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Is It Right to Evangelize During Tsunami Relief Efforts?

Fred Jackson, Jody Brown, and Allie Martin | Agape Press | Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Is It Right to Evangelize During Tsunami Relief Efforts?

January 11, 2005

Some of the religious relief agencies involved with helping the tsunami victims are expressing very different views about whether to use the opportunity to share the gospel of Christ.

Groups from many denominational backgrounds have sent relief teams to South Asia, where most people are either Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim. But some question whether the relief effort should be used as an opportunity to share the good news of salvation through Jesus. William Headley, deputy executive director for Catholic Relief Services, says no to evangelization.

"This is not a time for evangelization," Headley says. "It's time of anything for Christian witness that if your faith means something, that you're to serve people, then this is a wonderful opportunity to do this."

But the president of the group Gospel for Asia (GFA) takes a very different approach. K.P. Yohannon says the deadly tsunami has made people in the region more receptive to the gospel. "Now when we talk to people about death and eternity and what is to come, I can tell you -- strike while the iron is hot," Yohannon says.

The GFA leader says his group has had missionaries in the area for years, and they are there now to pray and give New Testaments to the tsunami victims, in addition to meeting their physical needs.

Mix 'Due Diligence' with Compassion

A Christian watchdog organization based in North Carolina is offering free, research-based advice on donors who are considering giving to Christian relief groups working in the areas ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami.

Wall Watchers is encouraging individuals to exercise due diligence when contributing, and to focus on ministries that are "efficiently and effectively providing aid" to the victims "while sharing the gospel in both word and deed." The group warns of scam artists who "pop up" at times like this to take advantage of those with a compassionate heart.

"In times like this it is often best to donate to those ministries that already have established networks of key people in the effected areas rather than to smaller groups that desire to do good but may not have the capability to effectively carry out their well intentioned plans," Wall Watchers says in a Donor Alert.

The ministry offers donors advice on "red flags" they should be on the lookout for, and also includes a partial list of recommended ministries it considers legitimate in the South Asia relief effort.

Wall Watchers also notes that both the U.S. House and Senate have unanimously passed HR 241, a piece of legislation that allows U.S. taxpayers to deduct donations to tsunami-related relief through the end of January. Normally tax laws would require taxpayers to wait until they file their 2005 taxes to deduct donations made after January 1. But according to Wall Watchers, the legislation was passed in an effort to provide "further incentive to Americans to open up their wallets and pocketbooks" to the tsunami victims.

Wall Watchers quotes a congressional source as saying President Bush is expected to sign the legislation "any day now."

The Homeless at Home

Meanwhile, an official with a ministry to the homeless is encouraging Christians in America not to forget those without shelter in the U.S. while the worldwide focus seems to be on those devastated by the South Asia earthquake and tsunami.

Here's Life Inner City (HLIC) is distributing "Homeless Care Kits" to those without shelter. Tedd Gandy, director of HLIC's national office, says each kit includes a blanket, gloves, cap, scarf, and other basics. Gandy says people should not forget that while the needs are great overseas, the needs are still great in America.

"They're out there for a lot of different reasons -- and it's not just men," he tells Mission Network News. "It's women, it's children -- and we want to connect spiritually with those individuals."

Like the relief workers in South Asia, Gandy says those working with the homeless find opportunity to reach out in Christ's love. "So often our caregivers go out in the late hours, sometimes at 11:00 at night or midnight, and are able to extend these products that really are needed, but also to communicate the love of Christ to these individuals and try to get them into a more stable situation."

"It's a quiet hour and people are lonely and sometimes scared -- and it provides just a quiet moment for extended conversations," Gandy adds.

HLIC, whose national office is based in New York City, is a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. The ministry to the homeless also has offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and many other metropolitan areas.


Catholic Relief Services (http://www.catholicrelief.org) Gospel for Asia (http://www.gfa.org) Wall Watchers (http://www.ministrywatch.com) Here's Life Inner City (http://www.hlic.org)

© 2005 Agape Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.