A Massive Misconception
Whats $34 worth to you?
I mean…I know its worth thirty four dollars…but what’s it worth in terms of its actual use to you?
I thought I would look into it so that you knew for sure what was at stake…
An IChair – the Iphone 4 Case that allows you to “protect your mobile investment without sacrificing convenience or style.” Available in Black, White or Blue
The worlds smallest indoor infrared remote control hovercraft. Easy to control and simple to charge.
An extremely limited run swim brief created in exclusive collaboration with EY! Magazine, featuring tiny shiny stars and a logo print on the back (Please Note – All Sales are Final)
Now I know that there are also much more practical uses for $34.00 in our lives.
For example, $34 will get us a family meal at a chain resteraunt like Applebees, or a new pair of Gap Jeans – no make that Old Navy (the new skinny ones that show your socks), or even almost cover a day pass to Adventure Land for one – actually 35 bucks.
In speaking with several people in the last weeks, it has become apparent that we (the American Church) may have become somewhat numb to the affect that something as seemingly trivial as $34 a month can have on the life of a human being living in the “majority world” – that’s the more than 50% of the world’s population that lives on less than $2 a day….or the almost 20% that lives on less than a dollar. Not to mention the 29,000 children who die daily for lack of either the $2 or the $1.
- Perhaps it has to do with the flippancy with which we regard $34 in our daily American lives that we don’t actually believe that a donation in this amount can truly make a difference?
- Perhaps it is the ridiculous lineup of products available for the same amount that has trivialized the perceived value of that amount of money.
- Or perhaps we have just been “hit up” too much and for too long to donate thirty something dollars to some cause somewhere that we never get to see the actual results of.
Every month the thirty-something-dollars just vanishes from our electronic account somewhere in Cyber bank world. We never actually see the money. We never touched it. And we certainly never actually had to adjust our lifestyles in order to make the commitment for the money to be handed over every month.
Its just too easy.
Maybe that’s the problem?
Whatever the cause is…I know that the outcome is evident. There is a distinct, massively potent, and dangerous misconception about what $34 a month can actually do to impact the life of a person living in the African continent.
Let me explain…
When you show up at one of the CarePoints in Uganda (or anywhere else in the world for that matter), you are immediately ushered into a seat of honor in front of the children who are seated on the ground in front of you eagerly awaiting your attendance. It’s a “seat of honor” because it is the only actual seat in the place. Everyone else is sitting on the dirt floor.
Then, without fail, in each and every location you visit…you are serenaded with songs of joy, songs of hope, songs of thanks, and songs of praise to the God who cares for them…and the God who sent you.
You are then showered with speeches of thanks. Skits or Plays…and dances depicting the story of hungry bellies being made full by gracious saints from afar.
It is amazingly humbling.
It can be hard to get used to as well.
At first, it is actually easy to get frustrated with all the attention you receive. After all, it is God who should be praised right? And all the attention seems to be directed at you. Or perhaps the frustration stems from the inner knowledge that the “gift” and “sacrifice” you actually made is in reality not worthy of such gratitude? After all…its just $34 right?
But this act of singing to you- their welcomed visitors (pronounced vee-zee-tus)- is the only gift they have to give you in return.
On more than one occasion, I pulled aside one of the disciplers or adult leaders and asked them about the songs of gratitude and serenading. I was trying to explain to them that we did not want to be the focus of their thanks, but rather that God should be. It was a sincere desire to have God be the focus.
But it was met with a puzzled look. And a profound response.
It was explained to me that for the Ugandan people to meet one of their brothers or sisters from America who had so generously sacrificed of themselves in order to love others whom they had never met…was in deed a great honor. They explained that for the people of Uganda, it was difficult to understand how people from across the world could be so incredibly generous, and that it was only by the grace of God that someone would be willing to sacrifice their personal riches to provide for others in need.
You see, to these people, the idea that someone could possibly sacrifice $34 is beyond comprehension. It’s a gift so large, so difficult to understand, that it can only be met with praise and thanks. Both to the God who provides, and to the means of his provision.
I suppose to them it’s a month worth of life….so if your family currently lives on $50,000 a year (the average American household income), this would be like someone you had never met before on the other side of the world suddenly providing $4,000 a month to you (with no strings attached), when you are about to lose your home and don’t know how you will buy groceries next month. Why would they do that? But really it’s more than that. Because it’s just different there. No one is starving to death in America.
There is nothing more humbling than realizing that the ridiculously non sacrificial gift of $34 a month that we make – with absolutely no actual impact on our lifestyles (apart from perhaps one less meal out, or I suppose going without an EY! Magazine swimsuit) ….is to someone else a gift more impactful and meaningful than they can comprehend.
