I play music for a living. I love listening to music—Travis, Keane, David Crowder—I love them all. Britney Spears? Not so much. Yesterday, I impulsively purchased a newspaper (large sheets of paper with the latest news inked on the surface, so 1980s). There on the front page was an article about how Britney spends her income. Is that really a front-page worthy story? But I admit, I couldn’t look away; I was captivated.
Britney spends more than $16k on clothes. Over $100k is spent on entertainment and gifts. She tosses $500 to charity and mission organizations. It seems crazy! As much as I’d love to rip Britney, the truth is, she is American. She spends her money like you and I do. In America we spend on ourselves, and though her scale of spending may be different, she’s a lot like each of us.
I should say this: As I’ve traveled over the last year to college campuses, I’ve never been more inspired by students who are hearing the call of the gospel to live beyond themselves. I want this write-up by an unqualified writer, who admittedly reads newspaper articles on Britney, to serve as encouragement to keep up the good work.
There are a few foundational things that will help guide our outlook on faith and mission. For a lot of us, not knowing where to begin keeps us from giving of ourselves to those in need. Being aware of needs and injustice in our own communities and around the world is the first step. From there, a willingness to act on behalf of those in need, combined with God’s strength, is all that empowers us to serve.
Most of us agree, the gospel calls us to live for more than just our needs and desires. Several areas of focus are currently bringing great and radical change on behalf of the poor and oppressed.
Children in Need
Millions of kids worldwide have been abandoned, sold into slavery, or are simply in desperate need of help. About eight years ago, my wife and I began sponsoring a child, and we’ve never been the same. A little girl named Annet, living in poverty in Uganda, now has hope for a healthy and better life because we choose to give her a certain amount of money each month.
Child sponsorship is the best place to begin in helping children. Compassion International (compassion.com) is the leader in child sponsorship and provides education, food, and medical care, working alongside local churches in towns and villages around the world.
A child dies every 15 seconds from water-related disease. We can do something about this. My brother Chris recently led a group from our church to Liberia to look for communities who are in desperate need of clean water. They met a village chief whose children died from malaria caused by contaminated water. When asked what a new well with clean water would mean to his people, he responded, “It would be heaven coming right down to us on earth.”
Read about Living Water International and Blood:Water Mission and find out how you can join them in providing clean drinking water for communities where dirty water kills their youth every day. We can reverse this. I believe that as followers of Christ, the sharing of the gospel cannot precede providing clean water. This is the most basic human need and we can all be a part of making it available to everyone, one well at a time.
There must be a strong belief in empowering others as we serve the poor, not just merely contributing to a cycle of welfare and dependence that has plagued the poor in this country and around the world.
Muhammed Yunus lived in Bangladesh teaching economics at a prestigious university, and yet could not ignore the extreme poverty that was consuming his country. In a country where women and children had little hope of escaping poverty, Yunus chose to believe otherwise. He helped start Grameen Bank.
Today the bank gives loans to nearly seven million poor people, 97 percent of whom are women, in 73,000 villages in Bangladesh. Grameen Bank gives collateral-free, income generating housing, and student and microenterprise loans to poor families. The bank also offers a host of attractive savings, pension funds, and insurance products for its members. Since the bank introduced them in 1984, housing loans have been used to construct 640,000 houses. The legal ownership of these houses belongs to the women themselves. Yunus was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
You can get involved today in microenterprise endeavors like Yunus’. Heifer International enables the purchase of farm animals to be given to individuals living in poverty. A cow or goat, believe it or not, can change the course of a family forever. ServLife International and Compassion International also engage in microenterprise efforts that are worth researching.
Though the need outside of the United States is drastically greater than here at home, don’t forget to be aware of the need in your community. Seek a local church that engages the community in these ways and put yourself in the middle of those efforts. Habitat for Humanity and local homeless shelters are also good volunteer options.
Thanks for letting me share some thoughts on our global mission and call to be involved in serving the poor and oppressed. I leave you with this charge from Psalm 82 that should lead our efforts and discussions on the gospel and service to the poor:
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Ps. 82:3-4, NIV
This article originally appeared in Collegiate magazine.