loudly fighting poverty

Minhee and I are bracing ourselves for the long, hard, exciting and hopefully, fruitful work ahead as we attempt to lay some groundwork for the humanitarian organization we’re envisioning and its work with global poverty.  We are awaiting word and documents [any day] from the State of Washington and will then move forward with revealing the name, raising some initial funds, and other steps.  We may be stupid idealists but there is something within us that believe we can be catalysts to a global grassroots movement to help raise funds to fight global poverty.

But before we begin sharing and working in the weeks and months ahead, I wanted to take a post to answer the questions I have received from friends, acquaintances, church community folks, blog readers, and strangers that read an earlier post regarding the public announcement of our family’s decison to give up this year’s salary and additional funds to invest in starting this organization.

In some form or another, the question I want to address has been similar in content to this from a thoughtful blog reader:

…Why are you announcing to the world that you’re giving away your salary for the next year?  Why not quietly do it and then after a year or two or however long, share what has happened as a result?   You can still launch your new venture, and when you take your sabbatical next year, you could be 1/2 way into your year of giving your salary away.

I’m just struggling with the oh-so-public announcement which grates me somewhat.  Do it quietly…

It’s a great question – one my wife and I wrestled with before going public and certainly after going public.  There are three things that I’ll share in response to why we’ve decided to go public and be “loud”:

1.  There’s a bigger picture. Our goal is not simply to give away $100,000.  If that was the end of our goal, it would have been “easy” and we would have gone about it quietly since it is simply a personal decision.  But our goal is much deeper and it is a goal we can’t reach without the partnership and support of thousands of others. Our goal is to raise $2million by 2010, $5million in 5 years and $20million+ in the next 20+ years.  Ideally, our goal is to raise $50+ million over the course of our remaining years before we die and redistribute 100% of those funds to the men, women, and children that are already on the ground doing significant work that 99.9% of the world has no idea about.  We are not doing a new thing.  Hardly…we are simply joining the work…

2.  We want to lead by example. We can’t ask people to give when we’re not willing to give.  We can’t ask people to care if we’re not willing to care.  How can we?  My personal philosophy is that people will be drawn to the stories and people that model both integrity and sacrifice.  We have made a choice to place ourselves in that light – in hopes that we can divert people not to us but to the larger issues of mercy, justice, and compassion.  In my church and in the larger culture where it’s easy to be consumed by well…our consumerism…we want to challenge ourselves and others to make a simple sacrifice that when joined by thousands of others…can make an impact.  Nearly half of the world’s population [3 billion] reportedly lives on less than $2 dollars/day.  1 billion live on less than $1/day.  Approximately 30,000 children die every day due to the complexities of poverty.

3.  We need accountability. We have been struggling with this conviction for couple years but have not had the courage and guts to make the sacrifices to make the financial numbers work.  We are not “wealthy” but God has certainly blessed us.  We are blessed not only to enjoy those blessings but challenged to bless others. But it’s so tempting and easy to simply hoard these blessings.  These past two years, I have been reluctant to move forward.  And honestly, these past couple months since sharing with my church leadership and blogosphere of our promise to give, there have been numerous times I’ve kicked myself in the ass and wished I hadn’t.  Why?  Because I would have preferred to just keep and enjoy my stuff…well…for me, myself, and I.  But I can’t because people keep emailing to ask how they can help, how they can pray, how they can give, how they can hold me accountable, etc.  This is why we needed to publicly share because I am a coward.

And while I’m certain that some may misunderstand our motivations or intentions, I am sincerely asking folks for grace as we stumble along to start this grassroots organization. It has begun and we’ll be using the next several months to ramp up to our offical launch.  While we’re not ready to yet reveal the name of our organization, this is our goal:

Our hope is to create a grassroots, global, and viral movement by integrating three key elements: human relationships, compassion & justice, and technology & creativity.

Our goal for the organization and website is to create a global community for the purposes of: 1) information and education, 2) collection and distribution, and 3) collaboration and innovation. Our goal is to give away 100% of all donations to small organizations and partners around the world that are already fighting extreme poverty. While not exclusive, our vision is to focus on small NGOs and CBOs (<$100k budget) around the world and engage in larger grants of microfinance, and granting seed money for future ventures.

