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How to Effectively Help Our Brethren in Developing Countries

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How to Effectively Help Our Brethren in Developing Countries

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“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” We all want to hear these words from Jesus Christ upon His return.

The parable continues: “I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me… Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:34-36 Matthew 25:34-36 [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.
American King James Version×
, 40).

This powerful lesson applies in spiritual ways, but I want to focus upon the physical application. The hearts of all Christians grieve over the terrible plight of millions of people, and we want to help. Faced with statistics like 600 children dying every hour due to hunger or 15 million AIDS orphans in Africa, we might think that the world is just a black hole of endless needs. Understandably, we can feel overwhelmed as to where to start.

Taking a cue from Christ’s parable, we should consider our own brethren in the developing world. Some of our own spiritual brothers are without jobs and must support large families. And some have an extended family that also requires their attention.

Paul admonished Christians, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 Galatians 6:10As 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×
).

I’m not talking only about financial assistance. Helping with money is an obvious way to assist, but it is only one of many possibilities within the grasp of the wealthy Western world.

Life-Changing Experience

In the June 2001 issue of United News, I wrote of my life-changing experience that resulted in my learning how to help the victims of Chernobyl’s 1986 nuclear accident. (See “Caring for Our Needy Brethren in Developing Areas,” www.ucg.org/un/un0106/caring.html.)

I learned about a U.S. State Department program that paid for the shipping of 10- and 20-ton sea containers and found many volunteers willing to help fill them. I found that, using the same program, it was possible to send similar containers for free to the Sabbatarians with whom we had worked in western Ukraine. We sent a total of 30 tons of aid before the end of 1996 that again provided large quantities of food, medicine and clothing.

Then I began asking, what can we do directly for our own brethren in the United Church of God?

The same article explained how we collected 20 tons of goods and shipped them to our brethren in Malawi. Tons of food were donated by various businesses. Thrift stores freely gave us hundreds of boxes of unsold clothing. Morton Salt gave us two tons of salt for iodine-deficient Malawi in the interior of south-central Africa.

This awareness brought to life 1 John 3:17 1 John 3:17But 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?
American King James Version×
: “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?” We started looking for other opportunities among our own brethren.

I explained in the United News article that I learned a number of members’ homes in Central America were in need of improvement. The most often voiced request was to pour concrete floors for people living on dirt. Dirt bred worms and disease. Over the next two years we supplied the funds to pour 16 floors in Guatemala. In addition, we helped add extra rooms to overcrowded dwellings, in one case where nine people lived in one room.

Then we were asked to supply white shirts and blouses for our children in Guatemala and El Salvador. Why? A white top is the proper uniform for schoolchildren. You cannot go to school unless you have this uniform. But for many large families that live on $100 to $140 a month (if they work at all), to supply this uniform is just too expensive. So we began collecting white shirts and blouses and alleviated a big burden. We were learning to listen very closely for true needs and then target specific ways to start meeting them.

Scholarships

In the tough economies of El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, it is prohibitive for many of our young people to seek higher education. With some economies having a 75 percent unemployment rate, going to university provides a distinct advantage in the job market.

We started helping with scholarships in El Salvador where we were able to send 21 young adults to university for $450 per year apiece. They studied accounting, computer science, architecture, dentistry and other professions. What a great value and investment in the future!

We’ve continued to develop this program to where we now help about 50 students in developing areas. Since the inception of a Developing Nations Scholarship Fund in 2001 we have received many letters of appreciation from both the young recipients and UCG pastors stating how their educations have transformed their lives and have made them more productive members of the Church.

Medicine and Water Wells

In Malawi and Zambia our own brethren were going without medicines that many of us take for granted. Every year a number of the children of our brethren died during the rainy season in Zambia because there was no medicine for treatable malaria. As of this writing, partially because of our sending medicine to our brethren who live in the remote settlements of Mumbwa, there have been no children’s deaths during the past three rainy seasons.

For the past six years we have provided the only medicines for two clinics that are owned and operated by UCG members in Malawi. We supply large quantities of medicine to Africa (about $100,000 per year) through incredible sources for which we pay as low as 2 cents on the dollar wholesale. In other words, we can send over $100 worth of drugs for $2.

Water is a precious resource in many parts of the world. People walk for miles with five-gallon jugs on their heads to bring home their daily supply. Last year the Akron, Ohio, UCG congregation raised the money to drill a well on a member’s property to provide drinking water and irrigation not only for himself, but also to almost 60 other people in the vicinity. Our brethren in Malawi were able to negotiate for the best prices and had the well dug at about half the going rate through a government well driller.

