I posted this on SBCImpact a few weeks ago.
Sometimes you can be in a place too long. Being somewhere too long can make you blind, you just kinda get used to what you see and you forget to be amazed or even horrified. I have been traveling down to the barren south of Gondor for almost ten years. That is a long time to become blind. But a few weeks ago we had a pastor come from the West and as I took him down to show him our projects and I saw things through his eyes. I showed him our drinking water well projects, the villages we were working in, the believers who were worshiping God in really dark places. Do you know that guy took pictures of every kid who was drinking water out of a ditch? It is what everyone does…. when they can get water out of the ditch at least. That first night we were sitting out under the stars eating dinner in the yard of one of the believers there and I ask him what he thought. He said he was very interested in getting us funds to ramp up our drilling capacity. I told him that while we had the technology (yes, it is banging a pipe down in the ground with a sledge hammer but that is a kind of technology) to do wells lower down in the village we could not beat the rock up here where this family lived and so this part of the village remained dry. I asked him if he really wanted to help. He replied choking up with tears in his eyes, ‘These are my brothers and sisters in Christ and they are drinking water out of a ditch! I have to do something.’ I wonder why I hadn’t thought of it that way before.
To be clear he is doing something and so are most of you. I would venture to guess that the vast number of of people in the Southern Baptist Convention don’t know much if anything about the Hunger and Relief Funds. In 1978 the SBC established the hunger fund and some of you as old as me may remember cans sitting on our fellowship hall tables during Wednesday night potlucks. Well, that fund still exist and many churches still keep the cans on the tables collecting loose change. Many also take up a special hunger fund offering in October of every year. My experience is that most people today don’t give much to stuff they don’t know much about or understand. That’s probably why the fund is down from twelve million dollars about seven years ago to just over five million today.
For many years the fund was operated by pretty much one guy with a secretary. Yes, I too think that is insane but we didn’t want to waste money on infrastructure in the US when so many were suffering. Jim did a great job administrating the fund as did the director before him- whose name escapes me just now. I set up a humanitarian aid agency as did many other missionaries in the 1990′s and we spend around $200,000 per year serving the needy people here in Gondor. Let me say a big THANKYOU to all of you who have supported the fund through the years. There is a Gospel witness in many countries that were formally closed thanks to your support. But don’t get the idea that we have set up some kind of ‘fronts’ or platforms that are just an excuse to share Jesus. NO SIR! We love people well with the funds entrusted to us. It has taken time but we have learned, and not only my team but all around the world missionaries who previously walked around with nothing but a Bible in their pocket are now experts in Community Development, running projects, and even disaster relief.
This brings me to BGR. A couple of years ago someone somewhere realized we needed to beef up our organization and become more effective in our ability to help people well. Baptist Global Response was the answer. This is a lean organization of some of the best community development and disaster response guys and gals that we have. How it all works is this: Churches send money to the hunger and relief funds. Notice that there are two funds, hunger and relief. If you only write hunger on the check then we can only buy food or provide water. If the check says ‘hunger and relief’ then we can use it to build homes, schools, canals, whatever the community needs. The funds are then sent to the Christian Life Commission. Yep, that’s right our ethics organization has charge of administering and advertizing the hunger and relief funds. Richard Land could spend more time promoting the hunger and relief offering but that’s just me. Anyway, now you know why you don’t know! So, once the check is received it gets divided up 80% to the IMB and 20% to the NAMB folks who use it in the US.
Now, there are some of you who love to give and help others but you do it through lots of other agencies. Some of you even give to secular agencies in the belief that you want to help people effectively. So, here is Strider’s list of reasons why the hunger and relief funds are the most effective way to help poor people there is.
All the funds are used by your personnel and we are accountable to the BGR for what projects we are asking funds for, we are accountable to our own IMB finance office for all the receipts on how we spent those funds, and we are accountable to our supervisors to do effective projects in a strategic way.
All the funds go to national people who need the help. NO money goes to IMB personnel- not for office expenses, not for my fuel for my transportation, not for my food on the project, not to US based advertising or administration. When you give a dollar 20 cents stays in the US and 80 cents goes overseas but 100 cents goes to meeting real human needs. There are zero other organizations who can make such a claim.
We are good. 13 years ago when we got started we made mistakes, we didn’t always know what a good project was and how to pull it off. When I did learn I was discouraged to be in the minority of guys with significant experience in doing quality project work. No longer. Today we have teams all over the globe doing effective work.
People are poor because their relationships are broken and their relationships are broken because their relationship with God is broken. – Brent Myers from his book Walking with the Poor. We don’t just drop off a sack of floor and walk away. We love people, we help them with things, with prayer, with truth. I dig wells to provide people with drinking water but we would never do that without telling them about the living water. Our aid comes with no strings as does our love but we always share the truth about why their communities are broken and who is the only one who can heal them.
So, get the cans back on the table. Label them Hunger AND Relief and get real help to people in the darkest corners of this planet. Get on the BGR website and partner with teams on the ground. Do what it takes to reach the lost, to serve the least, to be His disciples. And I thank you again for the privilege of doing what I do where I do it.