We hear this cry a lot on the mission field. Sometimes it’s because someone has recognized their spiritual state and they cry out to the only God who can do something about it. But more often, and especially in the face of the recent economic crisis, it comes from people who are looking for people “help” them out of their own financial straits.
Of late, we’ve heard a great many cries for help. Desperate people in desperate situations. And since much of our work is with orphans – some now grown and on the own – they do not have the safety net of family to fall back on.
They have all made choices that have brought them to this point; many of those choices terribly unwise – not unexpected of a youth with no parents who was raised by the state. But as a result, a girl in her twenties wonders how she will feed her two year old in the months ahead. A boy, not yet 20, huddles for warmth in the local homeless shelter. And even in our village a poor family tries to figure out how to pay for their son’s chemotherapy. He has stomach cancer.
“Help!” they cry, wanting the cash they need to meet their basic needs. And those needs are all too real.
But cash is the easy way out.
How do we truly help them? For the orphan kids who are now grown, cash handouts only perpetuate the problem. They have always lived off the social welfare system. No one has ever been there to teach them how to rely on God and take responsibility for themselves. And yet we cannot sit back and allow them to starve.
Right now we are working through a process. Understanding that God has always, since the very beginning, been all about relationship, we realize that we are called to be in relationship with these. We must walk beside them, listen to them in their suffering, and hold them accountable.
For the young mother, we are striving to teach her how to be on her own and think through the things she must think through (childcare, budgets, etc) to be a responsible adult, helping her with the basics (food, firewood) along the way. But that alone is not enough. We must also teach her how to rely on God to meet her needs – which is a tall order for those of us who aren’t so good at it ourselves.
Perhaps here the teacher becomes the student.
Do we really believe God can supply all our needs? Even the needs of a poverty-stricken young mother, a homeless grown orphan, and poor village family with a son suffering from cancer? Can God truly supply even their needs?
If we truly believed it, perhaps we would spend more time in prayer about it and less time throwing cash at the problem.
Cash giving in some cases has its role – but perhaps more significant is the giving of time on our knees, time in fellowship with the suffering and time teaching those who have never had a chance to learn the basics of life – in the physical world as well as the spiritual. Perhaps more important than cash is what we give of ourselves.
And so in this spirit, I wish to ask all who read this blog to give a bit of themselves by praying for Reni the young mother who needs both childcare and a job. Pray for Arpi who needs a home and work, and the Olah family whose son Norbi suffers from stomach cancer. Pray that God would show each of them that He, himself, – not some ministry nor some person – is the one who supplies their needs, according to His riches in glory. And may this lesson be a testimony to all of us. Amen.