Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 15, 2004


No substitute for personal displays of love


          Our church sent 17 people as a missions work team to Ecuador in July. Another team of 16 persons spent 10 days working at a mission station in the Dominican Republic.

          The two trips cost several thousands of dollars. This money could have purchased a ton of food, medicine, and clothing for needy people in these impoverished countries.

          This raises a question even in the minds of the people who go on these trips: Would it be wiser to send money since it costs so much to send people? It is a good question.

          I think I know the right answer even though some of my good friends disagree with me. It is best to send people despite the high cost of travel. Let me explain why.

          Going to the mission field will change your life. That is the best argument for sending people. When you see firsthand the wretched conditions in which millions are living, you are never the same.

          I know because it happened to me. I had never been out of the country before my wife and I visited missions work in 25 other countries. Seeing with my own eyes how people live, or survive, in “Third World” nations was a rude awakening.

          I am still haunted by the sight of “untouchable” children in India and Nepal. Our guide warned us: “Do not give a child even a stick of gum or a piece of candy unless you are ready to face a hundred other children begging you for a handout.”

          I stepped over the bodies of the dead on the sidewalks in Calcutta. People there become accustomed to such sights. Sick, hungry, starving people are everywhere, with no one to care for them.

          We stopped one day on a day’s journey into the countryside out from New Delhi. There being no restaurants along the way, we had prepared box lunches for our group. About noon we stopped in the shade of a cluster of trees to eat.

          As we began to eat we noticed that we were suddenly surrounded by dozens of people who kept a safe distance away, watching us. I asked why. Our guide explained, “They are waiting for us to leave so they can eat whatever we leave behind.” Suddenly, we lost our appetite. We simply closed the boxes, put them on the ground, and drove away. I can still see those people rushing toward those boxes to eat our scraps.

          What I saw in Haiti, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Ecuador was equally life-changing. Touching the lives of the poor in such places gives you a new appreciation for the conveniences we enjoy in America. One teenager said after helping to build a simple home for a poor family in Mexico, “I am so glad I went. I had not known there were people living in the world without a toilet. I realized how much we take for granted.”

        Always someone will say, “We have poor people in America, and we should take care of them. Charity begins at home.” We do have poverty in our country. We should help the poor wherever they are. Having said that, however, we should remember that America is not a Third World nation.

       Very few of the thirty thousand people who starve to death daily are residents of the United States. We are a blessed nation, and blessed, I believe, because we have since our beginning been a nation that honors God.

We do not do that perfectly of course, but our motto is still a great goal: “In God We Trust.”

       Another excellent reason for sending people on missions work teams is the friendships that develop. My life has been immeasurably blessed by friends in other lands whose language I cannot speak, though we share the common language of love. Through relationships of mutual respect we can do more good over the long haul than we can ever do simply by sending a check.

          Here is a way to look at the question. A friend is in need, in a life or death situation. I can send him a donation or I can go to him and offer a helping hand. I can eat at his table, care about his family, and share my heart with him. I can laugh and cry with him. I can embrace him with loving encouragement and hope. Best of all, I can return home knowing I have made a difference. If I had sent a check, I would never be sure how the money was spent and for what purpose.

          The bottom line is this: Money can help, but caring people can always do more than money can do. Love, after all, is more important than money. People can survive without money. They cannot survive without love. + + + +