By Nate Livesay | Church Partnership Director Almost two and a half years ago I stood looking out over a slum in Ethiopia asking myself what could I possibly do about what I was seeing. The problems created by cycles of generational poverty and institutionalized injustice are so massive and complicated that surely there was nothing a 34 year old basketball coach from South Carolina could do. I wanted a neat and tidy answer, a quick solution, a grand gesture that would wipe away my tears and ease the guilt I felt because I had never opened my eyes to what was happening in the world outside of my nice, comfortable, Christian life. I wanted to change the world.
Over the course of my two-week Journey 117 trip with World Orphans the question in my heart shifted from “what can I do about 153 million orphans” to “what does God want me to do with what he has given me?” It was without a doubt a dangerous shift in my thinking. If I felt responsible to change the world and be the solution for millions upon millions of children I would quickly become overwhelmed with the reality – overwhelmed that there is nothing I could do about all of those children and it would be reasonable to absolve myself of the responsibility to solve a problem of that scale. But when the question shifted to an examination of the time, talent, treasure, and influence that I been entrusted with by God, there was no walking away without a lasting responsibility to obey God's call to use my blessings to be a blessing to others. I still wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, but God impressed onto my heart that he was calling me to DO SOMETHING to serve his Kingdom and to use what he had given me to make the world a little closer to what he intended it.
I'd been a Christian for many years, but I had never really grasped the essence of the call to be a true follower of Christ. I had embraced a nice comfortable Christian version of the American dream. I heard the scriptures, but they never came alive in my life. I'd never had a life verse because I'd never really heard what Jesus was saying to me about the way I should live my life. After this trip, those scriptures I had heard time after time began to come alive and I began to embrace truly following Christ wherever he led, and now I do have a life verse. It hangs in my living room and I have taught it to my children and it helps guide me in the way that I live my life.
Learn to do good.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.
Back to December of 2011 - returning to the United States smack in the middle of the materialistic excess of the Christmas season was difficult and I was still struggling to find what to do with all I had seen and learned in Ethiopia.
So what could I do? I could join the staff at World Orphans - something I did about 6 months later. But that was going to be a long process, so what could I do right now? How could I live out Isaiah 1:17 from Sumter, South Carolina right away?
Our trip leader and Senior Director of Church Partnerships suggested that I start a Rescue Team. World Orphans Rescue Teams equip two or more people to support the ministry of World Orphans by doing what they already do with people in their sphere of influence. So that's what I did. I gathered up a group of friends in my living room in January of 2012. We had a meeting and I told them about World Orphans and what I had seem in Ethiopia and what we could do to help. We met again in February and the group was a little smaller. In March the group was even a little bit smaller than that. While it was beginning to get frustrating, we had begun to develop a small group of consistent monthly participants who bought into the vision of using what we have right here in Sumter to help those all over the world.
In the Summer of 2012 we hosted a yard sale and raised just under a $1,000 for World Orphans. In the fall of 2012 we hosted A Hunger Meal and raised several hundred more dollars, but more importantly the size of our group almost doubled. With this influx of enthusiasm and manpower we began to plan our most ambitious event - a Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction for April of 2013. The Sumter World Orphans Rescue Team was starting to roll! The April Benefit ended up raising almost $6,000 dollars to help fund a project in South Africa for several months. In June of 2013 our Rescue Team hosted another yard sale and this time we raised three times as much as in 2012 - over $2,000 came in. In October of 2013 several members of our Rescue Team accompanied me to Haiti on a Journey 117 trip that resulted in our home church embracing the mission of World Orphans by committing to become a church to church partner in Haiti.
As I sit here typing this blog we are less than two weeks away from another Sumter World Orphans Rescue Team Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction. I am thrilled to tell you that our Rescue Team has recently partnered with an extraordinary church in Cambodia and the first $3,600 dollars we raise this April will go to fund that project for the next year. The funds we raise over $3,600 will go towards Wholistic Care initiatives in Haiti - things like regular medical clinics and caregiver training seminars for all 14 of our partner churches in Haiti.
You can do this, too!
Every time I have asked what can I do, God has answered. Are you willing to ask him what you can do?
So, what can you do?
You can start a rescue team.
You can ask your friends to join you.
You can give up your birthday.
You can host a garage sale.
You can throw a party or host a dinner.
You can run a race.
You can do something. You can be obedient to use your time, talent, treasure, and influence however God leads you.
You only have one life to live. You can do something because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
For more information about the Sumter Rescue Team feel free to contact me at nate@worldorphans. For more information about how to start your own Rescue Team click here or contact the World Orphans Senior Director of Advocacy, Alan Hunt (firstname.lastname@example.org).