Monday, January 26, 2009

Responsible Charity: Book Review

I hadn't heard the term "responsible charity" until I got out of college. I had always assumed that you were a responsible citizen when you gave to charities. One very influential book challenged my thoughts on this. At the time the book was published under the name and you call yourself a Christian - Toward responsible charity by Dr. Robert Lupton. It is now published under the title of Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life - Rethinking Ministry to the Poor.

In this book Lupton points out an often overlooked consequence of charity: charity can actually take more from those we seek to help than it gives. When we are in the business of charity, it is in the best interest of that business to always have clients, "the poor". When the poor are no longer poor, there are no jobs in the charity business. Lupton explores the attitudes we must have in order to come along side the poor, to be their neighbor, to stay out of the business of charity and to embrace a life-style of love. Lupton points out that, "Doing for others what they can do for themselves is charity at its worst. We know from 40 years of failed social policy that welfare depletes self-esteem while honorable work produces dignity. We know that reciprocity builds mutual respect while one-way giving brews contempt. Yet we continue to run clothes closets and free food pantries and give-away benevolence accounts and wonder why the joy is missing"

Lupton challenges those with a heart for the poor to not just have compassion on the "least of these" but to use their minds to creatively affirm the value, contribution and responsibility that everyone has. I was reminded that "when [I] do for others what they can do for themselves, [I] cripple them." I must invest in people in a way that doesn't enable them to be poor, but to help them learn how to improve their situations themselves. Yet, Lupton is also realistic in how he views this responsibility that everyone has, "We are equal in neither our capacity nor potential. We are equal only in responsibility." It is an unrealistic to think that everyone has the capability to break the cycle of poverty, yet it is realistic that everyone has a responsibility to work towards that end.

Lupton's final challenge is to live among the poor, to make their problems our problems and to work TOGETHER to break the cycle of poverty while always keeping in mind that we can't ever change people - only God can. We are to follow Christ's example of living among those we want to help and love and in the end point them to Christ.

It's a good book. Check it out.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Do you have enough?

A friend of ours has a shirt that on the front reads, “The answer to poverty is not wealth.” And on the back it states, “The answer to poverty is enough.”

This shirt prompted a discussion based on the question, “How much is enough?” Some stated that it was simple to determine when you have enough – it’s when all your needs are met.
I don’t think that it’s that simple. How do you know when your needs are met? What is the line? Is it the same for everyone? Do you need a college education? Do you need a soft bed? Do you need two cars? Do you need a couch? Do you need to own a home? Do you need a computer? Do you need more than two changes of clothes? Western society says that all of those things are not just needs, but rights that every person has. We have a right to higher education. We have a right to furniture. We have a right to home ownership. We have a right to several changes of clothes, yet many people never have the opportunity for any of these things and they still survive. So is it truly a need?

I understand that this isn’t an easy question to answer. I need work clothes to keep my job. I need a car to get to my job and I need my job to be able to eat. So maybe I do need more than two changes of clothes, but how many changes of clothes is enough? When do I pass from having enough clothes to having an excessive amount of clothes? How new do my clothes have to be? How much should I pay for them?

This is a constant struggle for me. I hate shopping because I stand in the store debating if I need this item or not. The closest thing I have to an answer is to live simply. To own only what I use and make do with what I have. It’s not easy and I really WANT a new digital camera… but I am not sure I need one.

I would like to hear from you. Have you come across something that you found you could live without? Have you cut back on anything because you had to wanted to and found that it really worked out? Have you cut something that you realized was a mistake (like heat or car insurance)? Please leave a comment and let us know what works or doesn’t work for you.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Child Hunger

923 million people across the world are hungry.

Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes - one child every five seconds. (Bread for the World.)

I was going to look up more statistics, but I don't think that I have to - one child every five seconds.

Here are several ways that you can help.

Sponsor a Child.
There are several organizations that let you sponsor a specific child in a specific country. I am most familiar with World Vision. For $30 a month you can sponsor a child living in poverty. For $35 a month you can sponsor a child living in poverty in a community severely affected by HIV/AIDS. When you sponsor a child through World Vision you are providing clean water, heath care, educational opportunities, nutritious food, and spiritual training. World Vision has an excellent track record of financial responsibility. 86% of the funds go directly to the children and families. The other 14% goes to fund raising and administrative costs. They received a 4 star (out of 4 stars) rating from Charity Navigator.

You can also sponsor a child through Compassion International. For $32 a month you will provide a child clean water, heath care, educational opportunities, nutritious food, life-skill training and spiritual training. Compassion International also has an excellent financial track record. 83% of the funds go directly to the children and they also received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator.

International Child Care. This organization only got a 2 star rating and from what I can tell it's because they don't have the financial tools to sustain long-term growth. This could change with the right gifts. I have heard good things about this organization from people who work with them. For $21 a month you will provide a child with food, education and medical care.

Give to Relief Organizations.

Bread for the World. 4 star rating.
They look for ways to stop the causes of hunger in the U.S. and around the world.

CAMA Services. 4 star rating.
"CAMA provides a variety of relief and development ministries that flesh out the good news of God’s love for people—body and soul."

Samaritan's Purse. 4 star rating.
They provide emergency relief, community development and seek to "reach hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ."

Please consider sponsoring a child. Many times these children's lives depend on being sponsored. Please remember that sponsoring a child is a long-term commitment for the life of that child. While you can stop - it will have negative consequences on the child. Most of us can spare $35-70 a month to sponsor one or two children. Please consider it.

600 children died of hunger-related causes in the amount of time it took me to research and write this post.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Welcome to Our Old Shoes. This blog is dedicated to helping people make a difference in this world. I believe that everyone has a responsibility to help those around us; however, I believe that true change comes through Jesus Christ. As Christians we believe that we are called to stand along side those who cannot stand for themselves, we are called to recognize the dignity that every person has in them and we are called to be Christ's presence in this hurting world. This site strives to help people become more aware of the needs of this world and challenge them to act in creative ways to meet those needs.

The name of this blog, Our Old Shoes, comes out of my personal blog, Old, Comfy Shoes. The posts in Old, Comfy Shoes tell about the things in life that bring me joy, laughter and comfort. This blog will focus on things that bring out compassion, tears and hope. I called it Our Old Shoes because we are all in this walk of life together. Some of us are rich, others poor. Some of us are educated and smart and others of us are not. Some of us are hurting and some of us are being healed, but at the end of the day we are all just people. We are people in need of a Savior and our struggles are as old as time. Our Old Shoes wants to point out the hope that every Christian has in our walk through life and the responsibility we have to share that hope with a hurting world.

Here you will find practical ways to give, learn, grow and act. For now posting will be made weekly. Welcome to Our Old Shoes.