Friday, July 10, 2009

The second reply

Dear Rachael,

Thanks again for your reply and I have to say – they’re big issues that you’re dealing with – as well as ones that I relate to. I find it very hard. Like you, in Nepal, I’d feel guilty about buying a packet of biscuits for 50 rupees ($1) when I knew there were children living next door who were so hungry they’d eat our leftover mango skins. I’d constantly wonder about whether I was using our resources in good and godly ways. In my dilemmas at the grocery shop though, I think there were two issues at stake. Not only were we surrounded by extreme poverty but we were also reliant on supporters at home for our own wage. So, I think I struggled with two types of guilt – firstly for having inherent wealth amidst poverty – and secondly for being responsible and accountable with other people’s sacrificial giving. And both would plague me and keep me awake at nights. But yes, your questions are good – was it true guilt, that needed dealing with through repentance or was it in fact a heavy burden that we needed to carry (and that God would help us carry)?

And now, years later, I’m not sure I have any more answers. I think serving God in countries without social security systems or government handouts is incredibly challenging. We’re faced with physical need on our doorsteps every single day. If it’s not the hungry children next door, it’s the lady who says a fire destroyed everything or the man handing us a note saying he has no tongue and no income. And every day is the same – the challenge to respond well … so that our words and actions show that we believe in him. It’s so difficult. And even when we feel okay about it ourselves – about the use of our resources and the balance between word and deed, we’re still left with all those complexities that you mention – whether local people are becoming rice Christians for what they think they can get out of it (or us).

For me, I think I would deal with my wealth ‘guilt’ by trying to make good choices. I can only love a few, or help a few, I’d say to myself. We can only train a few. We can only do very little – but trust that God can do very great things – and he’s put us in certain places for a time and a purpose. For us, it was the training and serving and listening that led to all the opportunities to share the gospel. And that was an incredible privilege.

But my supporter guilt? Well, that was years of working through issues within myself. I’d question why I was writing certain stories in the newsletters. Was I trying to prove that we were doing something worthwhile for the gospel – or was I genuinely wanting to share the amazing ways God was at work? And maybe our motives are always mixed, but I think for us, it made a difference when our supporters were genuinely wanting to free us up to please God. They weren’t asking for ‘souls for dollars’ results, and then we were able to enjoy that freedom and stay open to all the ways God might work.

And now of course, I’m back in Australia and seeing that the lessons here are the same – the challenge for us to use our gifts and resources and opportunities in ways that honour him, rather than in ways that draw attention to ourselves. It’s an ongoing issue …

Love Naomi


Prue said...

Is it valid to think that God provided the money for the packet of biscuits, and that the money would be paying the shopkeeper's wage... surely then you are helping keep them out of poverty too?

Rachael said...

Hi Prue and thanks for your comment.

I think we definitely have to keep in mind that God provided the money and ultimately that it still belongs to him. When I think like this it makes me tremble all the more…

So imagine I have money for a packet of biscuits.
I could instead buy a packet of rice for a needy family, and the money is still spent at the store.
Or I could give it away, either to the shopkeeper or to a needy family, which would help them out of poverty more quickly.
Or I could buy the biscuits.

It's always going to be more helpful for others if we make sacrifices and don't buy this, that or the other for ourselves. The question we have to struggle with individually is how much should we spend and how much should we give.

Rachael said...

and Prue, if I haven't understood what you were getting at, let me know...

Prue said...

No that's a great point Rachael. Thanks.