Posted by: macahajo | September 22, 2015

no easy answers

In my last post, I shared how Cameroon, like many other African countries, is a collective society, and how this is completely opposite from the American, stand on your own two feet, individualistic society.  

So, how do we, who are from an individualistic society respond? We are living in this collective society. We are building relationships with many Cameroonians, and many of them need financial help at different times for education or a variety of other reasons. We have learned that in this culture, it is better to give a little than not at all. It is good to participate, people say. If someone has a doctor’s bill to pay or funeral expenses, it is good for us to contribute towards that need, even if it’s just $10.  It shows that we care about that person and that relationship.

Another question that we ask ourselves often; what do we do when there are so many needs around us? Cameroonians see us as the rich white people. Considering half of the population in Cameroon lives on less than $2 a day according to a study by The World Bank in 2007, we are more wealthy then most in this country. But we personally do not have endless resources, nor should we always give… sometimes, helping hurts. (more on that later!)

Other questions we think about: Who do we give to? How do we know if they are really in need? Sometimes, strangers ring our door-bell, looking for help. People have told us that it is better to go deeper with a few than to help a lot of people a little. That’s how we would really see a difference being made.

There are no easy answers to our questions that we struggle with. But…

We ask God to help us guard against a hard heart. Sometimes, we get tired by the great needs around us; so many people asking so often for financial help. People say that the white man is looked at as an opportunity. We get discouraged or frustrated sometimes when it feels like money is the only reason someone wants a relationship with us or because they can get something. While this is how we feel sometimes, Scripture reminds us that “If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.” May we guard our hearts from growing cold so that we won’t close our hearts to helping those in need.

We ask God to give us a compassionate heart. 1 John 3:17 says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” May the Lord give us His heart of compassion.

We ask for His discernment. Many years ago while a student at Moody Bible Institute, we would walk the busy streets of Chicago, and sometimes we would be approached by a beggar. Instead of always saying no, or always giving, a professor encouraged us to pray to God about what to do with each person who would turn to us for something. There are people in Cameroon who we don’t know, who come to our door, and ask for help. Perhaps they have no family, and no where else to turn. Or perhaps they are trying to scam us; cheating, stealing, and lying about their situation. But there are many, many people around us who have legitimate and real needs. We needed the Lord’s discernment in Chicago, and we need His discernment in Yaounde too.

We ask God to show us how to use the funds that He has given us. The struggle is real; how we spend our money, God’s money. We set aside money each month to give. But, should we give more? Sometimes I wrestle with the fact that I like to make the house that the Lord has given us, a comfortable home for our family, welcoming to all who enter. Or that I like to give our children things that they enjoy. Or how I like to use my washer and dryer instead of washing our clothing by hand like most Africans. The list could go on of how we spend our money, similar in many ways to most Westerners and quite different in many ways from most Africans. But how does God want us to spend the money He has given us? He has called us to help the poor. Proverbs 28:27 says, “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”  We can not close our eyes to those in need, which we could be so easy to do.

We pray that God will help us to generously give according to what we’ve been given. A friend described the needs around us like a black hole. The hole is so deep; you could keep giving but never reach the end. There will always be more. More and more needs. God does tell us that the poor will always be among us. Deuteronomy 15:11 says, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” We won’t be able to eliminate poverty in Cameroon, but we pray that our hands would be open to give how the Lord would have us give.

Please pray with us that the Lord would guard our hearts from hardness and instead, that we would have hearts of compassion. Pray that the Lord would give us discernment, that He would show us how to use the funds He has given us, and that we would give generously, for His glory.

In Christ, Cathy Lynn

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