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Degrees of Connection

3 weeks ago written by
nov20173

My wife, Jen, and I just spent a weekend in Smyrna, Tennessee, while in the Nashville area for a conference. We were blessed to worship with the welcoming members of the First Free Methodist Church there, and we also stopped in the parking lot of another Smyrna congregation — All Saints Episcopal. We wanted to see the church featured in the movie “All Saints,” which tells of the church’s revitalization through its connection with refugees from Myanmar’s Karen ethnic group.

Jen and I had enjoyed watching the film a few months earlier although the plot didn’t seem that surprising for us. Our home church, John Wesley FMC in Indianapolis, has grown in part through attracting immigrants from Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Eddie Savala-Lipule, our youth pastor, grew up in Kenya. One day at church, he chatted with Cedric Johnson, a retired surgeon. As the conversation continued, they realized one of Johnson’s former resident physicians had operated on Savala-Lipule’s grandfather in Kenya.

As I write this, the song “It’s a Small World (After All)” echoes through my head. Perhaps you’ve heard of “six degrees of separation” — the idea that all people are connected by friends of friends or acquaintances. Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy reportedly came up with this concept in 1929 — long before social media made it easy for us to form international friendships.

As we connect with people around our globe (whether immigrants in our local communities or Facebook friends in other countries), we may discover many of them have great needs, and we may be able to help them. We also may not have ties to a particular country or continent, but we may become burdened for a place’s people while watching the news or reading about them facing poverty, persecution or natural disasters. It’s not always easy to determine effective ways to help, and it’s hard to know which nonprofit groups to trust.

Families and local churches often decide to partner with child-sponsorship organizations and other charities that are well-known from TV commercials and music festivals (but also have big overhead costs, higher sponsorship fees, and six-figure salaries for their leaders). For example, child sponsorship ranges from $38 to $40 a month with several heavily marketed organizations but just $30 a month through International Child Care Ministries, which keeps overhead low by working through Free Methodist ministries to support 20,000 children in more than 30 countries. As you’ll read in this issue, ICCM offers various opportunities to help, and donations are needed to keep children fed, clothed and educated.

Perhaps you’re worried that by giving money, you’ll perpetuate dependence. Actually, you’ll be helping people find meaningful work if you give or shop through the SEED (Sustainable Empowerment through Economic Development) Livelihood Network. Keep reading to learn how you can help SEED work with groups that create long-term business ventures.

You likely won’t find ICCM or SEED sponsoring your favorite band’s next arena concert or appearing on your TV screen when you’re battling insomnia, but you will find them serving Jesus by helping people have shelter, clothes, food and clean water (Matthew 25). Their employees don’t make six-figure salaries, but they connect communities and change lives.

Jeff Finley has served as the managing editor of Light + Life since 2011. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for Sun-Times Media. He is a volunteer in several ministries at John Wesley Free Methodist Church in Indianapolis.

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Article Categories:
[Openers] · L + L November 2017 · Magazine