In fact, Nicholas D. Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times, recently informed us that WORLD VISION is "the nation's largest U.S.-based int'l relief and development organization" -an NGO (non-government org.) with 40,000 staff workers in about 100 countries. "THIS IS LARGER THAN CARE, SAVE THE CHILDREN AND THE WORLDWIDE OPERATIONS OF THE U.S. AGENCY FOR INT'L DEVELOPMENT --COMBINED." He also said that the liberals are making a big error to suggest that faith-based organizations be left out of the loop when it comes to disaster relief, etc. --because they are the ones with the connections "on the ground" around the world because of years of experience in missionary and charity work, disaster relief, etc.
We already know from studies that evangelicals --and the working poor--are the biggest charitable donors in the U.S. to ALL causes. We believe in the tithe and the offering and some of that money goes to local churches, local and foreign missions and some goes to what we call para-church ministries like World Vision, Colson's Prison Fellowship, Salvation Army, and our local Cherry St. Mission and Pregnancy Center.
My family had a lake cottage in Winona Lake, IN as I grew up --i.e. my grandparents retired there first and we stayed with them and then bought the little cottage next door. We attended all the Bible conferences that were held there. So back in the 1950's and 60's I attended the World Vision, Int'l. Convention at Winona Lake(attended by thousands? of evangelicals) and that influence started the awareness in my young heart that there were 3rd world countries with great suffering and that Christ wanted us to help. I remember them showing films of great poverty (which my sister-in-law resented as childhood trauma for her--a word to the wise.)
I wasn't traumatized or depressed by such films, but I was motivated; I would put my allowance in the paper bucket as they passed them for offering collection; I would weigh my selfish interests against the greater need of the world to hear about Christ and receive help. I say this, not to boast of generosity, but to tell you that this ministry has been motivating evangelicals to give to the world's needy since I was a child --and is now come to the world's attention with all these natural disasters. They also support the refugee camps around the world and the author notes they spearhead the fight against AIDS and malaria, work for clean water,etc. They work with foreign church missions from all denominations.
Kristoff criticized some fundamentalist missionaries (I don't know who they were) for inspiring Uganda to pass a bill to punish gays with life imprisonment or execution. (I doubt that such a bill was their intention.) What we need to do instead is continue the abstinence and hetero-marriage-based teachings of God to help young people avoid the activities (sodomy AND promiscuity) that so readily spread AIDS and other STD's. Hatred of sinners is not on the agenda of Jesus Christ --but repentance for sin and teaching God's definitions of sin and righteousness --that IS rightly part of the Christian agenda. I have no problem with passing out sex ed and condoms --but not with a tone of condoning promiscuity as though it were expected of people. With condoms should come the recommendation of pre-marital chastity followed by marital fidelity.
Consider, there would be NO AIDS epidemic if the Biblical model of monogamy and fidelity in marriage were practiced the world over. In fact, we could STOP the epidemic in its tracks by voluntarily practicing Biblical morality. There would be much less poverty and delinquency and misery in the U.S. if all people practiced chastity, hetero-marriage, and fidelity --and raised their children to have self-discipline and positive values.
Two of the great presidents of that organization were Bob Pierce, Bob Cook (I believe) and Ted Engstrom --who all had been Youth for Christ officers at some point in their lives, as I recall.
Now, the former president of Lenox China, Richard Stearns, is president. He has a book called, The Hole in Our Gospel. suggesting that the church has not always been compassionate and globally aware. It's ironic to me that he blasts the church for its large sanctuaries while overseas charity money is needed --and yet, for several years, as a Christian CEO, he got really rich encouraging us Americans to buy over-priced Lenox China and doo-dads and knick-knacks. I have a lot of Christmas Lenox dinnerware myself because my husband's "love language" is gifting. He is generous to everybody! What Lenox started to do was make their products overseas. American business overseas does help combat global poverty--but also has caused a threat to our ability to AFFORD Lenox china HERE and so people resent things made overseas these days. (Life is complicated!)
He's wrong in his book thesis saying evangelicals as a whole were missing the boat --unless he means the liberal mainline churches. I can't speak for them, but Evangelicals have ALWAYS been mission-minded and knew that the mission was more than the message. Christ's mission always included practical help for the suffering as so clearly taught in God's Word.
