African Activists Generate Warmth for Needy Norwegians

[From the archives]

***

Have you seen this parody of music fundraiser videos? It’s funny and clever and wise all at once:

Brrr, Norway!

We are called to comfort others with compassion, to coming alongside others as God comes alongside us. (2 Cor. 1:3-4.) As that parody shows, though, it’s not always easy to discern what real compassion (to suffer with others, literally) looks like.

Red Cross (Wikimedia)

Red Cross (Wikimedia)

NPR has reported on the problems of sending thousands of toys and stuffed animals to a community after a disaster. It’s happened with Hurricane Katrina, the Haitian earthquake, Super-storm Sandy, the Connecticut shooting. One Red Cross worker said they once had to divert a cargo plane full of medical supplies to an airport miles away because the small airstrip in the country she was in was already piled high with worthless items sent by people who thought they were helping.

The Radi-Aid video also points out that cultural differences are another obstacle to understanding each other’s needs, which reminds me of an old Archie comic book I had. Archie and Betty were boxing up some items to donate to charity when Veronica stopped by and asked why they bothered to help poor people.

Archie (Wikimedia)
Archie and his helping hand
(Wikimedia)

They told her that some people just weren’t as well off as she was and need a helping hand. After much explaining, Veronica finally started to get it, then jumped up and said she wanted to help too. So she packed some caviar and foie gras, got in her sports car and drove over to another rich friend’s house, saying she’d heard that they had to sell one of their Rolls Royces because money got a little tight. The friend broke down in tears at Veronica’s generous and thoughtful act of compassion. Betty looked at Archie and said, “Well, at least it’s a start!”

People know that others need help, but they don’t always know how to go about helping the right way. Prayer, seeking guidance and advice from people who know more about the needs, these are key, all the while trusting God to guide us in delivering compassion as he has had compassion on us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)

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12 Responses to African Activists Generate Warmth for Needy Norwegians

  1. lauradroege says:

    This reminds me of a book my husband has read and discussed with me. (He had to read it for a deacon training class at our old church. I haven’t read it, but it’s on my to-be-read list.) It’s called “When Helping Hurts” (by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert), and it discusses how sometimes our well-intentioned efforts to “help” others actually hinders them from breaking free from poverty, and sometimes even hurts the helpers. If we really want to help, we’ve got to ask ourselves some tough questions about poverty and compassion and what the real need is. It sounds like an interesting read.

    • Tim says:

      Recognizing a real need and then knowing what to do about it are skills, Laura. I imagine you and your husband have developed those skills rather well.

  2. I like this post. It seems that few ask what is really needed in a time of emergency. A friend of mine who does good work and leading mission teams to truly help people rebuild their houses after a natural disaster noted that our ministerial conference spent tens of thousands of dollars sending a bunch of people to Kenya to do little more than observe how poor some people are there. (Sorry about the run-on sentence.) Everyone talked about how compassionate they were but it was nothing but a way for people to feel good about themselves.

    • Tim says:

      I’ve wondered about those types of trips too, Brian. Fact-finding can be a powerful tool if it is then used to educate those of us who didn’t go and to develop ways to help others, but merely going, seeing and returning doesn’t seem to really get at what the Bile calls compassion.

  3. Jeannie says:

    Thanks for sharing that awesome video, Tim! And you make a very good point in this post. It’s hard to untangle our own self-serving motives from the desire to help others, sometimes. The last sentence is great: “Prayer, seeking guidance and advice from people who know more about the needs, these are key, all the while trusting God to guide us in delivering compassion as he has had compassion on us.”

    • Tim says:

      That untangling sometimes takes work, but when we are freed up by the Spirit then practical compassion is a lot easier, isn’t it?

  4. M. Joy says:

    Tim that video is awesome. Now someone needs to make one about the dollar store junk sent to third world countries though the Samaritan’s Purse Shoebox program.

    Steve Saint has a great book and DVD series called Missions Dilemma. It discusses the problems of western missionaries trying to fix third world problems with western ideas. Very eye opening.

  5. M. Joy says:

    Tim, I personally know a married couple, missionaries, who have dealt with the shoebox ministry. For their mission church, Samaritan’s Purse charged them $2 per box. The local ‘national’ church liaison was trying to pocket money for himself by telling the church the cost was $4 per box. Our friends had to finally contact SP directly to find out the actual cost. The drill there was that the kids were brought to the church, listened to a gospel presentation and then were given a box. The missionaries later saw many of the boxes and contents for sale in local markets, so some of the children were given the boxes which were then taken away because the money value was worth more to the family.

    There has been quite a bit written about the shoebox program. Here are a few links I think have useful information. A google search will turn up a lot more.

    http://trainingleadersinternational.org/blog/618/why-i-wont-be-filling-a-shoebox-this-christmas

    http://debradeanmurphy.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/thinking-outside-the-shoe-box/

    http://menofmind.com/samaritans-purse-operation-christmas-child-toys-no-pay-no-play/

    http://www.saltandcaramel.com/christmas-shoe-boxes-what-is-the-point/

    • Tim says:

      That’s one of those charity horror stories we hope never to hear about, Joy. I am glad your friends found out more and could make informed choices about how to handle this next time. Thanks for the links too. I may forward them to a pastor friend of mine.

    • On the positive side of the shoebox ministry, I have heard testimony by orphans (from the Ukraine) who were adopted by Americans. They would get the shoeboxes and hand them out. Anything like shoes or clothes that were included always fit the person who received it and it was always what was needed. I can vouch for the authenticity of the people who gave these testimonies.

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