world by using the World Vision Gift Catalog. Or I could help teach the Bible to children, like at my church’s VBS every summer. Or lead a small group of teens in Bible study. All of these things are things I love to do and hope to continue.
There they are — my top ten blessings and reasons to give something away. What are your blessings and how can that become your motivation for service and generosity?