Next fall my Christian friend and her husband are going. She is trying to raise money on her blog to help finance their travel costs. I was initially a tad ambivalent. From my knowledge of Christian charitable organizations, like various “12 step programs”, “faith based” government funded organizations, even relief efforts in SE Asia after the 2004 tsunami, all of them placed religious participation at the forefront, if not making it a prerequisite for help.
So I asked, is this trip fully dedicated to material / secular health, welfare, and educational ... life improvements for the community with out any proselytizing, with no expectation of conversion from whatever indigenous belief system some may hold, and with no bible study, preaching, etc.? She explains that the local village church with whom they partner is the spiritual provider. Their presence will be devoted to hands on improving of the physical condition and secular life of the people. I accept her at her word and will make a tax deductable donation to her & her husband’s travel fund.
But other seemingly altruistic Christian charities have an ulterior motive. Conversions. They dangle the carrot in front of struggling third world people who, in a weakened state, desperate for any support, would pay any price in order to better their physical condition and those of their children. Is that what Jesus meant by ministering to the poor?
I don’t recall Jesus saying: " For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink … and all I had to do was listen to your religious spiel and divest myself of my 3000 year old culturally held indigenous belief system." But that’s exactly what many of them do.
Today my wife and I delivered food we bought at BJ’s to the local food bank. You know what we expect in return? That fewer people go hungry. Period.
[[ to contribute to my friend Joyce’s trip to Africa please visit her blog, scroll to her posting of April 11, and contact her directly through her comments section: http://rejoycing.blogspot.com/ ]]