The maddest I ever saw my childhood pastor during a sermon was when he commented on the clothes that had been donated to our church’s clothes closet – only after all the buttons had been cut off.
My father-in-law came close, years later. Baptists in another state had sent the association an 18-wheeler crammed full of clothes, food and donations. This was followed by a second shipment, one that was half-full of worn-out donations, opened food containers and used cleaning supplies. He wondered aloud why fellow Baptists would go to so much effort to share what was largely unusable.
What’s really the best response? I suggest a five-step process:
Look. A comment to news about Hurricane Harvey needs asked why no one was discussing the simultaneous crisis in Southeast Asia. Unaware myself, I discovered that two-thirds of Bangladesh was under water in with more than 41 million people affected – and that’s just one global crisis area. Where in the world is God presenting ministry opportunities?
Pray. Awareness should lead to prayer as the first response, while looking helps inform prayers involving specific people, needs and efforts.
Give (intelligently). Yes, those affected need food, water, clothes, diapers and furnishings. But money is often what’s requested. In "How Donating to Disaster Relief Can Do More Harm Than Good," Juanita Rilling, former director for USAID Center for International Disaster Information explains, “Anything that is not needed gets in the way” (tinyurl.com/ProblemDonations).
Get the best use of your gift. Find ways to stretch your donation (tinyurl.com/StretchedDonation). Don’t let a moving story on Facebook keep you from checking for guidance from CharityNavigator.org of trustworthy charities and avoiding scams (tinyurl.com/CNscamtips).
Even if “we’ve always given that way,” ease or familiarity may not lead to the best options. Slate made me aware of how Red Cross has been overwhelmed (tinyurl.com/RedCrossConcern), while Time explores the good and bad in online crowdfunding efforts (tinyurl.com/TimeCFtips).
Go. If you have time and willingness, your can help. Be prepared by volunteering, including CBF (cbf.net/dr-volunteer, 800.352.8741) and SBC (namb.net/send-relief/disaster-relief, 800-634-2462). Prepare by becoming training and applying for a passport in overseas efforts.
Remember. It disturbs me how quickly crises fade from the front page onto the back burner by the next tragedy. If only recovery were that fast. ReliefWeb.int and ACAPS.org keep tabs on crisis areas through their sites, social media and apps. You’ll stay focused and more sensitive to crisis-affected people….as you continue to “Look.”
Proverbs 3:9 tells us to “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce” (NLT).Be generous, but share what’s needed, not merely what’s convenient.
Ken Satterfield, Word&Way's marketing coordinator, is a former media specialist with a Master in Information Science.