Not Because We Are Rich

My mother-in-law, who lives in a senior citizen’s apartment, asked me on behalf of a gentleman who lives there if our church could reimburse him for the $70 he spent to fix his TV. He said that the TV had been donated by our church and that Seoul Baptist is rich enough to pay for it.

In general, I believe that once we donate something, we’re not responsible for its repair afterwards, but I thought I would give him the money out of my pocket. But after thinking about it, I decided against it. I was bothered by the last thing he mentioned, that “Seoul Baptist is rich.”

Our church has been able to help other people and organizations by tightening our belts. Most Korean-American churches provide free lunch after worship services, but our church asks our members to pay for their lunch. Most Korean-American churches have a budget for church volunteers to buy meals when they have to work long hours. But our church prohibits using church money to buy food; our volunteers pay for their own meals. I pay for my own meals unless I’m meeting with people as a representative of our church. Most Korean-American churches provide free sermon CDs for their members to give to non-believers. But we ask our members to buy them, even when being used for evangelical purposes.

We are able to be generous to others because we are stingy with ourselves. Roughly 1/3 of our church budget is used for others outside our church. At one time, 42% of our church expenditures went toward others. We also spend any budget surpluses on others instead of saving for our own future needs, or using it to improve our facilities. We donated $100,000 to help Yenben University of Science and Technology in China install a water purifier for their dormitories, and another $100,000 to help Pyunyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea acquire electronic equipment for its libraries. We donated $70,000 to help the Korean-American senior center in Houston build a parking lot. These are just a few examples. We financially support many evangelism, missions and charity projects.

Last fiscal year, despite the recession, we again had a budget surplus. So we donated $150,000 to the Korean-American Community Center for them to remodel and furnish a building they recently purchased. They were short $190,000, so we donated $50,000 in cash and $70,000 in matching funds. If they raise $70,000, they’ll reach the $190,000 they need and will be able to complete their renovation. We also offered $30,000 so that they hire a full time worker whose job will be find institutions with charity funds and write proposals to get funding. Without such funds, the center won’t be able to maintain the building and provide services for the community.

We are able to help others not because we’re rich, but because we’re frugal. So it upsets me when someone asks for financial help simply because they think we’re rich. If people or organizations ask for our help with projects that are not in accordance with our church’s mission in evangelism, missions, and charity, I’d like to ask you to decline after explaining our policies.

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