Thursday, April 27, 2017

Meeting Spiritual Needs with Physical Aid

Samaritan's Purse education Haiti

More than 40 teachers packed into children's desks in a small classroom to meet with the Samaritan's Purse education team.

An intern sees firsthand the importance of programs that feed people spiritually

When I first arrived in Haiti, everything was new and exciting. I was inspired by the work going on around me and the progress I saw the programs making. It was encouraging to see how Samaritan’s Purse is making lasting impacts on the people here. But as I visited and learned about each program, I started to wonder if we had our priorities right.

Programs like water, sanitation, and hygiene and agriculture are obviously important. Those are tangible ways to provide for physical needs in struggling communities. But when I visited Trouin, a community with some of the other programs, I wondered why we weren’t investing more heavily in those areas alone.

Samaritan's Purse gender protection Haiti

Gilbert, the Samaritan’s Purse gender protection program manager, always takes time to pray with the pastors. Their passion in coming before God’s throne is inspiring.

Sure, gender protection and children’s dignity education are important programs, but shouldn’t we be focused on meeting the more urgent needs of the community first? We can share the Gospel as we do water, sanitation, and hygiene projects, so why not pour everything we have into that?

Oh, how wrong I was.

Last week, I went with the gender protection program team to visit with pastors of many of Trouin’s churches. They talked, prayed, and worshipped God together for two hours or more in a little church building on Trouin’s market road. The goal of the meeting was to reconnect since Hurricane Matthew, but the achievement was that these pastors walked away with hope and confidence that they are not alone. Samaritan’s Purse cares about them and listens to them. They are invested in helping this community beyond just its physical needs.

Communities are only as strong as the hope they have. If all you give someone is a better water source and a few new ways to grow food, you’ve done nothing for their hope at all. It’s necessary and good to have physical needs met, but once you have those you realize that life isn’t about just living. It’s about what you are living for.

Spiritual Growth

Christians know that we live for the sake of serving our Lord and Savior. We find spiritual life in Jesus Christ, and that’s far more satisfying than any physical food. Jesus said in John 6:51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (NKJV), and it’s true. Jesus is our source of everlasting life.

Samaritan's Purse education Haiti

Gabriel, the Samaritan’s Purse dignity and education for children program manager, takes time after meeting with teachers to talk one-on-one with them. He cares deeply about ensuring that they are equipped to serve children well.

In Matthew 4, Jesus spends 40 days in the wilderness without food, and Satan tempts him by challenging him to turn stones into bread. “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’’” (Matthew 4:4, NKJV). Jesus tells us not only that He is our bread but also that the Bible, the Word of God, is our bread.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14, NKJV).

By this we know that to continue to grow in knowledge of God’s Word is the spiritual feeding we truly require. Physical sustenance is nothing compared to the spiritual sustenance we can offer by equipping them to grow as Christ followers.

That’s what we’re doing with our programs—sharing physical help and spiritual food of everlasting life because education about dignity and respect come from understanding that we are all loved and saved by Jesus Christ. Teaching children these principles offers them an opportunity to learn more about God’s love for them. A program about ending gender-based violence comes from an understanding that God made men and women as equals to love and complement one another—and Jesus died for both. Teaching these principles leads to people opening and studying God’s Word.

Carrying out these programs shows that we want people to grow spiritually.

Samaritan's Purse education Haiti

The teachers that meet with Samaritan’s Purse staff members are dedicated to pouring wisdom and dignity into the lives of their students.

Watching the Samaritan’s Purse staff members talk with pastors made this real for me. I finally saw what it looks like for people to know the hope they have in Jesus as a result of Samaritan’s Purse pouring into them. Their hope is multiplied as they are given spiritual food.

These pastors were always here, but their knowledge has grown, their ministries have flourished, and the people they are reaching have been blessed because Samaritan’s Purse took the time to invest in their spiritual feeding along with their physical feeding.

After all, that’s what sets us apart as an organization. We are here to do more than just meet physical needs. We’re here to use physical needs as a method of providing for spiritual needs. Jesus lived to care for the outcast, the poor, the downtrodden—but he died so that all who believed in Him would have forgiveness for their sins and life eternal. Jesus suffered to give people spiritual life just as much as he performed miracles to improve physical lives.

That’s why every one of these programs is so important. That’s what it means to help in Jesus’ Name.

The Samaritan’s Purse internship program is an opportunity for college students and recent graduates to use their skills to impact the world in a tangible way. Find out more here.

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