A couple months ago, I sat in the loft of a wooden barn with about 30 fellow believers and worshipped the Lord. We’d just finished shopping handmade crafts and artwork from Zambia, and my husband bought me a beautiful carved and painted plate for an insanely low price. I thought about the work that went into that plate as my friend Lee started a slide show.
He talked about the fact that much of the country’s population is under the age of 18, because the adults have succumbed to AIDS. He spoke of the plight of the young women–with no mentors, life skills, or direction. And he talked about the drought in Zambia. For the lack of maize, children will die this winter. My friend Lee is always positive, always training, always equipping. The rest of the talk was about the two training centers that his organization, Nesteam, is building and about how for decades Lee and his family have been helping Zambians to lead others to Christ and mentor young men and women into profitable lifestyles. (Imagine a country with few adults! What a travesty!)….
But my mind was stuck on the fact that for the lack of $5 of maize, children will die this winter.
About two weeks ago, I interviewed four young friends for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine. The children have been collecting sleeping bags for the homeless of Portland for the past eight years, and many of the bags to children. Their mom tells me there are lots of babies sleeping beneath our Burnside Bridge.
It broke my heart to think of the children under the bridge, cold and without blankets.
In the books of the prophets, one of the things the Lord admonishes (and then punishes) Israel and Judah for is their lack of social justice. In Micah 6:8, He says:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Jesus later tells us in Matthew 25:34-40 that at the Day of the Lord, we’ll hear this:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
This season, as we turn our hearts toward giving, let’s remember the least of these, and let’s involve our children–out of gratitude for the One who gave us His very life. For our King. Here are a few ways you can help.
Kids Who Need Help Now
- Nesteam International ~ “Transforming people broken by the impacts of poverty, HIV-AIDS, malaria and the resulting turmoil in families has been the focus of Nesteam with its African partners in Zambia.” Nesteam is my friend Lee’s organization. He and his family have poured into remote areas in the nation of Zambia, training young people in ministry and life skills. Nesteam needs donations and also prayer. You can find more frequent prayer updates at the organization’s Facebook page: On Safari for Faith and Healing.
- Sleeping Bags for Jesus ~ This GoFundMe account has been set up for the four siblings I mentioned earlier. They’ve given away over 1,000 sleeping bags so far to the homeless of Portland, Oregon. They work to gather money all year long, and they could use some assistance. Each sleeping bag costs $15, and many will go to adults, but a number of them will bless children. You’ll also be blessing these four siblings as they see fruit for their 8 years of labor. I know this family personally (we lived across the street from each other for over a decade!). I’d be blessed if you would share the GoFundMe campaign page with your friends as well.
- Lifeline Christian Mission ~ Our church has been working with Lifeline for quite a while. In fact, we had a women’s missions group in Haiti during the 2010 earthquake. Every year they return, bringing new shoes and supplies. Lifeline has worked for over 30 years in Haiti, El Salvador, Cuba, Honduras, the Navajo Nation, Canada, and the US. You can sponsor a child (I love the fact that families can pack a shoe box full of gifts each quarter! I recommend always sending a pair of shoes, a deflated soccer ball, and a pump as the balls pop and shoes protect from infection.), donate to their ministries (nutrition, children’s homes, schools, Bible institutes, churches, health care, even help build homes!), and pray.
- Gather and/or donate clothing to foster children, or help sort donations. If your local organization allows Bible donations, gather children’s Bibles.
- Pray! So many children don’t have anyone praying for them.
- Volunteer in your local school. Our church “sponsors” a local school, providing school supplies, gardening, and helping with tutoring services. If you want to help needy local kids, find a low-income school and just show up. They’ll have no problem finding something for you to do!
- Teach the Bible. In my years teaching in Sunday School and AWANA, we never had to turn down volunteers because we had too many. I gave the gospel every week in a few minutes, in addition to the lesson. It’s surprising how many kids don’t know God made them, or God’s plan for salvation.
- Look for needs and fill them. With the changes in the economy, healthcare, and more, many families are silently struggling. Pray for ways to help, and secretly come alongside your neighbors. Single parents, especially, often need help.
A Few Final Thoughts on Giving
- “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” ~ Hebrews 13:16
- “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” ~ 2 Corinthians 9:7
- “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” ~ Acts 20:35
- “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” ~ Matthew 6:1-4
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~ Danika Cooley
Danika Cooley is the author of When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2015), Wonderfully Made (CF4K, 2016), and Bible Road Trip. Her work has been featured in internationally-recognized children's magazines over 150 times.