Kathy Rogers and Tina-Joy Kinard
Continued from the East-West Church & Ministry Report 7 (Spring 1999): 1-4.Christian Relief: Improving the Delivery
1. Family Parcels
One of the best ways to curtail greed and envy is to make up individual family parcels. This requires more effort on the part of relief groups, but eliminates much of the misunderstanding, fighting, and bitterness within local churches. A package is easy to deliver. Family parcels not only help curb coveting, but also relieve stress and are enormously time-saving for national distributors who must sort, divide, assign, and deliver goods.
2. Distributor Parcels
Orphanage workers have been known to steal goods intended for the children or the institution. This problem can be curtailed simply by assuring that each worker receives a package. Their home needs may be as great as the needs of the orphans. Give the box to the workers personally, stating clearly which things are specifically designated for the orphans. If possible, give shoes and clothes directly to the children. The children will put them away with their own things making it more difficult for a worker to later take them home.
3. Relationship Building
Preparing and training a national should consist of much more than just the technical aspects of distribution. Particularly when working with Christian brothers and sisters, Western Christians have a duty to warn the national about some of the temptations and difficulties involved in the work.
One of the most important ways a Westerner can help nationals in charge of relief is by keeping himself/herself accountable. Many temptations exist in relief work; compromises can be made without really thinking them through. A system of accountability which protects each other is important. If one national is key in the organization of your distribution, he/she also needs to be accountable to someone.
Westerners should make contact ahead of time (preferably a month or more), set the delivery date, assure that storage is available, then arrive as planned. Reconfirm plans one week before your scheduled arrival.
6. Organizational Links
Many Western groups may desire their giving to enhance local Christian ministries already in existence. If so, they should consider working directly through the organizations of the nationals. Communicate with respective denominational unions. Most now have committees appointed for relief work.
7. Smaller Loads
Some believe that the best method for transporting smaller quantities is for groups to make use of families. A single family can often distribute up to two vanloads without undue hardship.
8. Advance Teams
Ideally, the Westerner should go in advance and establish contacts, taking the time to train and develop responsible persons and share experiences others have had in doing relief work. Make suggestions; inquire regarding cultural preferences--food likes and dislikes, "taboos," etc.; arrange some place to store the relief; then allow your contact(s) time to think about his/her involvement.
Whether the distributor is a national or a foreigner, the manner in which relief is given is important. It must be done in a way that doesn't offend the person's dignity. If your receiver needs to give in order to be free to receive--cultural reciprocity--then, by all means, receive his gift with grace and humility.
10. Relief Philosophy and Models
While aid helped many during the years since those momentous changes of 1989, 1990, and 1991, relief is only a temporary and partial solution. In some respects the aid has been poured into a bottomless, black hole--a little like putting a band-aid over a cancerous tumor. Little remains. Real help is teaching someone how to obtain his daily bread, rather than just giving him enough bread for one year. After initial needs are met, investment capital is needed more than short-term aid so that Christians in the receiving country can build structures to support themselves and their ministries.
Kathy Rogers, Luton, Bedfordshire, England, is Communications Coordinator for International Teams. She lived in Romania from 1990 until 1997. Tina-Joy Kinard, Raleigh, NC, has been working in Central and Eastern Europe for over 20 years, and has lived in Hungary, Romania, and Greece.
Excerpt reprinted with permission from Kathy Rogers and Tina-Joy Kinard, Relief in Post-Communist Europe (Bratislava, Slovakia: SEN, 1999). Available on-line for $10 at http://www.citygate.org/papers/papers.asp or from:
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© 1999 East-West Church and Ministry Report