I am a fan of Samaritan's Purse too.
That's probably because I'm also a fan of Jesus Christ and call myself a Christian.
For me Christianity is a good and positive thing. Not something to be hidden or a dirty word.
However that does not mean that I will stand by or approve of all activities that individual or collective people, or organisations undertake in the name of Christianity. I know that some people do things with a good intention and it goes wrong, the outcome is not in line with the desires of Christ. For me being a Christian is about acting as Jesus would have, being humble and leading the best life I can, answerable only to God himself. I don't judge you and I ask you not to judge me. Of course I get things wrong and make mistakes, I'm only human.
Being a Christian also means that I will believe the best of people or organisations until proven otherwise.
So why am I getting all defensive you may wonder? Who has got up your nose Mich? And the answer to that is no-one.
However, I am travelling with OCC in early December to Belarus and I know this will be controversial. I'm expecting some flack, I'd like to say I'm ready for some flack but to be honest I'm not. I'm a right old softie and I'll hate it if people are mean, but that won't stop me being honest and true to myself and God. I'll just have to toughen up!
My remit on this trip is to follow the journey of a shoebox and to write about the stories of the children I meet in the course of my deliveries. My writing will be used on the OCC website, in newsletters, emails and literature. I'll also host some webcasts and I have to be honest and say it is all pretty scary stuff. I'm not a journalist and I have never yet written for a site which has the kind of traffic that OCC does. What a wonderful opportunity for you Mich, you may be thinking. Let me just tell you now, this is not about me. I can honesty say that I do not care one iota about the exposure I'll receive from this, I believe God has chosen me for this job and therefore I must stand in His strength and believe I have the skills to do well for His glory.
Already I am hearing from some people that they will not be getting involved with OCC as the evangelistic nature of the outreach is too forceful, that they do not agree with 'tat' that is made in China being shipped to Africa and that it is an outrage that children are forced to become Christians and made to attend bible study.
If I find the evangelistic nature of this initiative too much I'll be honest and I'll say that here. I have a belief that a Christian organisation like Samaritan's Purse will be grounded in the Word of God and that they will evangelise appropriately, in line with 1 Corinthians 3:2 "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it". The message given will be appropriate for the audience.
With regard to the children not wanting to receive 'tat' made in another country I beg to differ. I arrived back from Ethiopia just 2 weeks ago and many children there have no toys, not even one. They were beyond themselves to receive the small tokens we gave out while there. A cheap car bought in a poundshop is a major treat to them.
And if I find that children are forced to become Christians and made to attend a bible study course then I'll say so and yes I'll be deeply offended and I'll have to sever my ties with this charity but I do not believe this to be the case at all. My understanding is that literature is offered to the children receiving a box, as is the opportunity to attend a bible study course and they are encouraged to use their free will to decide if they wish to attend. I won't lie and tell you I have an issue with that as I do not. I believe all children should be given the opportunity to come and explore Christianity and to find out about Christ our Saviour. A deep faith makes the world of difference to the joy, peace and quality of life of many people, I witnessed this first hand in Ethiopia. They have so little materially but so much contentment.
I have sat and read so much tonight, my head is bursting with information. I have been round and round the Samaritans Purse and Operation Christmas Child sites as well as reading articles, forum postings and a ton more stuff out there on the web. I'll leave you to take a peek at the 'why we speak of hope' page on the Samaritans Purse UK site. I love it that UK Executive Director Simon Barrington gets right to the point and says 'we reject any form of coercion, manipulation or exploitation of an emergency or a person’s situation in order to share our faith' but the statement of faith page also makes no qualms about the fact that this is a Christian organisation and they 'seek to be distinctively Christian'. Perfect I say.
I hope you'll join me on this journey to Belarus. I'll be doing my very best to ensure that I accurately put across the stories of the people I meet and that I honestly report what I experience as I travel with Operation Christmas Child.
I've written about OCC a number of times before, check out some of the following posts if you want to find out more -
OCC - My response (to all the negativity that arose around this initiative last year)
How to make the best Christmas present ever for under £10
Can I mention the C word yet?
How to pack a Christmas gift box