Especially this time of year, you probably hear about programs like Operation Christmas Child. Churches all over the country gather and pack boxes of Christmas gifts to ship to kids in the developing world. They contain everything from stuffed animals and toys to practical things like toothbrushes. Last year alone, OCC collected over 9 million boxes.
At the same time, a missionary pastor who lived and worked in Zambia posted her experience from the other side. The churches in her area were some of those who receive those boxes. She shared that the pastors were angry because, in order to receive the boxes, they had to raise the equivalent of $4,000 to get the boxes from customs. And even more problematic was the cost of the boxes for the Americans who packed them. The boxes are around $30 each.
For the cost of the toothbrush included in the box, a child in Zambia could buy 30 toothbrushes. $30 in Zambia would buy enough to feed a family of five for 4 months, 2 breeding goats, or school fees and uniforms for 6 kids for a year.
As the pastor observed, no one had consulted the families – “Would you rather have a box of assorted American goods or would you rather send all of your kids to school this year?”
Probably not hard to guess the answer to that question.
The pastor’s blog post was widely circulated because it presses us to ask some tough questions about how we serve:
When we serve, are we offering aid that is truly useful, aid that respects the person we’re aiding? Or are we serving mainly to make ourselves feel better?
In other words, is our serving selfish, or selfless?
As we dream about what’s next for Catalyst, we want to ask how we can serve our community and our world in ways that honor others.