“Wow, you’re doing amazing things!”
“…I just want you to keep doing them without my money.”
Hello, my name is…
I’m 25 years old and I live in the poorest country on the planet: Malawi. My job? I run a ministry that builds houses for orphans and widows.
I love my job. I basically get to be the guy from Extreme Home Makeover, but for the neediest people in the world. It’s awesome.
I’m also lucky enough to go back to the States to see friends and family once or twice a year. When I do, I end up answering the same question over and over again: “So, what do you do in Malawi?” to which I bashfully reply, “I build houses for orphans and widows.”
It’s a weird conversation to have. Everytime. More often than not, the response I get will be something about how amazing I am. It makes me uncomfortable. All of a sudden, their perception of me has skyrocketed to this super spiritual level when, in reality, I’m just a normal guy.
But even with all that praise, fundraising to support myself has been surprisingly difficult.
How much money I have
I could sit here and type out all sorts of statistics about how little money people give to international aid. The numbers are embarrassing. But people have done that before. I thought, instead, I would share my personal story.
This past summer I went home to raise money for myself. My goal? $45,000 to take care of personal expenses and to help me buy a few assets for my housing ministry. This is my support letter.
The summer has come and gone, and now I’m back in Malawi. Thankfully I’ve raised enough money to support myself for the year, but I haven’t raised enough money to buy what I need for my housing ministry.
What does this mean?
It means I won’t be as effective this year. My guess is I’ll be able to do my work at about 40% capacity. Another way of saying this is: 60% of what I could accomplish won’t be because the funds didn’t come in.
In more tangible terms: fewer orphans and widows will get shelter, fewer villages will get access to malaria medicine, and fewer honest-hard-working Malawians will get desperately needed micro-loans. And, because I live here, I get to watch the consequences of that all unfold before my eyes.
But at least people gave!
Here’s the thing. Generous people do exist. I know them and I’m grateful for the sacrifices they make so I can go help the poor. But what I find frustrating is that generosity is the exception, not the rule.
America is a country of people who hang on tightly to their wallets. Unless, of course, a large corporation convinces them that they need whatever new product has been released.
In some ways, I’m in a terrible position to write this article. I’m literally dependent on people’s donations and if I make them mad, then my source of income dries up.
But from another perspective, I’m actually in a great position to write this article. Americans rarely hear that they need to be more generous. And when they do, it’s from a church pastor with a multi-million dollar budget. No wonder nobody listens.
But maybe people will listen to me. I live off of $600 a month. I‘m about to spend my third year ministering to the orphans and widows of Malawi. And even I can’t get what I need to help these poor people.
Will you listen? I’m asking you to be more generous. I’m a guy actually living amidst real poverty, in the poorest country on earth, and I see what the rest of the world is like.
I see how much they need your help and I’m asking you to stop what you’re doing and take action.
People have no problem expressing anger over things like a hunted lion or fetal baby parts being sold. But there seems to be a large disparity between the frustration we express online and the action we take. Are you frustrated about what’s going on in the world? For the love of God, do something about it.
However you help, it’s important that sacrifice is involved. It requires nothing from you to share a Facebook article, or to write an angry comment. Participating in those things isn’t wrong, but I challenge you to show me how much fruit you’ll actually bear.
Here are some things that are effective: donating to a missionary, sponsoring an orphan to get an education, or building a well.
Do you know what happens when missionaries struggle to get the finances they need to stay abroad? They go home. They go back to America where they can easily find a job, join the rat race, and then join the ranks of millions of other Christians who are frustrated with the church.
Do you know what happens when an orphan can’t pay for his education? If he’s male, he’ll become involved in crime. If she’s a female, she’ll be brought into sex slavery.
Do you know what happens when people don’t get clean water? They die.
“Okay, let me pray about it first”
There are times to pray for discernment. Maybe this is one of those times. But I’d like to point to the example of Jesus.
He didn’t see a crowd of suffering people and then leave them alone to go have his quiet time. Jesus had compassion on the people who needed help while they were standing right in front of him. He healed the bleeding woman, gave legs to the paralytic, and raised the dead man.
Are you in a position to show compassion right now? Then I beg you to act on your instinct and give to a world that’s desperate for your resources.