Eye of a Needle

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24 (NIV)

I grew up in a family who sponsored children. I remember my dad writing to our Compassion kids monthly, sharing bits of our lives. We would look forward to the return letters, updating us on their progress. A few years ago, my dad got to meet one of their kids while he was in Rwanda.

During the awkward, not-quite-sure-about-labels part of our dating, I first found out that Frank had defined me as his girlfriend as he was writing a note to his sponsored child. He casually mentioned it, and after that the awkwardness of calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend were diminished.

Last week, we received a letter from our sponsorship organization letting us know one of our kids has moved to a new community and will no longer be receiving their services. We were given the opportunity to sponsor a new child. The letter is still sitting on our kitchen table. Frank originally sponsored his first child (and later another) through this particular organization because the church we attended at the time supported them. It was easy to look at the table set up in the foyer filled with faces needing extra financial help, pick one up, and sponsor without much more thought.

My hesitation to renew with this same organization stems from several quandaries. First, this group is being audited by the IRS concerning how they report market value on their medicines. Another quandary is based in the recent outrage over a different organization’s hiring policy. It made me realize that sponsoring a child isn’t simply about our specific child and his or her community. It’s about how companies operate and treat their employees here, as well.

Frank wondered if we should take the money from our child and give to something different – the Nature Conservancy or donate more to our Kiva account. A reason I’m so committed to child sponsorship in particular is that investing in education, health care, community is a grassroots way to initiate change. Girls who are kept in school longer and who learn skills that will help them contribute to their communities will be viewed as an asset rather than a commodity. (Read Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s amazing book, Half the Sky for more information.)

As we grapple with where to best send our money, I am reminded of the story of Jesus talking with the rich man about entering the Kingdom of Heaven.  After he tells the man that it is more difficult to enter the kingdom of God than for a camel to race through the eye of a needle, his disciples wonder who can be saved. Jesus responds that it takes leaving our houses, our families, and properties. In the end, he gives hope for this sacrifice, saying, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matthew 19:24-30)

As I spend too much time analyzing and questioning which organization is perfect, this story kept coming to mind. I have the ability to give to others; to use my money to help the least of these. But, this isn’t at the expense of my own house or family – it is in addition to paying all of our bills. As I see nitpicking about who is allowed to serve, I wonder if we are creating a situation where, instead of helping with open hands, we are creating smaller and smaller needle holes. I need to remember the privilege of giving. Affording an extra $30/month isn’t much by our standards, but it is extravagant in many other family’s budgets. And, maybe instead of over-analyzing, I need to just write a letter introducing our family to our new child.

Do you sponsor a child? Any recommendations for good organizations?

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