However, we must preach ANEW the message of compassion to every generation--as evangelicals did in my youth. And perhaps especially to the present, self-indulged, American, younger generation (who now think they invented the "wheel" of global compassion.) The church in which I grew up had a school and hospital in West Africa --we were a small denomination. We brought African students to our college. They gave talks to us as children. World Vision brought the Korean Orphan Choir to the United States in the 50's and thereafter -- to raise money for the plight of orphans in foreign countries. I grew up on the Jungle Doctor books--as did many evangelical children --and Nurse Patty Lou? books --about medical missions in foreign countries. I thought I might want to be a missionary nurse. The church I belong to now has long had hospitals, schools and clinics in 3rd world countries. Nobody was turned away for medical help or disaster relief conditional upon hearing the Gospel. That's not to say that mission schools would not require chapel and Bible class for their students --as they should. America isn't just rightly exporting our MONEY and AID --we have the Good News of JEsus Christ to proclaim WITH that aid. But the aid is not to be conditional upon open ears for the message. (Though Jesus did say there is a time to shake the dust off our feet and leave where people will not listen. However, staying in a mission for the world's orphans and neglected chidren will bear fruit as children are teachable and can appreciate the ideology and values of those who love them rather than those of people who abandon and abuse them.)
The history of World Vision, from Widipedia says the following:
The story of World Vision's beginning is quite inspiring and unique. Bob Pierce was in China speaking at a school there. He told all the children about Jesus and asked them to tell their parents. The next day, pierce came back to wish the children farewell before returning home. While he was there, he noticed one little girl was badly beaten. Upon asking the school master, she said her father beat her when she told him about Jesus. The schoolmaster had no way to care for the girl. Many other children were already sharing the school master's food. So Bob Pierce began sending five dollars per month to sponsor the little girl whose parents kicked her out.
Five dollars was a lot more than it is today --and went farther there, too. Liberals will say, "There --you see, the little girl was beaten! He shouldn't have told the children about Jesus and to tell their parents!" When in fact, their condemnation should be on parents who would beat children for telling what they heard at school. It's because of such parents that the world needs Jesus and the light of the Gospel.
The first area that World Vision focused on was orphans and other children in need, beginning in South Korea, then expanding throughout Asia. Today, they operate in more than 90 countries,such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Afghanistan, India, Romania, Austria, Bolivia, El Salvador, Mexico, Jerusalem, and Papua New Guinea.
They are now focusing on larger issues of community development and advocacy for the poor towards the end of helping poor children and their families build a sustainable future.
My own church also has a missions business model, where they help Christians develop a cottage industry with their crafts, and then bring those goods to the U.S. to sell here. All the proceeds go back for the craft-person's livelihood. I have bought beautiful table runners made by a Chinese Christian lady --and they are not sold below market value, not exploitative. My church is planning a mission trip to Haiti to work through, with and for the Free Methodist Haitians. We make at least one such trip annually. Our youth have participated in World Servants --to help poor people in America. And VISA --Volunteers In Service Abroad. We have helped to drill wells --as World Vision does --for clean water in villages. And a group of evangelicals and Rotarians have provided goats and solar cookers for poor Haitians where we have schools there.
Charity, Richard Stearns? Nothing new to evangelicals. We are raised knowing the imperatives of Christ to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners, and
care for the orphans and widows (single parents today.) I was raised to weigh purchases for myself against the needs of the world. With affluence at my house there has come much self-indulgence --and material blessing. But we are not indifferent to the plight of a needy world. We don't want Jesus to say to us, "Depart from me; I never knew you!" if we say, "but Lord, Lord, we have done great works in your name!"
The wider world is just now becoming aware of 60-year old World Vision--because evangelicals are proliferating and they are generous donors, blessed with the means to be generous as a group --and yes, the believers are focused on humanitarian aid --as they always have been --as Jesus taught. But we can never be too charitable --and we do need to be challenged in every generation to NOT be hedonists, pleasure-seekers, but to be humanitarians and givers.
And lastly, we must fulfill Christ's Great Commission to take the Gospel to all the world, making converts, so that people may be saved for eternity. There is no other name by which we can be saved.
"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible