A note to our Christian audience:
A phone call rang in at the AP office USA like it does many times a day. It was a church secretary wanting to know our statement of faith. It was a pastor wanting to know our shipping company’s stance on Calvin. It would be important to donate boxes only to an organization that was solid in it’s stance on predestination. It was another call wondering why we don’t do ___________(insert one of the following: street evangelism, tract handouts, bible studies, orphan visits, VBS, worship dance, prophetic mime, or all of the above).
It’s easy to misunderstand what we are doing and why were are doing it when your concept of missions has always been one of “spoken word”, heaven/hell, and eternity. But as we have started down this journey of trying to help the poor, we have found that where our skills lie and what we are gifted at is in the realm of creativity and job creation- the NOW! (Which by the way, God is also quite interested in as well!). We do not believe that following our God given abilities in this way is any less spiritual of a practice and feel that by not doing what we are so obviously created to do and favoring a more “traditional” approach to ministry would be a terrible waste of a precious resource – the ability to free people from poverty. Not only that, but we have found that many of the traditional practices of missionaries abroad seem to just lead people into more dependency and teach them how to be “yes-men” so that they can get what they need. (Think about it- is it more authentic to tell an equal about your faith and have them come to see as you do or to tell a starving person about your faith and have them agree with you- the latter can be a bit suspect.. no? Especially when you are 30 pounds overweight and have a cheeseburger in your hand!)
We have had many people question supporting what we are doing (and by supporting I mean donating cereal boxes and buying jewelry) because we do not have a statement of faith listed on our website. We do this on purpose. We believe that the task at hand doesn’t need to be exclusive. Anyone can contribute. We have teams with specific skill sets come to teach. We do not believe it is necessary for them to believe exactly as we do in order to help the poor.
(Were all your professors in college or trade school of the same beliefs as you?)
We also sell our goods to people of different faiths and truly would hate to hinder our reach in terms of sales because we only wanted to sell to people who believe exactly as we do.
Also, could it not be that your faith calls you to do the right thing despite who the recipient is? (Samaritan story ring a bell?) If I were you, I would just ask yourself…”Do I believe in what they are doing? Is this something that my faith tells me that God wants for people?” If yes, then who cares if we believe exactly the same thing… we’re on the same TEAM! We both love God and love people!
On another note, I, Shelley, have been on an incredible poignant spiritual journey since the 2010 earthquake as I process how God works in the world, how he can be sovereign, good, loving, all-powerful and everything else that he is at the same time and still make sense in my head. It is an incredibly tender journey,(one far to personal to talk much about) but has allowed me to take a step back from whatever pulpit I may have thought I should stand on, and has allowed me to simply serve- without all the answers. In some ways, the lowliness that I feel so much in terms of spirituality has given me new eyes.. made me realize how little I saw when I thought I knew it all. I have found that I have as much to gain from my Haitian friends as I have to give.
Today I am working. Tomorrow AP will be working. Creating jobs, teaching pottery, designing new bracelets, organizing the massage business that is unfolding. I am following my Father- who loves the poor. I make a lot of mistakes. I am not a missionary and I don’t have a mission. I am a person who is using what God has given her to the best of her ability. If I don’t measure up to what your expectations are of me, or of what AP should be, that is ok. There are so many great organizations to support. Find one that best suits you. But please try not to send lists of things that we lack our way. We know we are not the whole story. We are but a piece of the amazing puzzle of restoration in this world. Is it ok with you if we just do what we know we are supposed to be doing? Grace friends.. grace on us all.