In these recent years, our hearts have been regularly broken over the painful stories and realities brought on my extreme global poverty. Every time I examine poverty statistics, I sometimes just see numbers and forget that these are people – like you and me, my children, your children, etc. And more often than not, I am simply overwhelmed because I don’t quite know what to do. While we may not be able to ”fix” all of the world’s problems, we need to still do our part.  Generosity and philantropy is not reserved for the rich and famous…we don’t get a free pass. Each person has a God given right to live their lives as God intended for humanity. Anything short of that is simply, an injustice.

This is why we have decided to make this decision public and loud.  This is our motivation in starting this new non-profit international organization to fight global poverty. We share this not to boast of our altruism but to convey that we are not asking you to consider giving without us first making a sacrificial commitment. We are able to give not because we are wealthy per se, but because we have the greatest privilege.  That privilege is called CHOICE. We can choose to help, make decisions, sell items, refrain from goods, etc.  And while we have this privilege of CHOICE, there are many that do not…

Relevant Links:

60 Replies to “loudly fighting poverty”

  1. I think not announcing good stuff we do to whomever will listen for our own gain is a foundational theme of the Kingdom. But, I agree that the issue of resisting poverty is not primarily about you. In my opinion, you did the right thing by sharing your burden publicly because the problem is something that is seeded deeply in our culture.

    We are scared of not having enough. Its not rational for the wealthiest population in the history of the earth to be scared of that, and I do realize that there are many in our communities who actually have good reason to be scared, but I doubt they read blogs. Its something that needs a prophetic voice and action.

    When I heard your vision, I did not hear that you were convicted that you needed to sacrifice, but I heard that you were convicted of having enough to give away. That’s prophecy and should be called out in the streets.

  2. I just appreciate your honesty. It’s refreshing and needed. I think anytime raising money is involved, honesty and integrity is important and I can see why you are trying to make those things transparent. God bless you both.

  3. Hey Eugene,

    I’ve enjoyed your blog for some time but this is my first time commenting…

    I just wanted to say thank you for making the choice to be public and loud about your family’s financial decisions. I have reflected recently on the ways where we, in the church, fail to be a testifying community in the area of money, largely because of the desire to be faithful in giving quietly/humbly/in secret, etc. Of course those are good and true and biblical values, but I strongly believe that our “my finances are private/personal” tendencies in the church, we miss out on teaching/modeling/testifying opportunities. I recently posted a link on my blog to a story in People magazine about some friends of mine who make 200K +, but choose to live on $38K and give the rest away. I received a TON of feedback from that post–people who were inspired, encouraged, and motivated by hearing that. Sometimes our imaginations need to be pricked about how to really live as people who do justice and love mercy and walk humbly in this world–and what we do with our money is a part of that.

    Anyway, just wanted to say thanks to you and MInhee for being people who are testifying, joyfully, about how GOd is moving in the realm of your personal finances. I think we need more, not less, of this in the church…

  4. Again, thank you for reminding us that our bubble of health, wealth, and happiness can and should be large enough to encompass the world outside that needs us.

  5. Hi Eugene,

    I think you are definitely on the right path by announcing your intentions and demonstating transparency. Quick question for you… what is the benefit of pursuing justice issues as a non-profit/humanitarian agency as opposed to doing it through church/denominational connections? I’m part of a community that is planting a church and we are trying to best figure out how to initiate and be involved in justice issues in our community.



  6. I think it is inspirational, as it is intended to be. It causes me to self reflect and I am sure it does the same to others. The picture is amazing. It speaks volumes.

  7. scott, thanks for dropping by. we are doing both. we love what our denomination is doing. we absolutely what our church is TRYING to do. i wrote about that earlier here:


    we think that this humanitarian org can do things that the church or denomination will have a more difficult time doing. in short, we are hoping that this grassroots org will resonate cross borders, boundaries, religions, etc. because the issue of poverty is an issue of human rights…

    hope this makes sense.

