Yesterday, Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti. Once again, Haiti is faced with devastation and an infrastructure inadequate to deal with it. After the catastrophic earthquake in 2010, Haiti was the beneficiary of billions of dollars in relief funds. Yet somehow, it is still among the most impoverished places of the world. The money so generously given was horrendously mismanaged, perpetuating ongoing poverty instead of helping it.
Giving is an irreplaceable aspect to “loving our neighbors”—especially when responding to disasters such as this. Yet as we grow in our passion for giving, it’s vitally important that we use discernment regarding we give. We want to give to organizations with financial integrity, a quality sadly difficult to find. Many popular charities use just fractions on the dollar for actual relief work. Between dishonesty, waste, or a combination of the two, money that could be used for MUCH good is not utilized effectively.
Outside of financial integrity, it’s also important to donate to organizations that are invested in longterm and culturally sensitive solutions. A well might be dug, but if the locals aren’t trained to maintain it, it will inevitably fall into disrepair and consequentially become useless. A school might be built, but classrooms will remain empty if children have the burden of working for their families survival. In the instance of Haiti, kind-hearted people met a short-term need by donating vast amounts of clothing. But the excessive donations destroyed what used to be a thriving textile industry, causing many to lose their jobs and livelihoods.
Longterm missionary and author David Sills provides a helpful illustration of how a faithful and effective organization works. It cannot be like a tent poll, which holds up a structure for as long as it’s there, but causes total collapse once removed. Effective organizations are like scaffolding, offering necessary support during the construction of a building, without causing over-dependence. When the scaffolding is removed, the building is strong enough to stand alone.
With these considerations in mind, let us consider our response to Haiti. In this moment of devastation we must be filled with compassion! Countless people have lost their homes, health clinics have been demolished, and crops have been destroyed, intensifying the suffering of a people already facing acute material poverty. May our hearts break and our voices be lifted up in urgent prayer for all who have been effected!
In addition to prayer, let our compassion move us to generosity! May we willingly embrace unexpected financial stress for the sake of those facing unexpected crisis. May we joyfully sacrifice our own desires, in order to meet the urgent needs of others.
It’s true that there are always needs we could give to (which is one reason it’s important that we make a regular practice of giving). But there are times when we have to step out of our planning or budget to respond in faith to the Holy Spirit. This is an example of such a time. This is an opportunity to show that the love of God dwells within us, as we love not just in word but in deed.
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18