Why Donate There, and not Here?

In response to my last post, I had a very legitimate question asked: Why donate to World Vision, presumably overseas, when there are so many people in America that are in need?

(My response ended up being longer than most of my posts, so I decided to make it its own post. I thought it would be easier to read that way. I’ll say right up front that Laura Tremaine has already said all this better than I can).

First, you can have it both ways. There are several World Vision operations within the United States. For example, this entire section deals with US-based needs: school supplies, food, general toiletries and necessities. And there’s no conflict between supporting local charities and international ones.

But I don’t want to dodge the question. The bottom line is, $500 is not a life-changing amount of money in the U.S. Not for anyone. But it is life-changing for people in Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, or Uzbekistan, where it represents four months’ wages for the average worker … and the aid often goes to those who are not average, but in the greatest need.

Through an operation like World Vision, $500 can be the difference between clean water and contaminated water (Americans don’t have to worry about their children dying because they drank unsanitary water and contracted cholera), education and child labor (Americans don’t work full-time at age 8) or even child marriage or slavery. Here, $500 is nice. It’s a decent laptop, an iPad, or a couple of semester’s worth of college textbooks. There, it’s enough to change lives.

The magnitude of impact of a limited sum of money is so much greater where the need is greater, that it just makes sense. I don’t think, from a Christian perspective, that Americans have more intrinsic value than people in other nations.

And the need is so much greater there. We live in a fairly well-developed welfare state, one where emergency rooms have to treat anyone who comes in, regardless of ability to pay. One where WIC gives food to pregnant mothers and mothers with children. One where food stamps and unemployment insurance and social security and medicare and medicaid all provide a certain level of mandated support.

Yes, life is hard at that level, but there is clean water, free and mandatory public schooling for children, prohibitions on child labor, no significant threat of malaria or cholera, and food available. “Hunger,” as defined in the United States, is nothing like the life-and-death starvation that faces many of the poorest of the poor in developing nations. It’s a cliche, but it’s worth noticing: in America, the poor are disproportionately obese, not rail-thin.

The impact is greatest where the need is greatest. And that’s there, not here.


I Bought a Donkey!

A Curious Donkey by Kenneth Allen, Creative Commons

A Curious Donkey by Kenneth Allen, Creative Commons

For those of you who don’t know, I love donkeys. Specifically the short-legged, fat-bellied burros folks around here keep in their horse pens to scare the coyotes away. I have been teasing Katherine that we need to buy a burro (“I will call him ‘Burrito’”) for four or five years now.

Her responses have been, to date, negative. I guess one of us has to be the responsible adult.

Well, I’ve finally done it. I went behind her back and bought a donkey! I had a decent sum of mad money[1] put together, so I went online and bought one. It was only $225.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Tim, you live in the city! It isn’t even legal for you to keep a donkey on your property.  And besides, donkeys are not known to get along well with wild dogs, and your dogs are badly-trained enough to almost qualify.”

Donkey Eating

Photo by 4028mdk09, Creative Commons

True, true, but herein lies the genius of my plan! Not only did I finally get to buy my donkey, I don’t even have to take care of it!

I don’t have to corral the donkey, feed the donkey, or clean up after the donkey. This is a 100% responsibility-free donkey!

You see, I bought this donkey through World Vision. They will deliver the donkey to a family in a  lesser-developed nation who will feed the donkey, care for the donkey, cherish the donkey, and use the donkey for meaningful work. This donkey will help a family beat cycles of poverty. It will help the parents do the work so the children can go to school.

And Katherine? She was actually quite pleased that I bought the donkey. Go figure.

Donkey grazing

Photo by 4028mdk09, Creative Commons

1) Mad money has been a great key to our marriage. We each get a certain amount per month, which accumulates. We add to this sum any birthday or Christmas gift money we receive. We make unnecessary purchases from this fund: books, music, video games, leisure-type clothes, guns, DVD’s, etc.

This is perfect if one of the couple has a hobby that includes infrequent, relatively-expensive purchases (like video game systems, musical instruments, antiques, reproduction weapons, hunting guns, artwork, etc.).

This way, that partner never has to beg for permission to buy that new ____. If s/he has the mad money, s/he can buy whatever it is. If not, s/he keeps saving until s/he does.

Our Mad Money system has kept unnecessary spending under control, and kept either of us from feeling resentful about what is and isn’t being spent. I’m not sure where we got the idea for this.  I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of it.

We don’t usually do our charitable giving out of Mad Money, but I had $400, and I sort of got a ‘word’ from God that I wasn’t supposed to keep it. I looked around for a high-impact local opportunity, but I didn’t find one that felt right. World Vision did.

I guess $400 isn’t a life-changing amount of money here in America, with only my contact network. But in a developing nation, a dollar goes farther, and World Vision can really stretch those donations. I encourage you to check them out, if you haven’t.

On Black Friday, I’m Thankful For…

Thank You

Photo by VistaMommy, Creative Commons

The things that money can’t buy:

* The love of my wife

* The daughter we have “on the way”

* The freedom to NOT get up at 5 am and rush the sales

* Friends I can rely on, including my church family

* Parents I love dearly, who love me dearly, and who raised me well

* In-laws that I love, not hate!

* A wonderful extended family

* Most of all, for the love and grace of our Triune God: a Heavenly Father, a Messiah Son, and a Holy Spirit

I’m also thankful for the things money can buy, things so many in the world don’t have:

* Clean water

* A steady supply of food (more than I need, by far)

* A house that’s safe and sanitary

* Indoor plumbing

* A nation that’s not a war zone, torture state, or dictatorship

* Vaccinations and modern health care

I’m thankful that my daughter won’t face a tooth-and-claw struggle to survive her first year. I’m thankful that U.S. infant mortality rates are low, instead of 25-50%, like some people face.

I’m thankful that organizations like World Vision and Kiva give me a chance to help people who don’t have what we have.