  8. I am wondering if people who are bothered by this being a public announcement have asked themselves WHY this bothers them. When something bothers me I try (and dont always succeed) to ask myself why I am bothered… before pointing blame or being critical.

    The only reason this may bother me personally, is because it reminds me that I too am called to give sacrificially and graciously and that I do not always succeed. It reminds me that I am greedy and wasteful while others are in severe need!

    I am greatly encouraged by this PE! I think that the Church falls short of being the Church in the area of philanthropy. Most of the funds Church’s have go inward (i.e. to buildings and staff and programs that serve the people of the Church) and it is encouraging to see a move for the Church (or the leader of a Church) to start an organization aimed outward!

    Please keep those of us not living is close proximity up to date in the future as to how we can give/contribute/help/pray!!!

  9. I don’t think the “Right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing” is applicable in this instance- this is not a matter of personal piety; rather, in our culture, this is the economic equivalent of sackloth and ashes. PE- the funny thing about sharing your vision is that it’s going to exponentially grow in ways that you do not expect or can control. I’ll be keeping this on the list…

  10. Eugene,

    When you shared the premise of your organization, I got really excited. And I think once you share the idea of how to help create your sense of “viral movement,” others will understand. It really is such a simple but hopefully, contagious idea.

  11. Got here re Erika Haub’s blog.

    Love what you’re trying to do.

    I’m sort of old school, though.

    I wonder if we can square the circle better by modeling our extravagant (and wonderful) giving for close friends, inducing them to do the same, and then assertively and virally announcing what they (others) have done.

    I can’t see any situation in which virally marketing our own personal piety or sacrifice makes sense re Jesus’ teaching. It may be well meaning but I think it’s misguided in the long run.

    Jesus had some pretty good reasons to make sure the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. Self-righteousness is the disease of the best and most well meaning and committed people.

    Announcing our own personal giving leaves too much room for temptation for us personally over the long haul and creates an unhealthy model that eventually leads to people giving lots of money so they can have buildings named after them. That’s already been done. Is that really where we want our efforts and movements to end up?

    I think we’ve got to find a way to protect our hearts and protect the future health of biblical justice movements while at the same time getting way out on the edge of generosity and self sacrifice.

    Maybe we can find a way to lead movements that encourage others to give lots while at the same time encouraging folks to highlight the sacrifices of others. I think that may be closer to what Jesus was getting at.

    I say that with the greatest respect for what you’re trying to do. I have no questions about your motives or the folks you’re inspiring. But sometimes all of us do things that have unintended consequences over time. I think that’s what the ‘left hand right hand’ teaching is trying to guard against.

  12. tom, good thoughts for sure. i am certainly not free from temptation. i’m a depraved dude. heck, truth be told, my left and right hands need the grace of christ. i have a web url with my name and a picture of me praying on my banner. how pharisaic and self-centered can i be but thankfully, god is still working on my life.

    i don’t need buildings named after me but the hope is to pursue mercy, justice, and compassion and hopefully, all of that with humility. i have to my best estimates – 30 good years left before i croak and die and at the end of the day, i guess i really don’t care how people decipher my left or right hand, i just want to work with others to do his work.

    i’m not sure what old school is but it sounds good. i think if we all really pursue our convictions…it’s a good thing.

  13. Public or private, God knows the heart. Just because someone does things privately does not make the person more godly. If the person doing it privately thinks that he is more pious contradicts the very point s/he trying to make. Having said that, I always had respect for Gideons for putting Bibles all over the place quietly. Yet, how would I know it was the Gideons if they not made that small print on thier Bibles? God knows the heart and we are to spport people like Eugene who taking this amazing step of faith. Go for it brother!

  14. I think if you want to raise funds and make something happen, your announcement is the right thing, totally. It shows the extent to which you two believe in and are committed to your project. If you want people to follow, you must lead.

    If it also raises your personal self-image or public image, that doesn’t make it the wrong thing to do, does it? That’s just a separate problem to be managed by you.

    If your priority is really the organization and not your public or private image as a player or as a very pious man, then you take yourself out of the equation and figure what is best for the cause, right? Which is what it looks like you did.

