The focus of The Good News magazine is to proclaim the good news of the soon-coming Kingdom of God to all mankind. But this does not negate the need for helping people now.
Jesus Christ healed the sick and comforted the afflicted, and commands that we be compassionate to others. For more than a decade Good News readers have engaged in humanitarian works to help the disadvantaged and vulnerable. Economically, we are not created equal in this world, and some, recognizing this disparity, want to help make a difference in the lives of others.
Recognizing suffering and poverty is an important first step. But it's not until we do something to alleviate it that God takes notice. Jesus warned of merely saying “Be warm and filled,” but not taking action (James 2:16 James 2:16And one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit?
American King James Version×; Matthew 25:34-46 Matthew 25:34-46 34 Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: 36 Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? 38 When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? 39 Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you? 40 And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me. 41 Then shall he say also to them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungered, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
American King James Version×).
Large, well-known organizations such as the Red Cross have specific missions to be the first response to disaster. Yet these agencies leave a lot of smaller gaps where people need a hand up to help bring them out of dependency to self-sufficiency.
This is why the United Church of God, publisher of The Good News, officially established a Good Works program in 2004. To be more effective, the church partnered with LifeNets, an incredibly efficient charity a number of church members were already involved in, where a very high percentage of all amounts donated goes to the people being helped. Both have independent as well as partner projects, depending on the needs.
Promoting a hand up, not just a handout
LifeNets develops programs offering practical assistance that promotes the well-being and self-sufficiency of disadvantaged people. These programs expand in impact by encouraging those receiving assistance to “pay it forward” by helping others.
Through LifeNets' support for agriculture and animal husbandry we have seen quantum changes in the lives of very poor people in Zambia, Kenya and Brazil.
Several years ago disease in central Zambia wiped out entire herds of cattle. People were left with no milk for their children, no draft animals for plowing their fields, unimaginable poverty and potential starvation. Entire communities were without common medicines. Children regularly died from malaria and other diseases.
In 2000 LifeNets started a program to restore cattle to needy communities. It required giving basic veterinary training and animal care to recipients to minimize the risk of future loss of animals to disease.
Drilling water wells has become a regular project of LifeNets. Clean drinking water is vital for human survival, but it's a shrinking resource in many poor countries.
In many areas people, mostly women, spend a large part of each day making many trips carrying large containers to fetch water from distant sources. By drilling wells within communities, we have brought fresh, clean water for drinking, cooking and washing to communities.
In the United States a unique wheelchair matching program has existed for 10 years. Through the LifeNets website we have used the Internet to match wheelchair donors with those needing them, greatly benefiting the lives of hundreds of people.
Education to overcome poverty
Education is a key route out of poverty. LifeNets and the Good Works program have supported scholarships for young people to receive an education or specialized training in Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, Chile, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ukraine and the Philippines.
These scholarships have given lifelong benefits to young people who otherwise may have been relegated to the misery of unemployment and poverty. This also helps their communities—since scholarship recipients in these poor countries can then become pillars in the fabric of their society.
LifeNets' largest project has been the construction of a primary school in Migori, Kenya, which is now accredited by the Kenyan government. LifeNets has also constructed clinics and other schools in Africa and Ukraine and has supported orphan and street children programs in Ukraine.
The Good Works program has also provided Bibles, church buildings and vehicles for necessary transportation for scattered congregations, as well as supporting staff to assist in training and educational programs in Zambia, Nigeria and Guatemala.
“Let us not grow weary in doing good”
The Bible clearly speaks of opening our heart and resources to the poor and encourages us to help those in need: “But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18 1 John 3:17-18 17 But whoever has this world’s good, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him?
18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
American King James Version×).
The apostle Paul speaks about helping not only our own, but those whom we know have needs: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10 Galatians 6:9-10 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.
American King James Version×).
Many other biblical injunctions similarly instruct us to care for those who are needy. The apostle Paul helped with collections for famines. Scripture repeatedly encourages special attention to widows and the fatherless.
Great natural and man-made disasters in the world require immediate and often ongoing help. LifeNets actively helped victims of the 9/11 New York City terror attacks in 2001, the 2004 Asian tsunami disaster, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami last year. Many stories of assistance are documented on the LifeNets website (LifeNets.org).
The Good News endorses the work of LifeNets and the United Church of God Good Works program and their wonderful record of providing direst assistance to so many to improve their quality of life.
Some of you may be looking for good, efficient charities to help disadvantaged people. You can find out more about LifeNets at www.LifeNets.org (and also subscribe to its eNews) and about the Good Works program at goodworks.ucg.org .