Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Compassion needs no money

I think I’ve been spoiled. Other people would say that I’ve been blessed. Whatever the case may be, I realised this again on Saturday. On Friday and Saturday I was invited to an AIDS conference held in Mamelodi, a very big township to the east of Pretoria. The aim was to get pastors of the Uniting Reformed Church motivated to do something about HIV and AIDS in their own communities. I was asked to speak on Saturday morning and I asked Mrs Thembi Shongwe, in charge of training our caregivers, to accompany me. We agreed that I would start by sharing the story of our home-based caring project and that she would then give more detail on how we train the volunteers and what we expect them to do.
I started by showing a short video clip about our work (available on Youtube at http://tinyurl.com/bom9hy ) and then continued by telling them how God had brought us to the point where we were convinced that we could no longer turn our backs on those living with HIV and AIDS. If you haven’t read this story yet, do yourself a favour and read it at http://tinyurl.com/bjpvbb.
After we had finished our session, the meeting broke up into smaller groups to discuss various topics and I joined those who showed an interest in starting with home-based caring in their communities. And it was at this point that I realised the miracle that had happened in Swaziland.
I’ve been in Swaziland now for more than 24 years. One of the biggest frustrations that I’ve had to cope with is that everything that was planned was linked to money. It’s not as if it was the first time that I tried to motivate people to do something voluntarily when we started with our AIDS project. But in the past, regardless of what I wanted to do, the first question that was always asked was: Where will we get money to do this? And if I couldn’t answer this question, then nobody was interested to get involved. Things changed when the AIDS project started. I’m not sure what it is that changed them (apart from the Holy Spirit!) But somehow something happened to motivate them to do something for others without expecting anything in return.
Coming back to Saturday’s workshops: As we sat in a group, the first question that was asked (wait for it!) was: “What can we do to collect money to start with home-based caring?” And this was the main topic for at least fifteen minutes; trying to make plans to collect money so that they could also start taking care of others. This went on for some time, until I asked the question what it would cost someone to visit the home of a neighbour and show compassionate love to that person. The whole group agreed that this would not cost anything. Then I asked the second question: What would it cost to motivate fifty church members to show compassionate love to two neighbours each. And again they agreed that it would not cost anything.
At this point I challenged them to forget about starting big projects and collecting money. Start by preaching about God’s compassionate love and giving examples of how church members can follow Jesus’ example. And then motivate them to start doing this in practice. Of course, with the church leader setting the example.
Whether this will happen, remains to be seen. But I am convinced that money (or rather, the lack of it) cannot become the stumbling block which prevents us from showing love towards our neighbours. Money makes many things easier. Money enables ministries such as ours to work more effectively and on a larger scale. But I sincerely believe that, if all sources of finances should stop, that we will still be able to continue with the work we are doing.

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Monday, February 16, 2009 - Posted by | AIDS, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Dependency, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Meetings, Mission, Poverty, Social issues, Sustainability, Swaziland, Theology

3 Comments »

  1. This is an encouraging post. It is hard to motivate others to do ministry when money is the motivating factor….It shouldn’t be this way….

    Comment by Michelle | Monday, February 16, 2009 | Reply

  2. A fascinating account, and thanks for whoever wrote it. This is part of our emphasis at http://www.vulnerablemission.com.

    Comment by Jim Harries | Tuesday, February 17, 2009 | Reply

  3. Jim, I had a look at your website. I agree with what you are doing, but only to a certain extent. The reality with which we are faced cannot be addressed without money. When people are literally dying of hunger or when people are dying because of the lack of basic medication, etc, then we cannot, as Christians, keep on saying that these people have to make do without funds from outside. The point I was trying to make is that we can do much, without having to pay out any money. In other words, we don’t need money to start caring for others. But as money becomes available, so the focus of our caring will change.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, February 18, 2009 | Reply


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