pray with your wallet

Almost immediately after the earthquake struck Haiti, Bill Neely, the senior pastor of the church I serve, received a flurry of calls. (Bill is very active in disaster relief, so plenty of people were calling him for advice and information.)

Many of the calls were from excited and well-meaning people, who exclaimed that they wanted to help the wounded or hand out food and water.

“What food? What water?” Bill asked. “How much can you really carry with you? And how will you get in?”

It’s been difficult, watching the news about Haiti, feeling helpless and frustrated. If you’re like me, you want things to be fixed. You want to see a cloud of helicopters and planes dropping supplies and lowering personnel on ropes. You want to see photos of people bandaged up and carrying home a box of food, not bleeding and hungry sitting among the ruins. You may even want to go yourself, out of a desire to help and to feel useful.

But what if your calling right now is giving money? What if you could pray with your wallet?

When I was in seminary, my fellow students and I would sit around and talk — a lot. One thing we talked a lot about was mission and service. I suppose we proclaimed ourselves experts, and we decided it was better to serve than to give. But that was before September 11, Katrina, and Haiti.

We knew nothing about disasters of such epic proportions that rendered normal volunteering difficult, if not impossible. We could not imagine ruin so great that only the most professional organizations could handle it.

And–this is the part I’m thinking a lot about today–we tried to deny the fact that we were rich. Poor in comparison to other Americans, perhaps, because of being in school, but rich in comparison to the rest of the world. We didn’t want to offer the service of giving, because our great resources embarrassed us.

We did not choose to be born with such wealth, but we were unwilling to heed the call it placed upon us. In a way we were like Esther, whom Mordecai told, “Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) We lived like kings, but we didn’t want to accept the position in which we had been placed.

Well, such a time has arrived. People are arriving in Haiti every day who can handle the crisis, but they need money to make it happen. I am needed to pray with my wallet.

Even though I don’t feel rich, I have more spare change floating around my house than many of the world’s citizens will see in a month. If I truly want to help, I will do something with the resources I have.

If you have $10, or $100, or $100,000, you have been blessed with an opportunity to help. The time has arrived.

(Note: at First Presbyterian Church we have worked often with the Medical Benevolence Foundation, which operates a nursing school in Haiti. The school building still stands, and students and staff are working hard to help. Visit

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