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Playing God

Imagine sitting in a conference room at a large table with spreadsheets and proposals spread out before you. Laptops are opened, information is being projected on the screen, everyone around the table is intense. It looks like a normal business meeting, but this one is different than most. Its topic concerns matters of life and death.

Perhaps you are used to making decisions that deal with heart wrenching, life and death issues. I am not. Neither were most of the others sitting around the table that day. As employees at Compassion’s Global Ministry Center, we’re used to setting strategy and making plans for programs that others carry out. Rarely do we sit and decide what country will get help …what child will get food from Compassion this month?

But that is exactly what we’ve had to do in recent months. As the Global Food Crisis [3] has touched the lives of children across the globe and throughout Compassion’s programs, the need has been immediate, it’s been urgent, it’s been huge. Our country offices have submitted proposals for over $16 million to address the current need.

While fund raising efforts catch up to the need, and while dollars slowly come through the door, we sit and make decisions on who is “neediest”. We attempt to make the money stretch and try our hardest to listen to the Lord as we direct portions of what has been raised to various countries.

We’ve gone back and forth with our country offices, asking, “If we can only send you 10% of what you asked for, how would you use it?” The reply is what you’d expect – “we’ll feed only those with the most severe need” or “we’ll provide 10 kg of rice instead of 30 kg to each family”.

We’re left feeling inadequate. It feels like we are trying to play God – deciding who will eat and who won’t. Who’ll be helped and who won’t. We’re uncomfortable doing it because of the implications of the decision, but we’re even more uncomfortable because we do it from afar. We know that our country staff, and even more so, our church partners, will have to be the ones to face the children, to see their hunger.

On the one hand, we are joyful that we have money to disburse. We’ve sent about $3 million so far – to provide emergency food supplies for families. Yet the need is still so great.

Compassion serves over a million children. Just do the math. Add in two or three family members per child served. That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of need. Suddenly, $3 million doesn’t sound like so much.

Sure, not everyone is desperate or starving. Sure, the families have some means to help feed themselves and provide for their needs. But many, in fact maybe even most, are hurting because of this crisis.

I’ve turned to prayer to settle my heart in this matter. Only God can bring comfort when the food runs out. Only God can turn the Church upside down and rally hearts to open up pocket books so that sharing of resources happens like never before. Only God can give me peace that I’ve been faithful to do what He has asked me to do…and to trust that He’s big enough to carry this burden.