“Poverty is not necessarily an issue to solve; it is an opportunity to serve.
As we go through each day, our heart’s cry should be,
Lord, where would you have me give, serve,
and invest myself to bring hope to the poor?”
~ Johnny Carr

This month my church has been examining the story of the Good Samaritan in depth. In a series cleverly titled, “Get Off Your Donkey,” we’ve talked about why we give and help others, what keeps us from giving and helping others, and how we can use our resources (including money, time and skills) to help others.

As Mark and I have led follow-up discussions in our small group the past three weeks, one of the biggest things we’ve grappled with is how to choose how we help.

How DO we choose how we help?

Lots of factors play into this decision, from what resources we have available and which ones we’re willing to share to what’s safe or comfortable or convenient or wise. We’ve certainly debated the definition of wise and safe, trying to figure out the balance between living a life of faith and following the often-risky calling Jesus has placed on our lives and using common sense to keep our children, our wallets, ourselves safe from danger or disappointment. And we’ve talked about the ways we make these choices, from praying to going with our gut to taking the advice of our friends and family – or not.

In the end, to be completely honest with you, I’m not sure we’ve helped any of our small group friends find clarity on this topic at all.

Do I believe each and every one of us is called to help, in some way?

Do I believe that Jesus us calls us to help in a way that is always sacrificial and often, in one way or another, risky?

But do I admit that it’s hard to distinguish between faithful risks and foolish ones?

And, hello? Have I noticed that there are a bajillion needs and causes and people to help, and it’s all a little overwhelming?!?

As a matter of fact, my own track record speaks loudly to that last point.

In the past few weeks I’ve shared with you the (in)courage project to support Mercy House Kenya. I talked about the adult spelling bee I participated in to support urban literacy programs. I’ve mentioned spending my Saturday night volunteering at an event for Global Orphan Project. I’m planning to share with you the ways I’m involved with my church soon (and, if you didn’t notice, I just now snuck in the fact that I lead a small group with my husband).

And the whole reason I am writing this post right now is because of an email I received from Compassion International (that contained the quote I used up above).

So, yeah, I understand the challenge of deciding which organization to support, which cause to fight for, which person to help. I GET IT.

[Clarifying side note: Does all this charity do-gooding mean I’m a really awesome, holy person? UH, NO. I do have a heart for charity and a deep desire to help people, but PLEASE note that all of this happening in the span of one month is a coincidence and NOT the norm. It’s partly what prompted this post and, again, NOT a normal month for me!]

But what I love about the series we’re doing at church and the conversations that have come from it is that, no matter what challenges you face in this area – limited resources of your own, confusion about what specific plan God has for you, overwhelm at the staggering number of those in need, the bottom line is that each of us is called to DO SOMETHING.

And each of us is called to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

As we’ve wrestled with this issue in my small group, I’ve loved sitting back to look at the way God has wired the unique people who gather every Sunday night. We all have different backgrounds and experiences, and we definitely have different gifts and personalities. Yet, He uses each one of us to make a difference.

– Securing books for under-resourced kids through the local PTA
– Fighting for families and children as a social worker
– Buying soup for a homeless woman in the parking lot
– Smiling and helping a co-worker without grumbling
– Teaching kids about Jesus on a Sunday morning
– Taking photos for a calendar to sell for a cancer charity
– Arresting the bad guys
– Helping set up and tear down our mobile church
– Building relationships with musicians throughout the city
– Sponsoring children through Compassion

Since last fall, my church here in Kansas City has partnered with a church planting organization called Stadia and Compassion International to start two churches in Colombia, South America. Now that the buildings are erected and/or renovated and the people are in place and worshiping, our next move is to find sponsors for the 350 children near the churches.

Sponsors of those children, through Compassion, will help provide food, clean water, medical care, education and more for not much more than it costs my family of three to eat lunch at On the Border after church on Sunday. It will cost us $38 a month to sponsor a child in Colombia – and while it will simply mean we eat leftovers or sandwiches instead of smothered burritos and buckets of chips one day, it will make a world of difference to that child and his or her family.

While I support lots of philanthropic efforts and make the occasional one-time donation to causes that move me, my church and Compassion are where my heart is fully committed. That’s what my family has chosen to do, how we’ve chosen to help.

But I know it’s not easy to figure out! And, really, it’s a never-finished, ever-evolving process. How do YOU decide where and when to help?

Photo by Marco Raaphorst

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