    We’d love to help however we can. Totally behind you here and would love to be part of what I know will be something great.

  15. HI Eugene,

    Last night I watched American Idol Gives back where they said almost exactly the same thing as you. They talked of ending global poverty and the pursuit of justice and dignity for all people. They even ended the night with a praise and worship song.

    American Idol has a spiritual component. They had songs about Angels, love and, as mentioned, they even a praise song. But what was most interesting about the song they chose is that they left out the only verse that mentions Jesus by name.

    So as I read your very inspiring vision and noble goal. It is also the goal of American Idol Gives back. Their stated mission is to fight poverty. Your stated mission is to fight poverty.

    American Idol asked people who are blessed with wealth to be a blessing to others. You ask people to bless others.

    American Idol wants people to sacrifice. You are asking people to sacrifice.

    So based solely on your post above, I am left wondering; what do you offer the poor that was not offered on American Idol?

    And before I close, let me say that I have no doubts about your personal faith in Jesus as Savior nor do I believe you are not a faithful servant of Jesus in all you do in your Church. I am not putting any of those things in question here brother. 🙂

  16. Hi Eugene,
    Long time no talk~I found your blog through Brian Berry’s blog (if you remember, I am married to Brian’s sister Alisha). Anyway, I wanted to commend you on your family’s sacrifice, though I know you’re not interested in commendations. I think it is incredible that you guys have the faith to do that and it is inspiring. Alisha and I are living in Kampala, Uganda now, having joined Engineering Ministries International (www.eMiea.org) at their East Africa office here in January for 2-3 years (?). It was a difficult step to leave family and friends, but one that God definitely orchestrated. It is hard here on many fronts: seeing total poverty all around us, trying to live amongst that poverty with all we have – a nice home, a car, etc, fighting the feeling that we can’t make a difference since the problems here are so deep and ingrained, yet God clearly carved out our path to come and is guiding our path while we’re here and we have full confidence that how we ‘feel’ about what we’re doing is irrelevant to God being faithful to the call He gave us. We raised our full support to come and live here, and we were blown away by God’s provision when He calls. So I want to encourage you that even when the process makes no sense and you may even lose sight of what your vision is and where it’s going, God knows and will see it through to completion. Take care brother, so good to read a little bit about you after so long. Brad Crawford

  17. As it so happens, I’m preaching on Mark 8:34-38 this Sunday (“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. . .”) I think your decision, and the work ahead, perfectly fit into what Christ was calling his disciples to do. If you don’t mind, I’m going to share what you are doing as an example to our congregation of what can be done (as opposed to the classic refrain “It doesn’t mean you really have to give anything up; just that you should be willing to. . .”)

  18. There was an exhibit here in Oklahoma City of Pultizer Prize winning photographs, and the one above was part of that exhibit. I knew it immediately when I saw it. It gives me chills and was one of a handful in the exhibit that made me angry. But that’s what a Pulitzer Prize winning photo is supposed to do, isn’t it? To stir some kind of emotion within you? The photographer later took his own life because he was haunted by some of the things he had seen as a photographer.

    There is poverty everywhere. Most people think that poverty is in countries far away, so they don’t have to care. There is poverty in the United States, but the government wants to pretend it doesn’t exist here. I can’t help the whole world get out of poverty. I know that is beyond my meager capabilities. But, I can help one person, or a group of people, or an organization here in the USA fight poverty, hunger, homelessness.

    I don’t do it because I want spiritiual brownie points. I do it because I care. That’s why photos like the one above sadden me, anger me, haunt me… because I care. I have feelings. I have… a soul. I remember a song that was sung during mass when i was growing up “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers you also do unto me”. That’s what I think of when I think about people who are less fortunate than I am.

  19. I believe that the Matt. 6 passage refers to people who give in a boastful/pious way. I think it is a different situation when you see a tremendous need and make a commitment that requires accountability and partnership from others. I do not believe you are being boastful or pious, but there are those who will believe that.