Network and Leverage

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is the importance of networking.

I discovered other organizations that collect medical supplies and equipment that are more than willing to share what they have, if they are confident that what they give will be properly delivered and used. In central Indiana we are blessed with a number of sources that offer more items than we could even use. FAME (Fellowship of Associates of Medical Evangelism) in Indianapolis has provided us everything from hospital beds to wheelchairs to furniture—all free for the asking.

Last summer a UCG youth camp in Ghana needed toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss for a dental hygiene class. No problem. We ask; they provide. Becky Hornor, wife of UCG elder Noel Hornor, works for a dental supply company. She is able occasionally to send us boxes of medical supplies for distribution overseas. I have an arrangement with a number of Indianapolis dentists who have a standing offer to supply hundreds of sample items of dental hygiene products for overseas outreach projects.

The Lighthouse Mission in downtown Indianapolis has been a help too. When we come across items we cannot use, we pass them to the mission. For example, we received a donation of several thousand new but mislabeled uniforms through a member in the Nashville, Tennessee, congregation. The Lighthouse, in turn, has given us hundreds of pounds of meat and personal products for our Terre Haute, Indiana, congregation’s outreach to an abused girls’ shelter, as well as to our outreach to our brethren overseas. Our cost with all this has been zero.

We have ample sources for all the wheelchairs and eyeglasses and linens that we use.

Through this process, we learned the value of networking. It does not need to cost an arm and a leg nor take away from resources to preach the gospel. These are definitely ways of responding to the direction given in Galatians 6:10 Galatians 6:10As 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×
.
And these things are truly making a difference. In the last four years, we have provided $1,800,000 in overseas aid, most of it either benefiting brethren or being used by the brethren to benefit others. We calculate that for every dollar donated, we have provided $20 in benefits.

Grants, Matching Donations and Passionate Volunteers

With more ambitious projects, such as building clinics in Malawi, we learned of foundations that will give grants to missions that fit their giving philosophy. We have received grants that have helped us complete our clinics successfully. It takes time and patience, but it’s so rewarding when the grants finally come through.

Our largest grant was a recent award from Rotary Foundation for $44,884 to purchase two ambulances, one for each of the two clinics built in Malawi and owned by UCG members. We have found, too, that there are employers who will match their employees’ donations to charity to a certain limit. We regularly receive matching donations from banks, credit unions, insurance companies and other businesses.

Support attracts support. When people see that a project effectively helps people, they want to become part of it and identify with it. The volunteers come out of the woodwork when they see a worthwhile mission going to unplowed ground, enriching and changing peoples’ lives.

Big Bang for the Buck

A lot can be done for very little. Labor costs are low and it’s often quite reasonable to set up small entrepreneurships in developing areas. For example, setting up a small grocery store in Guatemala City cost about $300. A widow with children was able to run a flourishing business right from home and sustain her household. She previously worked at a factory for substandard wages.

In other instances we were able to build community bread ovens, also for about $300 each, providing a livelihood for entire families. We have also been able to buy commercial sewing machines and set up self-sustaining cottage businesses.
In the Philippines, for $100 per family, we have been able to set up self-sustaining goat-raising, fishing and cocoa bean businesses that have kept entire families from being dependent on others. This project also helps give them dignity.

Lessons Learned

• There must be a genuine need demonstrated before aid is given.
• Provide only the kind of assistance that will result in self-sufficiency and not dependency.
• Aid must be distributed in a fair and equitable manner.
• Recipients must be accountable for the aid received. There must be a reason for the aid to be given and, when given, it must be used for exactly that reason.
• Those receiving aid must be open to learning how to better themselves—they must do their part. We want the lives of people to be transformed. It is not asking too much to insist on education that will lead to success and minimize disasters.
• Give what is really needed. Sometimes we think that people need certain things without asking what is really of value.
• Whatever you send, make sure it works, is clean and in good condition.
• Always treat the people you help with the highest dignity and respect. Just because someone is making one fiftieth the money you are, does not mean that he is one fiftieth the person.
• Be sure to deliver what you promise.

Helping care for the needs of people is a most rewarding activity if effectively done. This is not our primary mission as a church; preaching the gospel is. But remember that when we help a brother or sister of Christ, He considers it a deed done directly for Him. How valuable is that? UN

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