A “Boring” Way to Change the World
by Nathan Brown
For many years, I have been one of those “boring” supporters of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). As a young person, I collected door-to-door for the ADRA “Appeal for Missions”—as it used to be called. Since I began working, I have been a monthly donor, a small amount paid on my credit card month-by-month that I have barely noticed. And these days, my local church collects coins at a nearby set of traffic lights for the ADRA Appeal each year.
However, in the past few years ADRA has occupied an increasing part of my thinking and how I engage with the larger world. As our income has increased over the years, my wife and I have increased our regular donations to support the work of ADRA to the point that ADRA receives a significant portion of the “second tithe” we try to give to help the poor and other justice causes in the world (see Deut. 14:22–29).
Donations to ADRA are also a way I respond to tragedies and disasters in the world. Watching news reports of earthquakes, floods, famines, and wars can leave us feeling helpless and overwhelmed by the suffering and sorrow that impact so many people’s lives. But we cannot afford to become hardened or apathetic in our responses, particularly when we can respond to the real needs of our “neighbors” (see Luke 10:29–37) by supporting the work of those who are there on the ground and able to respond practically in these situations.
I have also had the opportunity in the past few years to work with ADRA on a few writing projects and at church events, and have increasingly come to appreciate the purpose, passion, and people of ADRA. But on the whole, I remain one of those “boring” supporters, who simply give their donations and trust ADRA to do what they can in development work and emergency relief, meeting opportunities and needs as they are able, and as they are supported by so many other people like us.
Yes, it’s boring. A monthly “ADRA” charge to my credit card doesn’t feel adventurous, romantic, or world-changing. But it is a legitimate form of faithfulness, and probably one of my most useful opportunities to serve these people and respond to these important issues.
But my appreciation of ADRA grew significantly in June when I had the privilege of being part of ADRA’s Annual Council in Bangkok, Thailand. I was invited to share something of a research and writing project I have worked on with ADRA Australia, which I was pleased to do. But my greater excitement as an ordinary ADRA supporter was having the opportunity to meet and hear the stories of some 140 ADRA leaders and personnel from across the world.
I was in awe of this incredible collection of people drawn from every region of the world, many of them serving in countries other than their homelands. As I talked with them and heard their stories, I discovered problems, issues, and tragedies in the world that I didn’t know existed. But in stark contrast to most news reports, I did so in the context of hearing it from people who are working to alleviate suffering, to work against injustice, and to offer hope and better choices in peoples lives. I was humbled, daunted, and inspired.
ADRA has had, and continues to have, its challenges. What it tries to do is difficult. ADRA offices work with a variety of governments, other organizations and agencies, negotiating their countless regulations and requirements. They seek to raise and distribute money from many different sources with a range of accountabilities, while at the same time as trying to do as much as possible with the resources it has. ADRA field workers often work on complicated issues with sometimes desperate people in remote, dangerous, and tragic circumstances.
That’s why we need ADRA. Together, they—and we as their supporters—do so much more than any of us could do alone. There will always be missteps, failures, and frustrations. But for a small agency, ADRA seems to over-achieve. ADRA does many good things to respond to a world of injustice and tragedy; and in so doing, enacts the kingdom of God as described by Jesus (see Luke 4:18, 19; Matt. 10:7, 8; 25:34–36). Its partnership with the church offers both current strength and still greater opportunities.
As an ordinary ADRA supporter, I am grateful for a unique glimpse of the people and work of ADRA. My support of ADRA continues to be “boring,” but I have a renewed sense of its importance. Sometimes boring is a kind of faithfulness (see 1 Thess. 4:11, 12). But this giving isn’t so boring now that I have met the people who use our donations to make a difference. The results in the lives of many people around the world are far from boring.