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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Power in Your Hand

By Randy Hurst
Nov. 24, 2013

Editor’s note: As we count our blessings this Thanksgiving, it is also important to consider those who are in great need. We should not feel guilty about what God has given us. But we should be thankful, and we must remember the poor and needy, both physically and spiritually.

As blessed as so many of us are in the U.S., it is difficult to grasp that most families in the world spend the majority of their incomes just to buy food. Their greatest challenge in life is simply having enough to eat. They don’t think — let alone dream — of a better tomorrow. Born into a prison of poverty, they serve a life sentence of constant need.

Having traveled to more than 80 countries in the past 16 years, I have seen the devastating effects of poverty almost everywhere. The sights, sounds and smells of places where the poor live defy description.

In Mexico City, I trudged through a seemingly endless garbage dump covering scores of acres. Scattered throughout the dump were makeshift shacks where families survived by scavenging through mountains of trash. The stench was overwhelming. Hundreds of thousands of people migrate from poor rural areas to the city, trying to escape village poverty. Once there, they have no means — or will — to return, so they struggle to exist in unspeakable squalor.

In the shameful East African slums of Mathare Valley, a collection of villages just outside Nairobi, Kenya, 250,000 people live in revolting filth. Shacks made of tin, mud and wood line the dirt road. Children comb through trash heaps for food and drink water from an open sewer that trickles like a dying stream. Desperate for food, they resort to thievery and violence and the unthinkable; girls as young as 10 turn to prostitution.

On my first visit to Mathare Valley in 1998, Hal Donaldson, president of Convoy of Hope and then editor of the Pentecostal Evangel, accompanied me. Our conversation on the flight back home led to a partnership between Assemblies of God World Missions and Convoy of Hope to feed the hungry in multiple needy areas of the world.

As I witness desperate needs firsthand in so many places, I confront a spiritual issue: Can a follower of Christ be aware of fellow human beings in such great need and do nothing?

The apostle James, the earthly brother of Jesus, wrote: “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” (James 2:15,16, NASB).

As in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Spirit of Christ within us does not permit us to “pass by on the other side” when someone is in need. If we do, it reveals something tragic about the character of our hearts.

When we are used to comfort or abundance, we can easily forget that others are hungry and suffering. And when we face struggles and needs, especially in today’s economy, it’s easy to forget that multiplied millions of people are in far greater need than we are. Strangely enough, it’s easy to forget the poor no matter what our condition — whether we are financially secure or in great need.

God’s Word commands, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so” (Proverbs 3:27, NKJV). What God has placed in our hands is not just for our benefit. Some of what we have is “due” to others who need it even more than we do.

The power of good in our hands can be extended by the network of churches and ministries with which we are connected. Working together with our Assemblies of God congregations enables us to provide food, clean water, protection from life-threatening disease, and medical care efficiently and effectively.

Because we join together to make a difference in the lives of those in desperate need, greater good can be extended for very little cost, enabling each of us to help those in desperate need. Following are a few examples:

In Africa a child dies every minute from diseases cause by contaminated water. Only $4 will provide one person with clean water for a decade or more by sharing  in the cost of drilling a well through Africa Oasis Project, a ministry of AG World Missions.

For only $5 a small family can be provided with a large mosquito net and receive protection from malaria, a disease that kills more than 800,000 people in Africa every year.

Through Convoy of Hope’s “One Day to Feed the World” initiative, more than 125,000 children in 11 countries receive nutritious meals and clean drinking water for about 30 cents a day per child.

AGWM HealthCare Ministries provides medical treatment in more than 80 countries for an average cost of just $9 per person.

The Church is God’s ordained agency for reaching the lost and touching the suffering. AG World Missions and its partnering ministries are committed to being channels of God’s life and blessing. This enables the Fellowship to accomplish together what we can’t do separately — providing “the long reach” between caring hearts in America and desperate needs around the world.

Physical poverty is devastating, but the most destructive poverty of all is spiritual. Feeding the poor and caring for the suffering are both kind and Christian.

But if we must choose between ministering to physical needs alone or doing so while presenting the gospel and providing a spiritual family where people can grow in Christ, the choice is clear. We must always try, in some way, to share the good news about Jesus and connect people with a local church.

Historically, many churches and missions organizations have diluted their purpose and become advocates of mere social reform at the exclusion of proclaiming the gospel. But we believe Jesus’ words: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

We are called to do more than feed the hungry and care for the suffering. We are also called to share the good news of Jesus. Unless the needs of a person’s eternal soul are addressed, any effort to meet his or her physical and social needs is incomplete and temporary. When we serve the poor and needy, we can make a difference in their lives — not only now, but for eternity.

The challenge of Proverbs 3:27 is clear: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so.” How do we “withhold” good from someone? Simply by not releasing it from our hands.

Power is in your hand to do great good, both in your community and around the world. The power of good for those to whom it is due is in your hand — if your heart will move you to release it.

 RANDY HURST is director of AGWM Communications.


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