This past October I had the privilege of visiting several Adventist schools in Uganda for the organization I volunteer with, FACE (Free African Children thru Education). As I met many of the orphans at these schools, I was struck by how happy they are, how eager they are to go to school, and how grateful they are for assistance.
After the greetings and songs, the two main requests I received were to thank the Canadian donors who sacrifice $10 per month to sponsor each child and to appeal for the hundreds of other orphans who do not get the same opportunity. It was heartwarming to see those smiling children so grateful for help, especially knowing that by sharing their smiles, songs, and stories we were likely to attract more donors. But that thought gave me pause. Does their attitude of gratitude make them more worthy of help?
The voices of many on social media with regard to those in need such as refugees, undocumented immigrants, and other disenfranchised individuals is to first determine their worthiness. I personally think we should follow Jesus’s example, love and encircle them all, and let God sort out the rest on Judgment Day. After all, when it comes to the redemption of humankind, we all fall in the category of unworthy, don’t we?
I am reminded of a single mother who stole a gift so her child would have something to open on Christmas day and grateful that the police officer did not find her unworthy, but instead paid for it out of his own pocket. Or of the mothers incarcerated in British Columbia and the group of Mennonites who sent their children presents in the incarcerated mothers’ names. I am also grateful to have witnessed someone bringing a nice Christmas dinner to an aged homeless woman in Los Angeles. Thank goodness these people saw a person in need and deemed them worthy simply by virtue of being human.
Christmas is that time of year when we express our love by giving gifts. However, I can say that some of my most precious gift-giving memories were when those gifts were given in secret or without expectation of reward or acknowledgement. When determining whether or not someone needs help, don’t worry about whether they are worthy or unworthy. Just help. You won’t regret it.
Stan Jensen is the editor of Canadian Adventist Messenger and communication director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada. In his spare time he serves as director of FACE (Feeding African Children thru Education) charity.
P.S. To find out more about FACE or what you or your church can do to help, email firstname.lastname@example.org.