Years ago we learned an axiom that has proved to be a basic principle of cross-cultural ministry: Nothing for us without us. This is from the perspective of people from other cultures who have coached us in effective cross-cultural ministry. Nothing for us without us means: don’t do things for others without processing it with them, without asking their opinion, without discussing with them at the front end what you plan to do to help. Don’t come up with ideas from the outside and tell them, “This is what we are going to do for you.” That’s charity. There is no dignity in that for either the giver or the receiver.
People from within their own communities tend to know quite well what they need. In the case of the church, when there has been a clear framework of why we exist -- a clearly articulated vision for who we want to be -- local people come up with fantastic ideas, much better than any outsider could.
Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm, plowed across Puerto Rico last September. It was dreadful. Twenty-five years after a similar hurricane hit South Florida, we’ve seen grown men cry when they remember the day the hurricane hit. It was a life changing experience for everyone.
There were many in the US mainland who prayed through the night as Hurricane Maria was mauling Puerto Rico. The following days we desperately tried to communicate to determine if our friends and leaders and church people were alive, and to find ways to help them survive the aftereffects of such a storm.
You have given generously to help meet their needs! The money sent has been used in remarkably creative ways. People have been treated with dignity as they have started the slow and painful process of rebuilding homes, families, and communities. Generators were used not just to bring light to churches and homes but also to provide medical help for those who need to be connected to electricity to remain alive. Food and water has been distributed. Counseling is being offered. Stories of bravery, sharing, and sacrifice abound.
The last money we sent to Puerto Rico has been used – get this! -- to purchase laundry equipment. In our church buildings our friends have installed washing machines so neighbors can wash their clothing and other items that got soaked during the storm. Their homes may not have electricity yet, but people who live near a Free Methodist Church can walk down the street with clean clothes and their dignity intact. What a great way to serve the neighborhood! I would not have thought of that.
And here we all are at the end of 2017. Those of us who live in the US have the opportunity to give a generous end of year financial gift that will also lower our taxes. I’d say: Let’s do it. Let’s send more money to our leaders in Puerto Rico. From my perspective as the overseer of the Free Methodist Church in Puerto Rico I can tell you with my hand firmly placed on a stack of Bibles that the money you send is being used in totally responsible ways. Your giving has saved lives. And the integrity and dignity of the process we have been using is something we can all be very proud of.
On this last week of the year, I invite you to give a generous gift to be sent to the leaders in Puerto Rico. They will be able to determine how to use it to rebuild lives in their communities.
Here is where you can send your end of year gift. Please be generous. Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund
written by Delia Nüesch-Olver