Have you read When Helping Hurts? It's about how well-meaning Christians, particularly Christians who go on short-term mission trips, unintentionally undermine the very people we are trying to help. It's about how poverty is much more than simply a lack of financial or material resources and that it takes much more than donations and handouts to solve the problem of poverty.
Yet we do have a clear mandate to go--out there--and fill the world with the good news of freedom in our Lord Jesus. It is called the Great Commission.
Ayinza understands that not all of us can be career missionaries. But all of us can do something. In our case it is to nurture a generational relationship with a desperately poor village in Uganda, for the purpose of learning and growing together. I am not being dramatic when I say that Ayinza and the village of Mpongo are co-equals in this relationship. We grow together. There are many ways for you to participate in this adventure that I have found to be existential:
- You can come with us on a trip. Ayinza is a group, not an individual; and it is the group that promises to visit Mpongo twice a year. Some members make one visit, others travel there regularly. The skill sets of a particular group determine the activities of a particular trip. Upcoming trips are posted in the Events drop down menu on the home page.
- You can donate. Money, of course. Also clothing, supplies for career missionaries, school supplies, soccer balls, etc. Please know that a portion of art sales go directly to finance Ayinza.
- You can do research. We have found that most of our good ideas have already been discovered by somebody somewhere, and they may have already gone into action, and they may be doing that action very well. Specifically, once Ayinza decided to provide a source of safe drinking water for the village, research discovered an organization in Austin, TX, Water to Thrive, which has put in hundreds of wells across sub-Saharan Africa. W2T, Ayinza, and Mityana (a Ugandan charity) were able to work together to make it happen in Mpongo.
- Finally, you can get involved in the vision. Ayinza is always looking for a few people who have caught the vision, want to be involved on a long term basis, and who love our friends in the village as much as we do.
There are a lot of Isaiah 58 ministries. That's why we have to be the Isaiah 58 Ministry in Sarasota. The ministry creates opportunities for relationships to develop across cultural, economic, racial, and religious lines. Jesus did it, and we think that we are supposed to also. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter From Birmingham Jail written in 1963, made a most prophetic statement:
"...the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring , forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. I meet young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust."
Dr King also said that Sunday morning from 11:00 to noon is the most segregated hour in the week.
As long as "church" means getting together with people who think, look, and act exactly like me; with no observable difference between us and the consumerist world around us, we will continue to earn the disgust of young people, and be reviled as the hypocrites we are.
There are great rewards for stepping outside of my comfort zone and engaging in conversation with someone who sees the world differently. This On Being episode describes some of them.
So do you know anyone outside of your socio-economic-ethnic group? Well enough to have an honest conversation? Do you want to? Most don't. But if you are the exception, a good place to start is to join us for a lively discussion followed by lunch every Sunday at 10:30 on the campus of Sarasota Christian Church, 2923 Ashton Road, Sarasota, FL. We will be in the big trailer--in the back.
Bridge a Life is one of those niche organizations that is doing something unique. They believe that first of all there is a crisis in the foster care system--something needs to be done. They also believe that while not everyone is called to foster or adopt, everyone can do something. BaL has chipped away at the unholy mountain that is foster care by doing things like babysitting, mowing lawns, fixing dinner, painting, etc. They also provide training and counseling for foster and adoptive families. And they have a vision. They are going to fix the foster care system. I know the people who are Bridge a Life. I believe they are the ones to do it.