Picture this, a town in an arid dry region on Northern Africa, water is scarce and the area poorer than you can imagine. Everyone who can has already fled to the richer towns and cities looking for work leaving behind young children, women and old people. There seems to be little hope. Food is scarce hope seems scarcer still.
Then comes along a group of travellers who bring gifts from the children of their countries and start giving them out to the poor children in the town. It is like manna from heaven and the children are excited and happy.
The older folk get to hear and come along to see. The Elders talk they are not happy that their children should get things for free but it is difficult to say no. Times are hard and they are poor.
The travellers talk to the elders and say they are only there to help. The Elders nod, uncomfortable but in the light of such simple pleasures it seems churlish to send the travellers away.
The travellers say they would like to stay and help educate the children to become doctors and teachers and skilled workers who will help the impoverished community. The elders nod and say this would be a good idea because it is good. But what the elders do not realise is that their children, their future and their culture will be pushed aside and in return for providing this bounty the travellers will demand that the children become good Muslims. All because of a gift some children in a Muslim country thought they would like to share with others less fortunate themselves.
It’s only a story but it seems pretty scary to take advantage like that.
But what if I said that a Christian Charity looks to be doing the same thing in that it offers relief to peoples all round the world and then peddles its beliefs to the very people it has just helped whether they are Christian or not? Isn’t that taking advantage? Doesn’t it make you worry? What if I said it is happening now and that last year I participated in this unknowingly. What do you say then? Is it shocking still?
The web site for Operation Christmas Child with it’s shoebox appeal says quite rightly that “religious items are not on our suggested list of gifts to put into a shoebox, as we want to be sensitive to the indigenous culture where shoeboxes are distributed and we also want to place an emphasis on education and fun. However, we welcome appropriate items such as Christmas cards or Christmas colouring books”
It adds that: “Christian literature is sometimes distributed with the shoebox.”
However, on the web site for Samaritan’s Purse the charity behind Operation Christmas Child things start to get me concerned. Samaritans Purse says it is inspired by the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), which it says gives a clear picture of God's desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we find them. After describing how the Samaritan rescued a hurting man whom others had passed by, Jesus told His hearers, "Go and do likewise."
Samaritan’s Purse has done so in it’s own way for over 35 years, it says it has “done our utmost to follow Christ's command by going to the aid of the world's poor, sick, and suffering. We are an effective means of reaching hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, earns us a hearing for the Gospel, the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ.”
OK I can just about cope with that but it starts to make me uncomfortable. I explore the web site further and I read about Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, who heads up the charity. He has recently visited Asia and wrote in a Newsletter about his trip.
“In the Philippines, where typhoons brought floodwaters so high that people were forced to their roofs for safety, we worked hand-in-hand with the country’s Operation Christmas Child leadership team to bring emergency aid to over 70,000 people. More than 350 local believers were mobilized to distribute supplies alongside our staff. In some areas, flooding left thick, knee-deep mud in many houses. With our support, church volunteers did the back-breaking work of removing the muck and debris, so families could move back home.
“Our motivation is not just to help people,” said a volunteer. “We want them to see the Savior.”
By now I am very concerned. I continued to read.
“When the Indonesian city of Padang was rocked by two powerful earthquakes, Christians traveled from towns several hours away to work with our team to provide relief. They loaded trucks with food and other supplies and drove through the night to reach the affected communities.
Padang has a long tradition of hostility to the Gospel. In fact, many of the residents are proud that there is no church in the area. Our partners, however, are committed to bringing the light of Christ to this dark place.”
I am not saying that Samaritan’s Purse is not helping an awful lot of people. I know it is but I just wish they had made it perfectly clear that the shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child were used as a conduit to further their evangelical aims.
I am sorry I do not like to feel used. I do not want my children to be used to further an evangelical organisation whose aims are to bring the gospel to the indigenous locals even if they do not want it. It’s not just evangelical Christians it’s any religious groups Muslims, Hindus and jews.
I have an awful feeling I am going to be slammed for this post and I have no wish to unduly upset people. I prefer to have a clear view about the charities I support.
I am not doing a shoebox this year instead my family is giving a goat through Oxfam Unwrapped one that will last far longer than just one day.