How do you feel about giving non-monetary aid directly to a congregation?


Our congregation has received a letter from a man in the Philippines requesting aid in the form of Bibles, songbooks, and other training materials. Given the concerns you mention, how do you feel about giving non-monetary aid directly to a specific congregation?


Direct aid is less likely to be abused. However, I have owned a bookstore for ten years and have learned that there are some who will request Bibles. Generally, the scheme is to make a "purchase" and then claim the shipment was lost. The Bibles are then sold on the black market, where they bring in more money than you might expect in third-world countries where the printing costs are very high.

Direct aid has its downfall as the cost of shipping books is very high unless you are willing to use methods that can take 3-6 months to arrive.

If you are talking to someone in the Philippines, then find out what the native dialect is in his region, and send material in that dialect. Surprisingly, most religious terms are in Spanish there because of the Roman Catholics coming in centuries ago from Spain. Most Filipinos can speak and read English, but very poorly. The goal should be to get the gospel out to a wide audience, so materials people can use directly will be better. There is a tendency for preachers to set up a clergy/laity system where they are the dispensers of knowledge and the use of materials in a language the common people can't readily understand promotes this (think of the old Catholic church and its insistence of using Latin).

Keep in the back of your mind that there are some who will use the request for material as a way to open the door for future requests. If this happens, you will find yourself regularly getting letters about problems, illnesses, and disasters which all need money to solve. I strongly recommend that money is not sent except via a trusted representative who can see that the need actually exists and sees that the money is spent on that need. It costs more and is slower, but it is the way people did it in the New Testament and it is less open to abuse.

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