Stuff evangelicals like: Please stop

Please stop using refugees as an excuse to offload the old and buy new.

I shudder slightly at how easy it is to collect used stuff for poor people. Everyone is happy to help (themselves) by getting rid of old/worn-out/uncool/low-tech/dowdy objects so they can replace them with something newer and better. And how convenient for these “needy” people to make the whole transaction guilt free because it was for charity!

It’s not that it’s so wrong to do this, but I daresay it IS wrong to call it virtue rather than convenience. If you really want to be generous, keep the old thing for yourself and donate the new one instead. 

Please stop repainting that church in Mexico.

It is waning, but I still hear of church groups going on the classic “mission trip” to Mexico where they have great fun painting a church, usually getting as much paint on each other as the building. They have such a great time and the people were so grateful.

Except the people are polite is what they are.

If you feel so strongly that the church needs paint, perhaps you should raise the funds to purchase the supplies and to pay a local labourer a fair wage to use his skills to do it. He’ll do a better job – and he’ll be able to feed his family.

And while we’re speaking of “mission trips,” please stop calling them that.

In conversation, the participants often recognize the truth of the matter – they got more out of it than anyone who was “helped.”

Listen to yourself and be honest. This was a personal enrichment experience. If you have to dignify it with a pretense of helping, at least call it a service learning trip.

Please stop sending OCC shoes boxes. 

The poor children don’t need cheap trinkets they may very well have made themselves in a sweatshop. They don’t need toys that hint of war-mongering or technology they can’t access or the rampant consumerism that is destroying those children’s homes much more quickly than it does ours, though they are less guilty of environmental degradation. 

If you need to do some tangible gift giving with your children at Christmas, do some research and find a way to give actually-needed gifts locally (it’s less exciting than toys but socks, underwear, mitts, toques, and toiletries are usually welcome at overnight shelters and soup kitchens) or ask a reputable charity what kind of gifts would be useful and needed in the areas where they work, without undercutting the local economy with an influx of foreign product.


Please stop sending teenagers to orphanages.

Those sweet children who just need to be loved! Who could resist! And they just cling to the dear teenagers come to cuddle them for a week then disappear never to return again. Just what children who have been abandoned by their parents need: a constant stream of keen young volunteers who gush over the children for a week or two then depart forever. 

Is it possible that the best thing we could do for these “poor kids” is actually to leave them alone? At least, unless we are planning to stay long term and having training in attachment or other relevant psychological and social issues, not just “a lotta love [giggle].”

This is a bit harsh, and I am certainly guilty in some ways of the kind of things I condemn here. But I just had to get this rant off my chest.


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