Thomas Kemper is chief executive of the General Board of Global Ministries, the United Methodist mission organization.
When it comes to the idea of giving and sharing, I think back to when I was a missionary serving in Brazil. Every Wednesday, volunteers and people who were homeless would gather under a bridge for soup making. Everyone brought what he or she had or could find, including leftovers from street markets, fish heads, wilting vegetables. Some brought salt or oil.
Together, we prepared the culinary contributions, cooked the soup over an open fire and ate in a large circle. Afterward, we prayed, praised and promised to return to the bridge - our connection to meals, friends and God's love.
Across The United Methodist Church, Dec. 3 is designated as # GivingTuesday , an online campaign to remind us that this is a season of giving. United Methodists and friends are setting aside this day to make online gifts to their choice of the verified accountable organizations of THE ADVANCE - an avenue of giving that connects our churches, congregations and individuals with missions people want to support. For months, we have been trying to get the word out that on this special day of giving, 100 percent of all gifts benefit the designated project, and donations made today will be matched dollar for dollar.
It is important to acknowledge and honor the work of so many different denominations and organizations who have revved up their holiday fundraising - not because of numbers, but because of need. While recognizing and addressing the underlying social issues at this time of year, many people of faith reiterate the importance of treating others as we would like to be treated. We are moved to care for those who are homeless, befriend the unemployed single parent, pray with the best friend who has breast cancer and receive inspiration from the mother who just lost her third child to malaria, yet still believes in Jesus' love. Every day, many God-loving people put their convictions and heartfelt intentions into action. They serve people who are under-educated, lacking healthcare, fearful, judged, scorned and hungry. They serve those who are homeless and feel powerless. Their appreciation is almost never returned with a check.
We may slip a dollar in the collection plate, place a donation basket on a table, replenish a food pantry, raise money to buy insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria or support a missionary who feeds and educates children. By supporting ministries and missionaries through The Advance, our gifts empower communities and address the root causes of injustice.
Like so many who sit in pews, bow in temples or kneel in cathedrals, we have found a worship home that meets our most personal and spiritual needs. Like you, we want to make a difference, correct a wrong and illuminate hope. Sharing our gifts as a spiritual discipline helps us grow stronger in our relationships with others and in our relationship with God.
We say "thank you" to all those who work alongside us to help others understand what more can be done through giving instead of withholding. Ecclesiastes 4:12 tells us, "A threefold cord is not quickly broken." In other words, "We can do more together than we can do apart."
Let us pray:
Thank you, God, for people of faith who work on systemic change around the world, walking the path of justice, mercy and love. Thank you for advocates who get out from behind their desks and climb down the ladder of success to speak up for others. Thank you for donors who care for others even when they cannot care adequately for themselves and for donors who use their riches for good. Thank you for the children who use their birthday money to help save sick children. Thank you for missionaries, who use their hands and feet to heal, educate and share God's love. Thank you for volunteers who show up in devastated communities and stay until all the work is done. Thank you, God, for people of other faiths and for their partnership in doing God's work. Amen.
Whether it is today or tomorrow, whether it is through The United Methodist Church, or through your own faith community, on this #GivingTuesday and in this season of hope, we encourage you to support a cause that ignites your passion.
So gather the wilted vegetables, the fish heads and the salt, and let us make soup together under the bridge. It's where everyone is a giver.
THE ADVANCE is the designated giving arm of The United Methodist Church. It supports more than 850 missions and ministries, including disaster relief, hunger programs, educational outreach and clean water and sanitation. Today only , if you donate through THE ADVANCE, we will match your contribution dollar for dollar. One hundred percent of gifts will reach the givers designated project.
To give today, visit www.umcmission.org/give. Remember, you will double your impact.