They truly praise God for us. They worship Him for our sacrifice to love them. They pray daily for our continued success so that we can continue to help them. And they provide us seats of honor among them for our “sacrifice” on behalf of the least of those among them.
It helped me understand why God’s judgement on the “Goats” in Matthew 25 who did not “feed him when he was hungry or clothe him when he was naked” is so fitting. We are so misled about what we have been entrusted with. And so misled about the difference we can make with what we have been given.
Compassion lived out
|The young lady is in the blue shirt – I wish I knew her name|
On another trip to Uganda, I had met a young woman -whose name for the life of me I cannot recall, who was helping out at a local church (again just a stick/mud/tin sheet building). There was a small but growing orphan and widow ministry being run from this church and this young woman was helping out.
I spent some time talking with her about her involvement with the orphans and how she became involved. Again, the response was a pivotal moment for me in my understanding of what God has entrusted us with.
|The Church in Kampala|
|Outside the church she worked at
She explained that she had been a sponsored child through Compassion International. As an orphan herself, Compassion had provided her an opportunity to go to school, receive a regular supply of food, and eventually to even attend college. She was currently finishing up her degree at a local university in Kampala and was planning to use her degree to help further the cause of orphan care in the region. She attributed the fact that she was in college entirely to the Compassion International program and her gracious thirty something dollar a month sponsor.
Now in full disclosure, at this time (back in 2010) I had been a pretty large skeptic myself about the effectiveness of programs like World Vision and Compassion. I was unsure if the funds ever reached the specific kids that were being sponsored or if the results were impactful enough to validate the expense. Ironic Huh!
But what this young lady told me next was probably the most impactful. She shared with me that although she was grateful for her education, and the secure upbringing she was afforded despite the loss of her parents and her family’s poverty…that the greatest gift she had been awarded by God was the opportunity to have personally met her sponsor a couple of years prior.
Again, she explained that the opportunity to meet, and personally thank the person through whom God’s mercy was able to reach her own life and massively redirect it for good, was the highlight of her life thus far. I was humbled. Apparently these “thirty something dollar a month” programs actually did make a difference.
I was taught just how large an impact such a small sacrifice could make in a persons life, who otherwise had little hope (keep in mind that the schooling rate in Uganda is less than 25% through high school and less than 3% for university level education). This woman (an orphan – orphans almost never get to go to school) was now a leader in the community and impacting others….because of the love of a person in the US who likely never had the faintest clue of the difference that was being made.
The Good News in a $34 Package
I believe that the “Good News” that Jesus brought to us, is best brought to others by a demonstration of His love, rather than just by a proclamation of the facts of his death and resurrection. For example…feeding kids that aren’t yours, for no reason other than the love of Christ…
You see…on more than one occasion I have been asked by the Ugandans why it is that Christians in America would make such a huge sacrifice for someone who could never repay them. Why would someone give up their comfort in order to provide life for another when there was no possible way for that person to repay them?
And although in part the answer is that it is because we are commanded to…..the reality is that we do this because it is exactly what Jesus did for us two millennia ago on the cross. Didn’t he give up His comfort, to come down to us, to give us life when we had no hope? Isn’t that the gospel? Isn’t that the good news? And isn’t living that out for others what we are called to as followers of Christ?
The Gospel Lived Out
One of our drivers in Kampala was a devout Muslim man. He was a great driver, and a good guy. He spent a week with us visiting orphans, widows, and the needy on the outskirts of the city of Kampala. As we drove, and as we stopped, we spoke of the reason for our trip. And he learned of our King who had commanded us to love those who were the “least among us” and to take care of orphans and widows in their distress. And he watched.
And on the day we left, he turned to our host (a local Ugandan pastor) and told him something that solidified why we are doing what we are doing today. I don’t have the exact words written down (I wish I did) but as closely as I can remember he told him:
“This Christianity….this Jesus….will eventually overcome the faith of Islam. Because Islam does not know a love like this. This love is a different kind of love”
It is the love of a $34 gift….that in truth is no sacrifice at all….that demonstrates the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to a starving and desperate people in Uganda and around the world. I continue to plea with you…to whom much has been given…to consider sponsoring a child (or two) through Children’s Hope Chest….because He commanded us to love orphans and widows in their distress….because it makes a real difference….
To learn more about sponsoring a child in Ogoloi or Bukedea CLICK HERE or contact Jen or myself anytime. We are never too busy to explain what we are up to in Uganda or how this all works.