A Lesson in Humanitarian Evangelism

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Distributing Food Baskets to the Elderly in Radvanka – Uzhgorod, Ukraine

Our initial intention was to distribute gift baskets to the non-believers in our community. We planned to go to their homes, present them with the gift, invite them to church, and ask if they had any prayer needs. All good in theory, but after talking with Pastor and his wife, we realized that this would never work. Our ministry is to the Romani people in the Radvanka neighborhood of Uzhgorod, Ukraine. This community is steeped in poverty and suffers from numerous forms of social discrimination. There is incredible need everywhere, in every household.

Pastor Brugosh’s first question was, “Do you have enough for everyone?” If no, then how will you determine which people to give to? Whoever does not receive a basket will be offended. It will create an atmosphere of division and it would do more harm in the neighborhood than good. He reminded us that where scripture tells us to give to the poor and the least of these, many in this community respond, “I agree, what am I going to get?” We needed to rethink our plan.

We though, well maybe we would just give to the elderly of our church. Again, the question was, “which ones, just those who are widowed and over 60, 55, or 50?” Or we could draw names or cast lots. Or what if we take attendance for a month and give only to those who are regular attendees. But then we realized that this could be perceived as rewarding member for coming to church. Pastor shared a story with us about a church in town many years ago that was giving money to their members and the church grew rapidly, but they soon fell apart and the people were not true converts. We of course refuse to become this church. So the pressing question is how do we distribute humanitarian gifts as evangelism tools to this community?

Finally we settled that Valeriia and I would give out the baskets during Wednesday soup kitchen, and we would tell no one beforehand. That evening, I preached a message from the Beatitudes to teach about the importance of knowing that no matter how poor our circumstances, no matter how much poverty is in our lives, as children of God, He will provide for us. There is always someone out there in worse circumstances than me. And the worst circumstance is the life of the unsaved, the lost; those who do not yet know Jesus Christ. As born again believers we need to humbly embrace this teaching and rip out the roots of a “what about me” mentality. In solid faith, always trust that God is your provider. I finished with the 10th beatitude recorded in Acts 20:35 “It is better to give than to receive” (Download sermon notes)

As soon as the word was given I turned to the congregation and presented our dilemma and asked, “How should we distribute the bags?” I stated plainly that I knew people would get offended, I mentioned that we did not have enough, but did not say how many we had. I asked the question “is it best in the future that we not bring humanitarian aid to Radvanka to avoid all of this tension?” The congregation answered with a resounding, “NO!”

So then I asked, “If you think you need a bag more than anyone else in here, please stand up and I will give one to you.” No one stood.

Then I asked, “If you had a bag to give, who would you give it to?” And as one body and one voice, they began to agree about who should receive the bags. It was an amazingly successful experiment with its provision for church wide unity, outreach, teaching, and prayer. We only had 20 bags, but were able to give one to each of the widows, and even blessed some of the elderly couples. Everyone left there happy and encouraged. As a church leader, this was a truly beautiful day of ministry. This proved to be a valuable lesson in Humanitarian Evangelism.

Thank you to all who made this possible. We know that God will provide for you. Be blessed.

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  • carole hess

    An uplifting and inspiring story for all who crave to see the Gospel lived. Be blessed as you continue to bless others!

  • http://childrensembassy.wordpress.com Mirjam Adolphi

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. Be blessed.

  • http://slavicoutreach.org Liz Croonquist

    Wonderful to see this move of the Holy Spirit in their midst! Praise God for your open heart to hear and obey how He led you to bless the most needy!

  • Bethany

    Awesome! Praise God! He gave you wisdom & discernment & a the perfect message!! What a way to turn the hearts of the people away from themselves & toward others!!! May God use this great seed that was planted to change mentalities, change hearts, & bring more people into the Kingdom!! Job well done, good & faithful servant!! :)

  • Marge Bley

    Great way to decide who should get the bags. What true Christians you have that they did not all stand up to get a bag. Give them all my love and blessings. Marge