Monday, November 19, 2018

Operation Christmas Child

I was sent an article criticising Operation Christmas Child and charities like it. We have an interesting bit of history in our family about those boxes sent overseas at Christmas. The first Christmas our third and fourth sons were in America from Romania, in 2001, Chris's 7th-grade class at Concord Christian was putting together similar boxes. He was intrigued and startled to be seeing the process from that end, as he had been a receiver in romania.  His classmates, in turn, were startled and intrigued to have someone there who has seen this from the other end as well.  "What did you like getting most?  What should we get?  what should we write?" FTR, he and John-Adrian liked strange new candies well enough, but liked best the things that lasted that they could do something with, such as decks of cards or handcraft projects.  It was odd to hear them say they liked sewing projects - but those took a while and gave a sense of accomplishment.  Neither of them could remember anything that was written to them.

Anyway, we just brought in our box to church this week.  I seldom have much to do with it, it's one of those concrete things that Tracy likes, but I thought people here might be interested in my answer.  Also worth noting as Tracy and I discussed it is that she gives very intentionally to maximum physical impact charities overseas, such as clean water, both for health and so that women and girls do not have to travel far for it, exposing themselves to rape. It is good to be wise. 


Mixed feeling, very mixed, about the article. They make a number of excellent points about what really helps, and why our current forms of giving may actually do harm.  Beth Hubbard is talking about doing a Sweet Tuesdays class on When Helping Hurts . The point about undermining local businesses - excellent.  The lack of cultural understanding about what is valuable in other places - very good. Noticing that it is dehumanising and unhealthy for poor countries to always just look to rich white people to give them things - also very good.  It is one of the things that the Covenant Church is noticing from Sudanese churches that have started - they have way too many people just waiting for white people to give them stuff, because that's what they think the world is. Most of the Sudanese churches are in the mode of "permanent support or fold." Refocusing on employment and concrete action - also excellent. I liked the toys-at-a-discount idea a lot. Not much good for homeless people or people in prison buying presents for their kids, but it is a nice recognition of dignity for people who are simply poor and don't have a lot to spare, even after transfer payments.

On the other hand - and these are very big.  Did you notice that Jesus is not mentioned? There is sort of a distant Creator reference, and the idea of their understanding of the Gospel as "welcome and justice and mercy and love." Not that those words have any loaded political meaning, never.  The article is in fact stuffed full of sustainable, giftedness, journey, toxic, conversation, authentic, engaging poverty..."I’ve seen so many switches go off as these women realize how they were made (??) and that they are meant for more." Yeah, that's all fine, except that these are "transfer words."  They look like things informed by Christian thinking but when you come down for breakfast the next morning everyone is talking about liberal political action.  That they had to inject extraneous references to LGBTQ and Franklin Graham didn't help with that. They are mirroring Graham's politicising, not transcending it.

OCC is an entry-level charity, that gets people involved who have not developed the habit of giving.  Children are part of that.  Okay, let's do better than slinkies and candy.  What ideas for sustainable employment in Thailand do they think the pre-K class should be involved in for Christmas this year? Who wants to put down money on how many children of their own they have? Have they actually had to teach generosity to real children?

Learn from their ideas but have nothing to do with them.  They are at root simply political, or will be in a few years. If you catch them behind closed doors even now I'll bet it's not quite so pretty, given the leakage we see here.


james said...

The Baptist News Global is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptists, which Wikipedia says is/was a moderate group that broke off from the Southern Baptists over the ordination of women. I wish I could prove you are wrong in your assessment, but the other stories from their web site suggest that politics is the uniting factor.

FWIW, when we packed OCC boxes for Africa, we tended to stuff them with school supplies and a toy, and I would put in a spool of wire and pair of pliers, on the "let them make their own toys" theory. We found out later that items deemed dangerous (e.g. needle packet along with the thread) would be taken out by inspectors, and I've been a bit less enthusiastic since.

That last phrase may be a bit misleading. I knew what it was like there, and was always a bit dubious about the random disproportion (X gets goodies, Y gets nothing), the focus on American culture and toys (the slinky isn't the worst example), and of course the effective "praise the US from which all blessings flow" effect.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I was curious about your response specifically. thank you for obliging.

Sam L. said...

It was great for your boys to tell them how it is/was on the receiving end.