This article was originally published in the September 2015 edition of ITMI Monthly.
ITMI’s Timothy Keller, veteran in ministry all over Africa, aptly pointed out,
How do you help those with the greatest need in a community where everyone has little to nothing? Helping the poor in the third world has to be done very carefully. More often than not I see well-intentioned people (including myself at times) give to a community but create a social disaster in the process. Where there is stuff, greed and jealousy are not absent.
If you give to one person, then everyone else wants something too.
In a small village, it is easy for bitterness and resentfulness to take root and the person who received the gift actually gets harmed or treated badly by the rest of the community.
It can get really ugly sometimes, and the people with deep, serious needs can end up being either neglected or abused. There are, fortunately, a variety of ways to get around this.
ITMI partners serving in Zulu Natal, South Africa, Kelly and Cherise Smith, are intentionally and effectively helping through a special program.
They created and have grown The Bible Verse Shop, which is held every Thursday. The program is unique and quite beneficial. People in the community can earn the right to leave the shop with supplies and things they need. Their payment is reciting a Bible verse from memory.
There are now long lines of adults - not just kids - waiting to recite their Scripture and receive needed provisions.
These are people whose culture feeds them all kinds of destructive untruths about the world and how it works and where the power lies.
Ancestor worship and witchcraft are great enemies to public health, and they demand the bondage of many in this area.
Hopefully, planting the seeds of scripture in these minds will start a domino effect, releasing them from lies and turning them toward truth.
Long lines of people with memorized verses for the Bible Verse Shop.
The Smiths have found a way to bless people by meeting their needs, and avoided many of the negative effects of “hand-outs” that Timothy describes.
This is just one aspect of the Smith’s ministry.
In addition to being involved in their community through home health visits, relationships with foster care workers, and other community services, the Smiths were instrumental in planting a church that is now pastored by a local Zulu.
Each year, the Smiths reach out to the local schools through Project Christmas Blessing, where many hear about Jesus’ birth and are blessed with a small demonstration of love.
Cherish gives a Project Christmas Blessing gift.
A big project like Project Christmas Blessing starts long before Christmas time. The Smiths will soon begin collecting funds and purchasing the items needed. The Smiths have a lot on their plate this year. New teammates and new projects to line up. (More on that soon!)
Their ministry could definitely benefit from prayers and some funding directed toward Project Christmas Blessing before the season is upon us.
Summer Kelley is a writer living in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and three kids. She’s had the honor and privilege of telling ITMI’s stories since 2006. She’s a homeschooling mom and a T-shirt and jeans aficionado who likes all things simple. When she’s not writing or homeschooling, you can find her honing her skills as what some might call a "suburban survivalist" as she learns to thrive in the suburbs with 3 kids. As a productivity and organizing enthusiast, she may or may not spend hours attempting to use technology to "save time.” Summer loves reading, the outdoors and Coca-Cola Classic from the fountain.
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 12 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.