For me, charity isn't about just 'helping' people. The question is not how much I can do or give, but how I can effectively help those who are struggling in some aspect of life to help themselves - with God's help.
Often, 'charity work' or aid work does more harm than good to the very people or community they are trying to help. For example, when a youth group embarks on a 'building project', their well-meaning intention to build a school or clinic actually takes away the jobs of the local people - who I daresay could get the job done a lot faster. Aid without a long-range plan or a tight focus will actually disempower - in the long run - the very people it is trying to help. They begin to think & feel like they can't or don't have to do it themselves.
So the question for me is, how can I more effectively help if I want to help a person or a group of people? It takes time to think of something worth putting into action, so it's no use rushing to do things just for the sake of it. It takes commitment and the hard work of building relationships. Perhaps the first thing is to find local people - young people - who have the potential and the passion to do something about their life as well as the future of their village, town, city or nation. Now this is hard. We could just plunge ahead and pat ourselves on the back for doing a good work, or we could take a step back, really honestly assess the situation and the long-term needs, make the effort to connect with capable individuals, and invest our efforts in one or two persons who have the power to turn their communities around with your encouragement, support and discipleship.
So 'helping', for me, isn't just about doing something nice. It isn't just about trying to fill the endless black hole of need and suffering. It's about discipling others, mentoring, making and growing leaders, helping others to find their God-given niche and destiny. Yes, to others and to the world, it might often seem like you're not doing anything 'big' or affecting any useful or immediate 'change'. But that doesn't matter - what they think. In the end, God himself is concerned about the individual.
Jesus didn't try to disciple the whole world. He chose the Twelve. He did many things, but he focused on training them, teaching them, growing them, leading them, encouraging them. And these guys ended up affecting the whole world. This is the model we have been ignoring for far too long in pursuit of more glamourous posts and quicker results. Are we looking for 'results' or are we concerned about the change of heart and mindset? Because the latter is the true catalyst.
~ J a n i e ll e