Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When helping...helps

A gust of wind blows during a storm.  A house, built with scraps of wood and tin succumbs.  A woman, living alone, is left with a pile of rubble.  Family and neighbors help her recover some of the material and prop up the house as best they can.  Wind and rain continue to seep through the many openings in the walls.  Her daughter worries, "How long will the house, perched on the side of a mountain, last?  What will happen to her mother?"

Many people are reading and discussing books like When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity.  Although these books offer suggestions on how to improve charitable efforts, my fear is that some people won't get past the title and will simply stop helping or contributing to organizations.  Or, well intentioned people and church committees will become paralyzed trying to determine how to meet the rigorous standards set out in these books.  Yes, I know that "helping" and "charity" can be done poorly, but I prefer to focus on when helping helps. Take yesterday for example.  This same impoverished woman, Erlin, got a new house.  But yesterday was more than that.  Yesterday was "nested" helping.  It was helping to the third power - helpers helping helpers to help helpers.

It started out with Jasmin.  If you read this blog or follow Suzy or me on FaceBook, you know Jasmin.  She is the mother of Lester Alexander at our Children's Home.  She has been freed from her drug addiction for over a year now!  Late last year she told Suzy that her mother's house had fallen down. Jasmin's angst was palpable.  Despite her background, Jasmin is a deeply compassionate, loving young woman.   She volunteers as an evangelist at the safe house/rehab center that helped her.  But, she has no resources, no job.  

As it turns out, I belong to an organization called Networking Honduras whose mission is to connect ministries together for mutual support so that individually and collectively we can serve more people better in Honduras.  I contacted Mark Connell from Torch Missions.  Here is how the conversation went:

Me:  Hi, Mark!  We have a woman whose house fell down.  Any chance y'all could help?
Mark: Sure! Let's go see the house.

Time passed. Jasmin was calling Suzy every day (sometimes several times a day!) asking when we could build the house.  Torch Missions had the funding but not a team to build it.  Suddenly, a nudge from the Holy Spirit!  Hey, wait a minute...we have a team but  no funding!  A match made in heaven.  Denis, our Director of Alonzo Movement, gathered up 7 of his Alonzo Movement guys and met Mark and his team at the site.  Dulce, our cook at Casa LAMB, cooked a vast amount of arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) and salad.  Her husband, Francisco, drove us to the site to deliver lunch.  The Alonzo Movement is our youth program in the inner city barrio of Flor del Campo. All these boys come from impoverished families.  They join us instead of gangs.  They know well the plight of single women and families living in huts on precarious mountainsides.  

They carried all the lumber, tools, and cement up and then back down a zillion narrow steps to get to the build site.  The little scrap of level ground was smaller than the footprint of the new house!  Not to worry, they got busy digging post holes into the solid rock and reinforcing the posts with concrete.  Mark had brought 4 members of his organization to augment our kids. Together, they hammered, sawed, lifted, dug.  The work site was exceedingly difficult.  There was little room to build and store the materials.  You had to pick your way along the edge of the cliff to get from one side of the house to the other.  None of the ground was really level and the soil was loose and slippery.  I cringed as I saw them standing on the roof supports as others hoisted up the tin roofing panels.  I nearly went hoarse shouting, "Cuidate! Ten cuidado!"  (Be careful!)
Dulce, Francisco and I showed up at noon with lunch.  Soon, the steps next to the site were filled with children and a mother with her two babies.  They didn't say a word.  Just silently watched as we served lunch to the workers.  Then we started passing plates to the children, the mother and her babies.  Some children we had to coax down to get their food.  All received their plates with a shy smile and "gracias!"  (Or "grathiath" from one little girl missing her two front teeth!)  I was humbled when I saw Dulce and Francisco give half of their lunches to two late comers.  Sadly, I had already snarfed my lunch down.  

Some of the guys had some construction experience and some had none.  All  of them had a blast!  

By 4:00, the walls were built, the roof on, the door and window were in, the site cleaned up.  But we weren't done yet.   After Jasmin and Erlin swept the floor clean, we gathered together to pray.  Thank you, Lord, for this family, these wiling hands, for your provision. Bless this house and all who worked on it.

So, nested helping... Jasmine, a loving daughter, had the joy of helping her mother get a new home.  LAMB and Torch Missions had the joy of serving the Lord together as we helped His precious lambs.   One important part of the Alonzo Movement program is community development as a response to God's call to help the "least of these." (Matthew 25:40) Imagine, the least of these" helping the "least of these."  For they know, Jesus didn't challenge just the wealthy but all of us.  They joyfully answered the call to help.  

Helping helps.  

Answer the call.

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