[article.] The Skeptic Meets The Neighbor
Published on November 30, 2015
Remember those starving child television ads that would run during your favorite late night show? Images of their distended abdomens, unwashed bodies and the trademark single tear streaming down their cheek was seemingly in every-single-frame. The children were either too weak or too use to the flies that scaled their face to bat them away. I felt bad. It wasn’t their fault they were in that situation. I genuinely had the desire to help them but I just didn’t have the means to do it. Then it was gone. I heard a very small portion of the funds raised in a lot of humanitarian organizations actually went to the child. The actors and CEOs got richer while the poor got poorer. I guess the thought of helping others only mattered if they got more help than the kids they allegedly serve.
As I got older, that image only worsened. The headlines of tax evasion, charitable scandals and stories of “Wow, I didn’t know they were going to do that with my donation” became etched in my mind.
And of course my personal experiences of giving money to someone who quickly bought things I hoped they wouldn’t buy fanned the flames. Honestly, after ten years of working in public safety where I’ve seen people do deplorable things to truly innocent people, my heart grew cynical toward giving. Why give it away when you keep it and know it was kept in good hands?
My views on giving changed at a church. It wasn’t through a sermon or a staff member. It came through someone I had gone to the police academy with ten years prior. I trusted this guy. He was real with me. And, it’s pretty easy to form a bond with someone when you’re pepper sprayed together. He told me about his experiences visiting an orphanage in Africa and how the group he was with legitimately helped the children. I zoned out as he spoke, reconsidering my role as a Christian and as a human. I had the means, but my desire wasn’t there.
I started doing research but it led me to one thing: I’m a fake. How can I say #AllLivesMatter when what I really mean is #OnlyTheLivesICanSeeMatter?
I learned 16,000 children die EVERY DAY, mostly from preventable or treatable causes (UNICEF). I heard stories of how many families in poverty stricken communities don’t name their child until after their first birthday because the mortality rates are so high. Others have to choose which kid to feed each day because they don’t have enough for everyone. That’s unfathomable to me. We named both of our children before they were born and they have never gone a day without food and clean water. How have we allowed these things to happen? I had the means and now my desire was lit.
My research took me to charity after charity. I looked at tax returns, donor feedback and watchdog opinions. WorldVision seemed right for us. It was a hub that worked to provide clean water, battled against human trafficking, provided basic medical care for people without it and offered education to some who couldn’t otherwise go to school. They also help with disaster relief and offer micro-loans for local leaders to make their dreams of operating a business a reality. The thing that stood out to me was they have goals to build up a community, ensure they can become self-sufficient and then move on to another community in need. My wife and I sat down with our boys, ages four and six, and talked with them about poverty verses their privilege. Together we found a six year old boy who loved soccer, just like my oldest, who needed our help. With all four of us gathered around our computer, we chose to sponsor Robert in Rwanda…and my kids talk about him all the time.
About a year after we had been sponsoring Robert, I received a flyer in the mail about becoming a “Child Ambassador.” A Child Ambassador is a voluntary position who seeks sponsors for children in need. I must admit that I love public speaking and talking about life outside of our bubble. I loved the idea, but tabled it with intent to look into it further another day. A second mailer came about a month later encouraging me to look into the program once again.
I scrutinized the decision with the notion that I already have enough going on in my life. Then, I prayed. “God, if you want me to do this, make it absolutely obvious.”
In less than twenty-four hours, WorldVision called me about the Child Ambassador program. I applied. Four weeks after that, I was given the opportunity to serve with WorldVision as a Child Ambassador.
Jesus tells us to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31, NIV). I keep reminding myself that my neighbor doesn’t just live next door to me. They live in other countries, speak different languages and have different cultural norms than I do. They breath like me, bleed like I do and feel emotions in the same ways. Their basic needs for clean water, food, basic healthcare and protection from violence are no different from what I need. Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.” Just one. Reaching one person almost always spreads to include others.
To love is often to sacrifice and sacrifice takes form in many different ways (sponsorship, adoption, prayer, volunteer work, donating blood, etc.). Can you really complain unless you’re a part of the solution?
Find some way to serve your neighbor. The world issues cannot be solved by you, but they cannot be solved without you.
Find out more about defending those in need with WorldVision.
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