We’ve now been stationary for over a week and it has been wonderful to settle briefly into a routine before we begin traveling again next week. I anticipate that there will be a continual ebb and flow between consistency and chaos in the months ahead. For now, this is perfect. Thankfully, new opportunities continue to find us. One of the highlights for our family this past week was serving together to package emergency relief food packets for the non-profit organization Food for Kidz.
Does helping actually hurt?
The mission of Food for Kidz is to “bring awareness to hunger issues in the world by involving others in the participation of packing a nutritional meal supplement for distribution and also involve them in sustainability building to facilitate change”. I like the heart behind their mission (awareness, involvement, sustainability, change). It struck a chord in a melody that I’ve been replaying in my mind recently.
Before we left Idaho, Trent was reading the book “When Helping Hurts” which has spurred some good discussion relating to the concept of how to help others most effectively. It’s a challenging concept and one that unfortunately we as Americans often unknowingly get wrong. Among the many themes covered in the book, a few common problems with the typical models of service included:
- We introduce dependency.
- We step in and offer “solutions” that are not sustainable.
- We fail to really find out where the true needs are.
- We neglect to involve those who need help to be a part of the process of restoration.
- We step in and out too quickly, leaving those we are seeking to bless worse off while we leave feeling good about ourselves.
That said, the Bible clearly states that we are to love our neighbors, feed the poor and to take care of orphans and widows. And as long as there continue to be natural disasters, emergency aid will continue to be necessary. I want to love effectively, but I also don’t want to get so caught up in the “right” way to love that I miss it altogether.
Where do we go from here?
Recently, I developed a two-step plan to help me assess and act when appropriate.
- First, I am actively praying that God will open opportunities for us to serve and show love.
- Secondly, I am striving to anticipate that prayer being answered and being ready to respond.
Simple right? Turns out God is terribly uncomplicated about matters of love.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31
What might that look like in practical terms?
I began to pray this prayer while we were recently driving through Montana. That afternoon we pulled over at a gas station for a potty break and as I got out of the car I saw a young woman laying on her back in the parking lot. I hurried over to see if help was needed. The mother, shaken, explained that her daughter had briefly passed out and had been dealing with sickness but that she didn’t wish for help to be called. I sensed that here was a place where I could show love and I asked if it would be okay for me to pray for her. They said yes. I offered a simple prayer and then realized my children were slowly migrating into the traffic of the parking lot. I departed quickly, saved my children from danger, visited the bathrooms and headed out. It was fast, but it was what was put in my path.
We are each on a path and I have to believe that what is put in front of us is intentional. We simply need to be ready and willing to respond. So simple in concept, yet so challenging to do in reality. My most difficult barrier is often busyness and distraction. It takes clear focus to truly see what God has put in place around me.
Most recently what was put in front of us was a chance to participate in packaging emergency food portions to send overseas. My heart could have burst at seeing the excitement that this opportunity stirred up in the hearts of our kids. They loved being actively involved and a necessary part of the team. When the evening started to wind down and it was time to head home, they were truly disappointed that we had to leave. Isn’t that the beauty that we are after? Hearts that ache to serve? Won’t you join me in praying into that desire? I know it’s a prayer that our Heavenly Father longs to fulfill.
What about you? Do you struggle to know how to help others? Have you seen examples of service that failed to meet the mark or been blessed to see truly effective ministry? Leave a comment and let me know, I’d love to hear about it!