I like free things. It’s so easy, so convenient. Really? I can just have it? It always feels a little funny, a little cheaper, however, when the giver of the gift says, “Oh, it’s no big deal. I got it for free too.” They care less, and suddenly, I care less. Oh, that’s cool, thanks.
After embarking on my test run of this photo project to raise funds towards fighting child trafficking, I was overjoyed by the requests that began to come in for prints. People have been so supportive and so excited to contribute to this amazing organization, to this incredibly important cause. ZOE staff will go to the ends of the earth to rescue children in great poverty who face the potential of an otherwise horrific future of physical and sexual slavery. This video of my dear friends in Thailand as they carry out a child rescue brings tears to my eyes every. single. time. Every aspect of the video is real. I’ve been exhilarated to see how this hobby that is so much more than a hobby of mine could suddenly become something that could also fight a terrible evil in the world on a very practical level. I’m so thankful for my full-time job, which allows me to do this project with no strings attached. People can pay my suggested price for the print, but they can pay less if they need or donate more if so desired, given that all of the proceeds will go towards ZOE Children’s Home, either way. I have the joy of sharing my photography, and serving as a glad conduit for the fundraising.
As deep as my joy has been with this project thus far, however, there was still curiously something that did not feel quite right. Something felt incomplete.
It felt too easy. Selling the prints doesn’t require a whole lot of effort from me, just a little coordination. Then I get to write the final check from this test run to ZOE, which will be wonderful. But it’s just been so convenient. It hasn’t really cost me anything. I think I still feel like this rich person doling something out to the poor, something that’s not even mine for that matter. The sense of personal disconnect unsettles me.
My heart began to burn. God’s conviction, His gentle but deep push. Match the donations, dollar for dollar. Feel the pinch in your own pocket. See again how rich you really are, how you think you don’t have a lot to give, but you actually do if you’re willing to forego a little of your own extra indulgences here and there. Taste even just the smallest hint of feeling your own financial resources challenged. Learn how to identify yourself, even just a little bit, with those who have so little.
Honestly speaking, it’s not as if I’m taking any real financial risk by matching donations at this point in the project. I can match dollar for dollar and not worry about where my next meal will come from. But the conviction to do even this much already reveals how much selfishness still exists in me. There is reluctance in me. I crave the fancier meal that the extra money could buy if I kept it. Which is exactly why I need to give. Somehow it means a bit more, to ZOE and I think to me as well, for this to cost me something too. I feel as though I’m experiencing for the first time in a while what it means to actually live out the Gospel, to practice a little of what I preach. That God loves the broken, that Jesus saved me to give me a new heart, a new mind, a new purpose, to live out His love through who I am and what I have so that others might know that His love is real. That they might know that His love is tangible and practical in the face of something like human trafficking.
I’ve got a feeling He’s looking to push me more in this area. And I’ve got a feeling this work of His Spirit in my heart is at least partly about loosening money’s stranglehold over me, and flipping it up on its head. Taking hold of money to use it for all the good that it has the potential to do.
Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily;
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
Taken in a remote Thai village. Photo credit: Stephen Sato