Monday, February 27, 2017

Tax Refund Season Should Also Be Giving Season

Many Americans, especially those who get the "Earned" Income Tax Credit which was delayed this year, are getting their tax "refunds" right now. I put refunds in quotes because a lot of people, like me, don't pay anything into the tax system because of our income level or in my case because I have so many dependents but we still get money "back" from the government. It is sort of like going to Wal-Mart and getting a refund on an item you never bought. America, what a country! Am I right?!

Anyway, for lots of people whatever their tax situation might be, the refunds are rolling in. That means a lot of extra cash in your checking account. Also like many other people we used a chunk of ours to pay off some small debts, and that should be a top priority because debt is mostly bad, but we still have a nice chunk left over. The initial impulse is to buy stuff that maybe you have been holding off on. If you are a Christian, might I suggest that you make a priority of giving to worthwhile ministries with a sizeable portion of your tax refund. For a lot of us, right now is when we have more unallocated money than we will have all year. There is really no better time to give than right now.

I made a small donation this morning to my preferred ministry, the Hope Community Project. Formerly known as the Haiti Orphan Project, the HCP modified their mission to focus on strengthening Haitian communities rather than forming orphanages. Instead of providing housing for orphans, the goal is to prevent orphans in the first place. They recently posted on their Facebook page (emphasis mine):
"An estimated 32,000 children live in orphanages in Haiti. More than 80% are not orphans. 80 years of research demonstrates the harm caused by raising children in institutions. As a result, most countries in the developed world moved away from this form of care decades ago." From "Orphanage Entrepreneurs: The Trafficking of Haiti’s Invisible Children," by Lumos.
That is why the Hope Community Project took the rather courageous step of changing their mission. Talking about orphanages is easy, people understand that. Talking about preventing "orphans" in the first place is much harder to explain but far more helpful. Their mission statement explains it better than I can:
We exist to facilitate the development of healthy communities through partnerships with Haitian churches and organizations to encourage sustainable physical, spiritual and economic health; we desire to communicate Christ-centered compassion as well as respect for the dignity and resources of the Haitian people.
HOPE’s overarching goal is orphan prevention. We seek to help vulnerable families stay together, as well as to encourage extended families and communities to care for the orphans among them. We desire to walk alongside them helping through school sponsorships, medical care, and economic development. We are committed to providing at-risk families and children in our target area a viable alternative to traditional orphan care in Haiti.
HOPE Medical Project serves the medical needs of the deeply impoverished, at-risk and orphans in the local community. We are committed to creating a permanent presence in our target community and ongoing mobile clinics in support of a variety of ministry partners who represent communities with an established need.

I think that is a worthwhile cause. There are lots of ways to give. I made a lump sum donation this morning and then set up a recurring donation. It seems pretty insignificant but a little is better than nothing. Another way to donate is to use Amazon Smile. I have it bookmarked so whenever I buy something from Amazon for myself or someone else a small chunk is donated. It is not much but since I am buying from Amazon anyway I might as well see some of that go to a good cause. It is easy to sign up, you can pick whatever group you want from the Keane Charitable Group that is the umbrella organization behind the Hope Community Project or lots of other Christians charities or even places like the ASPCA if animals are more important to you than people. As long as you see the Smile support message, some of your purchase proceeds go to your chosen organization. See below:

It can be tempting to use all of the "extra" money you have right now on something nice for yourself, and that is your prerogative, but please consider whether you can direct some of that cash to a good cause. There are plenty out there to choose from but do your homework. I actually know the people at the Hope Community Project and I also know that the funds I give go right to the work of ministry instead of overhead so I give with confidence. Wherever you give, make sure that your giving is going to ministering and not to pay for a bunch of staff people in offices. Make sure there is an accountability mechanism in place. Find out what the funds are used for. My preference is smaller ministries that I know instead of the massive groups but wherever you give, if you do so prayerfully and responsibly it will be a blessing. 

We have so much in this country and even when we think times are tough, and for a lot of us they are, there is almost always room to give to help advance the work of the Kingdom. Give prayerfully, give strategically, give generously. 

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