    If I can try to respond to J.R. Miller with how I feel about the American Idol Gives back program… American Idol is part of a corporation (CBS or ABC… or whatever). The end goal of a corporation is to make profit and then grow profit to make wealth for its shareholders. They did one show and raised money (which is good), but ultimately if it would not make them more money in the long run they would not do it. I believe they raised money and will be able to do some good things, but ultimately I think that it was a publicity stunt aimed at gaining more loyalty from viewers, attracting new viewers and ultimately making more profit. Gives back is a non-profit… just understand it was created by a for profit and is a great source of advertising.

    Lastly, I am not saying that Idol Gives back is all bad. There are many many many good foundations out there. There is compassion, world vision, ELI, Idol Gives back… they all do great things…. but there is still a lot of need…

  20. Exactly. There is so much suffering around the world. What can be more gospel that feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked…?

  21. hey folks

    thanks for all the comments. here are some additional thoughts:

    j.r. miller: i don’t know the substance of american idol gives. i’ve seen a couple minutes of the show ever so while i understand the premise of the show, i don’t know how their money is distributed. i don’t mind folks questioning my orthodoxy [which i know you are not]. for me, christians are called to live, speak, and do the work, will, and way of the God. in my opinion, as patrick said, doing SOMETHING for the suffering, poor, cold, hungry, and naked is imperative to doing the will, way, and work of the Lord. is that the ONLY answer? no, but it is certainly part of the response of the followers of Christ.

    the chiz: i guess that’s my fear. the vision i shared with you has the very small potential of exponentiall growing and it scares us for many reasons. we know that it will take an initial thrust to get the momentum going and for good or bad, it will place minhee and i in the limelight. but our hope and prayer is that a genuine movement may take place so that the light can be shed on mercy, justice, and compassion.

    brad: wow, a blast from the past. it’s been 16 or 17 years.

    i know that there are some that question the need to publicly share our decisions. we have prayed, reflected, sought counsel, prayed, and have made the decision to do so…
    people may agree or disagree. our hope remains the same: we must do something; invite others to do something; and in the bigger picture, honor Christ with our lives.

  22. Thanks Eugene, I understand the moral imperative, what I was driving at was what makes the work you and I do different from the work of the world? The answer of course is that we not only feed the physical hunger, but the spiritual hunger with the Bread of Life. “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world [or in this case be fed] and loose his soul>?”

    I will be blogging on this in the future as I discuss incarnational ministry in my own church, but here is a blog from an old friend who is dealing with this issue in his church.

    Blessings brother,

  23. j. r. miller:

    absolutely. wholeheartedly agree.

    but if a person is unwilling to receive the Bread of Life, are we still willing to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty…?

    that for me is the more important question.

  24. That is a marvelous question, Eugene.

    Not one that I have enough caffeine in me yet to tackle.

    However, I will say at this point that I deeply admire what you’re bravely attempting to do. I am with those who think that “the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing” doesn’t apply here. I think Jesus was saying that about the hypocrites, those whose hearts were far from God, whose giving was a “look what I can do” time of showing off.

    In its proper context, that passage is also framed by prayer and fasting, two other vital disciplines of faith. Its overarching theme is hypocrisy, showing off for an audience of men, and displeasing God in the process. I don’t know you from Adam, but I somehow get that you’re not showing off in your decision to go public with what you’re doing. I get that you’re really trying, not to draw attention to yourself, but to the issues of poverty and disease, something that too many people don’t give a flying rip (putting it mildly) about. I’m praying for your new venture; God bless you!

  25. Wow! Eugene, I’m speechless. This is one of the most exciting things I have heard in a long time. Thanks for being so brave to take this step of faith. Can’t wait to share this story with others. Please keep me up to date as I want to help in any way that I can. I’m so proud of you!

  26. Dennis, your comment has me pissed! $100,000 may not solve global poverty… it is probably not the end all…. however, how many people can $100,000 feed? How many medications could it buy? How many people could it educate? How many people could have fresh water? It probably will not solve everything, but I guarantee it will matter to a hungry person who is fed, or a child who is educated, or a person who receives fresh water… how can you say that is nothing?

