Back in my Jesus freak days I went abroad with other teens of my church to build a Vacation Bible School at St. Vincent, West Indies with the missionary the church supported there. My friends and I were feeling pretty proud at how we were able to bring the love of God to the kids in the area and felt pity for the delapidated conditions where they lived. During one of our evening meals that me and my friends and the missionary ate on the porch of the missionary’s house, a few of the neighborhood kids came by and stood below our porch. The missionary warned us to not give them food because they would only bring their friends. And my first thought was “What the heck are we doing here? How can we give them glitter and tell them Jesus loves them while ignoring their most basic need for survival, food?!” That was the first time that my religious bubble tore and I began to see the humanity of others outside of it. I saw that perspective of my godly world was not as perfect as I thought.
Now much wiser with increased worldly knowledge I wonder if many programs designed to teach God to the poorer communities are much like the one I participated in many years ago. Giving glitter to children and telling them that the afterlife will be better because they will spend it with Jesus who loves them. However, ignoring the deficiencies of their most basic needs. Refusing to give resources for those needs out of fear they will just tell their friends who will show up expecting handouts.
To all the churches out there: If they show up hungry, feed them. If they show up with threadbare and ill-fit clothing, clothe them. Take care of those basic needs first. Show God’s love through real actions of giving. We thank God for the blessings he gives us by giving to others. We give because God gave us the ability to give. Don’t just give them glitter and a fun time. Don’t just teach them songs of praise. Don’t just tell them that their life will be better in the afterlife, make it better for them now.