DATE: 5/07/2004 07:05:00 PM
The Limits of Compassion - This evening, I was supposed to be at the Maine Christian Teen Convention (MCTC), helping people sign up to sponsor a child with World Vision International, a Christian relief organization. When I arrived at the event, I saw no World Vision table. Instead, I saw a large Compassion International banner. Thinking the World Vision table must be elsewhere, I walked around the auditorium for a bit. Nothing. Curious.
I approached the Compassion table, introduced myself to the two women standing there, and asked them where I might find the World Vision table.
"They won't be setting up tonight," one of them replied.
Confusion. "Really? Why not?"
"Compassion is with this event," she said.
"This event being the Maine Christian Teen Convention?"
"Yes. We've been with the event for years, so they won't be setting up tonight." The woman was polite enough, but her demeanor didn't invite further questions. I didn't trust my sometimes out-of-control mouth to respond in a civil manner, so I left the event in disgust.
According to the organization's website, last year World Vision helped 100 million people in 99 countries. My wife and I sponsor a child in India with World Vision. As I've stated before on this blog, the organization has recently started a project to combat the growing problem of AIDS in Africa. The featured performer that evening was with World Vision. None of this seemed to matter either to the people at Compassion International or the organizers of the MCTC. The needs of "the event" took precedence over the fact that lives would be affected by the decision.
On a truck somewhere behind the Bangor Civic Center are some boxes. In those boxes are the names and biographies of hundreds of children that will never have a chance to have their stories told at the MCTC. All of them live in Third World or developing countries, most of them live in poverty or close enough to it to need the services that Christian relief organizations provide.
None of them will be sponsored by people in Bangor, because of the stubbornness of Compassion International and the refusal of those at the MCTC to stand up and say it's wrong for one relief organization to keep another out of an event. There is no good reason why both organizations could not be under the same roof - just earthly turf wars hurting God's Kingdom.
Compassion International may have had the right to do what they did - they likely sponsor the event in some way. But this isn't Coke versus Pepsi. There is more at stake here than sugared water. These are the lives of children and families who are helped by World Vision every day. Sure, Compassion will sign up a few more kids, add a few dollars to the non-profit organization's bottom line. Hurray for them. But at what cost?
Ultimately, the actions taken tonight will have repercussions far beyond what we can see right now and I hope that someday, someone is called to account in heaven for what happened in a small auditorium in Maine.
I'm angry and hope that reading this, you get angry too. What are we here on earth to do? Make sure our organization achieves primacy over another? Ensure that we've met our sponsored kid quota? Are we here on earth to keep our organizations financially solvent? Obviously, no.
Who knows how many times this has happened? It's time for the church to get angry and demand organizations that operate in the name of Jesus remember why they exist and who they are here to help instead of playing games of one-upsmanship. When money changers defiled the Jewish temple, Jesus drove them out.
Maybe it's time the church cleaned house of those who have forgotten His teachings and hold organizations to a standard higher than profit margins or performance measures.
Christians are on this earth to fulfill the teachings of Jesus Christ - talk to others about Him, feed the hungry, clothe the poor and comfort the brokenhearted.
Members of one organization won an argument tonight.
Somewhere, children lost.
There's an overused cliche that seems somehow appropriate here. What would Jesus think?
Somehow, I doubt He'd be pleased.
Neither should you.