    Dr. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision said, “Don’t do nothing just because you can’t do everything.” I am so guilty of having this same perspective. I often look at the problems of the world and am so overwhelmed…. then I am reminded of Matt 25… whatever you do for the least of these…. I am also reminded of the story of the loaves and fish and how God multiplied one boys sacrifice to help so many…

    Even if you are not a follower of Christ and do not “subscribe” to the mission of organizations like World Vision, I would guess that on some level you acknowledge the intrinsic value of people and peace and of freedom….

    I am guilty and looking at what I have and what I can give and saying that it is nothing… but that is not the Truth.

  27. God bless you in your efforts, and please keep us posted!

    One of my favorite quotes is from Mother Teresa: “I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hatred.”

    You will make mistakes…but it’s okay.

  28. As my friend (and partner on orphan projects in Uganda) Gloria Feinstein recently wrote about that amazing, haunting image – a picture that comes regularly into the dreams of so many of involved with Africa:

    A few months later, Carter taped a garden hose to the exhaust of his pick-up truck and fed the other end into the passenger side window.

    Broke and depressed over the loss of a friend, his suicide note read, in part, ‘I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain . . . of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners.'”
    – I.U. South Bend Preface, 4/07

    “Mr. Carter started as a sports photographer in 1983 but soon moved to the front lines of South African political strife, recording images of repression, anti-apartheid protest and fratricidal violence. A few days after winning his Pulitzer Prize in April, Mr. Carter was nearby when one of his closest friends and professional companions, Ken Oosterbroek, was shot dead photographing a gun battle in Tokoza township.

    His picture of an emaciated girl collapsing on the way to a feeding centre, as a plump vulture lurked in the background, was published first in The New York Times and The Mail & Guardian, a Johannesburg weekly. The reaction to the picture was so strong that The New York Times published an unusual editor’s note on the fate of the girl. Mr. Carter said she resumed her trek to the feeding centre. He chased away the vulture.

    Afterwards, he told an interviewer, he sat under a tree for a long time, ‘smoking cigarettes and crying’. His father, Mr. Jimmy Carter said last night: ‘Kevin always carried around the horror of the work he did.’”
    – The New York Times, 1994, from Carter’s obituary

    A recent discussion among those of us who traveled together to Uganda this past December about the moral dilemmas with which image- makers are sometimes confronted, as well as the emotional hardships endured by witnessing and recording trauma, led to a conversation about Kevin Carter and this well known photograph.

    The photograph won Carter a Pulitzer Prize and catapulted him to photo fame; it also evoked much criticism. Many felt it was wrong of him to simply stand by and make a picture of the starving girl rather than putting down his camera and helping her to the nearby feeding center. Others took the stance that had he not made the picture, Sudan would have remained an unknown tragedy.

    It is a thought provoking dialogue, one that often comes up among image-makers in devastating situations.


  29. These people are dying of proverty because of greed. I think it is ok for someone to announce what they have done. Maybe one of you whom are the reason why these people are dying of proverty will come forward and help out. Especially in Africa, you have stolen, every hope these people over there has had. The United States are not good enough for you even after you killed the Indians off by starvation now you go and kill the Africans off by starvation and AIDS you gave them that AIDS and you know it. You cannot piss in my eyes and call it rain. Nor any other person with common sense. Leave other countries alone. China is not as bad off as Africa becuase you trade with them and your businesses are over there. But, poor Africa you just have killed them. Just like you have done Sadaam Huessein, don’t worry when we look up in the new world for those of us whom will make it I am sure we will see him because no country is better than the next. He was, is not and never will be as bad as our President now, Bush, he is killing us that is why so many white people are behind Obama they are sick of their own. OPen your eyes.

  30. Hi Eugene,

    I agree with what you say, you need to be loud in order to create a community. We want to donate money but have no idea which charities are efficient, we don’t want to donate to an organisation that spends most of its resources on admin. One question though, you need 66,000 for operational expenses. Could you elaborate more on what this is for?

    Thanks! Hannah

  31. @hannah,

    geez, i’m sorry for not catching this comment sooner.

    we believe we can run our org – office, tech, equipment, phone, salary for 2-3 employees – at about 100K for the first two years. our goal is to raise 2 million in the first two years. % wise, it’s a great goal to have.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s