Christine Jeske is here today to talk about everyday things you can do to take part in God’s redemptive work in His world. Christine is the author of Into the Mud: Inspiration for Everyday Activists, in which she tells stories of her family’s ministry in South Africa. We have 3 copies of Into the Mud for giveaway today! Read on to learn how to enter to win…
“What can I do to make a difference for people across the world from where I am?” That’s a tough question, not because there’s nothing you can do, but because there are so many things! Here are some of those many opportunities:
1. Pray. I know, I know, you asked what you can do, and this doesn’t seem like doing. I believe more strongly with every passing year in development work, though, that prayer works and prayer matters. Read Chapter Ten, “Distant Voices,” of Into the Mud if you want more thoughts on prayer from a distance. Here are some ideas on how to get started.
- Put a map somewhere you will see it often, like on the inside of your bathroom door or next to your dinner table. Pay attention to stories you hear of people in different countries, and stick up post-its or whatever will remind you to pray for specific places on that map.
- Get a notebook, if you don’t already have one, and list prayer requests (not just for foreign countries), as specifically as possible, and at least once a week read through them, pray, and check off ones that are answered.
- If you need ideas in how to pray, ask around until you meet missionaries and email them to ask for prayer requests—they’ll love you for it.
- Set aside a day/week/month to search the Bible on words like poor, nations, gentiles, or compassion and study what you find.
- Learn from people who live in the Global South. One of the greatest benefits of working overseas or in poverty is that you are transformed, not just them. If you can’t meet them in person, don’t miss out on finding other ways to be transformed by what God is doing among and through them. Invite, sponsor, and/or host a pastor or other visitor from overseas, or find books, movies or articles by foreigners to see the world through their eyes.
2. Budget. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt. 6:21). There’s a myth that writing a check and sending it off to someone overseas is lame compared to going overseas yourself. Most often, that is not the case. There are plenty of ways that a little money (or a lot) in the right hands will make huge waves for the kingdom of God. In today’s economy, plenty of great organizations and Christians with big potential are stuck and praying in faith for funds. Remember, your money is not yours to begin with. It belongs to God, so let God put it where he wants it.
- Make a budget: Work out how much you really should spend on various categories, from groceries to clothes to vacations to tithes to your church. Include money set aside for emergencies, items you buy only once every few years, and savings.
- Stick to your budget: This requires checking where your money goes, probably at the end of each month. You may be able to look at your bank statement and estimate this if you make most of your purchases by check or debit, or you may want to save receipts, or you may want to put cash into different envelopes each labeled with a category. Even doing this for one month will show you a lot about where your money goes. Ask yourself, is it going where you want it to go?
- Ideally, aim to make a budget where all your needs are met and there is money left over. If this isn’t happening now, pray and work to make it happen one day. Consider a “graduated tithe” method of setting a maximum amount you want to live on and giving away more as you earn more in coming years.
- Find ways to cut your expenses to give more. Garden (this is ecological, too—see the next point), cook, buy in bulk, wait longer for big purchases, share, and reuse.
- Ask whether each purchase you want to make is a “tool” or a “toy.” Do you need it? Periodically reevaluate items that you have always spent money on. Do you still need the three phones your family pays for? Do you still need to buy new lights for a huge Christmas yard display every year?
- Change your mindset: Be proud, not embarrassed, to admit you’re shopping in second-hand clothing stores. Count what you save and give it away—it’s fun!
3. Places to put that money. What’s desperately needed in one spot in the world might be wasted or even damaging in another spot. But don’t let that stop you from giving—let it motivate you to find how to give effectively.
- Ask, ask, ask. Find missionaries or other ties to local Christians overseas, and ask what they need. Through people asking to help, I have seen projects grow including sponsoring seminary and other students, book-lending libraries created for schools and neighborhoods, buildings repaired, or trainings and retreats sponsored to revitalize NGO and church leadership. If you have ideas, suggest them, but give them space to say no or suggest different plans that they know match needs.
- Preferably find organizations that get the most money possible right down to the level of changing lives of the people they’re helping, not to administration and Westerner’s salaries. That means taking time to research and ask questions.
- Purchasing is a gift, too: While living in an organic coffee-producing village, I saw firsthand how purchasing coffee that is organic and shade-grown is like handing people a triple gift—it rewards them for work well done, promotes health and sustainability, and gives them dignity. Look for and buy products that give poor people the majority of profits for their produce (Fair trade, organic, and anything traded directly from them).
4. We share one environment. The environment touches us all, and as we wreck it, it hurts most the people whose existence is most fragile—the poor. The poor know the environment is changing—Burundians, Kenyans, and South Africans have told me how their rainy seasons have changed, Kenyans told me about Mango and Papaya trees that blossom but no longer bear fruit. Some changes are due to deforestation and other poor choices within those countries, but much is due to damage for which industrialized countries hold the most blame.
- There’s little I can say you don’t know: Reduce, reuse, recycle has been a slogan since I was small, and measuring our carbon footprint is a new way of telling us what we have known for years. Less packaging, less waste, buy local food, garden, plant trees…
- It’s worth investing in what will have great effects over the long run: fuel efficient vehicles, an insulated home, living near your workplace. Here’s an area where you have permission to stretch that budget.
- Talk to your church or other groups and pinpoint ways they can make spending choices that will have a greater impact than your household alone.
5. Pass it on. My life was influenced by the choices my parents made. They never traveled as missionaries themselves, but they housed missionaries on furlough, they sponsored children and involved us in praying for them, they were involved in their church, and they encouraged discussions on all kinds of topics. Live a life that others will see and will be more likely to devote their lives to God’s work because of what they see in you.
- Have diverse friendships. Make a point of inviting people to your home who are not just like you.
- Learn to hold challenging discussions. If a statistic, story, country, or issue stirs your heart, sneak it into conversations and chew on it with others.
- Involve others in what you have learned to do. Join with your children, family, small group, or friends in praying, book discussions, tree planting, planning a missions awareness event, or partnering with a church or ministry overseas.
Giveaway Contest! What simple, ordinary things do you do to intentionally put your live for Christ and others into action? How do you engage in Christ’s command to to go forth into all the world and make disciples of all nations? Tell us your ideas and choices below for your chance to win one of 3 copies of Into the Mud! For extra entries, follow us on Facebook or Twitter! Winners will be chosen randomly and emailed Monday, March 21st.
About the Book: Into The Mud takes readers behind the headlines, into real stories of real people living neck-deep in some of Africa’s most difficult issues — but with hands, minds, and hearts rooted in God’s kingdom. Each of its interwoven stories and related discussion questions addresses a broader issue of missions and development, including: evangelism, literacy and education, microfinance, health services, urbanization and refugee assistance, and more. Reflection questions at the end of each chapter help readers to apply lessons from the chapters to their own ministry contexts.
Where the world sees despair, author Christine Jeske sees God writing stories of hope. Study groups, development students, mission teams, and everyday activists alike will be challenged by her stories to enter more deeply into the thick of life’s mud.