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This article is a rather rambling attempt to explain a few things about our lifestyle and history, primarily for the benefit of non-members. It deals with the interest that other people have in how we live, our attitude toward fund-raising, and how we have tried to balance social action with efforts to meet broader spiritual needs.

First I want to say that we do appreciate the fact that others are curious about how we deal with finances, and we actually enjoy being able to answer questions about how we conduct our affairs... providing the questions are being asked with a genuine interest in understanding what it is that we actually stand for. Unfortunately, some people are aggressive in their approach, determined only to establish that our claims about trusting God for our provisions are false and unrealistic. Such people are often unwilling to listen to detailed explanations, because they want only to prove that money (and not God) meets our needs. "So where did you get those shoes that you are wearing? And who paid for that computer you are using?" they ask. And they often demand that we give one or two word answers to their questions, thus enabling them to use our answers to further "prove" their case against us.

Our tendency, when forced to give short answers, is to stubbornly say that GOD is the one who supplies all our needs (which, of course, angers them more than ever). Yeah, sure, somewhere along the line someone used money, but the money in itself did not create anything, and it only exists because of the human race's overall distrust for one another. What our lifestyle aims to do is to point people back to the Creator as the source of all true wealth, and to love as the answer to the world's problems. Along with that, we teach that the love of money is the root of all evil. These are important parts of our message, and we have about as little patience for people who refuse to take these truths into consideration as what they have for us.

The practical way in which God has met our needs most often has been that we have asked people for help and they have given it. But even here there are some radical differences between our ideas about asking and those of the average person.

For example, although we usually ask people to donate "a few cents" to help with the cost of printing the tens of thousands of dollars worth of literature that we produce each year, our teaching and belief is that we should give the literature away for free if that will result in more people reading it. It was only when we discovered that people tend to throw away anything that is given to them for free that we started asking them to donate something (even if it is the smallest coin in the country where we are operating) as a token of their genuine interest in reading what we have to say. We have occasionally found situations where people would read something even if it is provided for free (e.g. on trains in Australia and India) and we have given out hundreds of thousands of pieces of literature for free on those occasions. (We no longer do this, however, because there were complaints by railway authorities that this was leading to increased litter problems.)

So, while the short answer in some people's minds might be that we "sell" literature, and live off the profits, it really does misrepresent what actually happens, both out there on the streets, and within our own thinking and personal experience.

In keeping with this, we have often commented on the fact that our newsletter religiously refrains from asking people for financial support. Unlike most charities, which are always telling people that if they don't send support soon, something disastrous is going to happen, we generally boast of having "too much" money to be able to spend it responsibly. In our long history, we could count on one hand the number of times that we have appealed to people outside our community to help with projects that we have started.

Back around 1990, when we were sending teams to India, we inserted an announcement in our newsletter that we could take with us donations of clothing (or money for food) to be given to needy people over there, if any of our readers wanted to contribute. Only one or two people responded.

In 1998, we approached a Quaker meeting in Australia for support with the Easy English reading program in India. Schools and parents were eagerly buying the books at cost price, and we were using the money from sales to print more, but the print runs were, of necessity, quite small, thus slowing down the process. An amazing woman who has become a close personal friend (and who gives generously to a number of other causes as well) offered us an interest free loan for a few years, which enabled us to increase our production immensely, and today we are producing about half a million books a year.

A few years later, we asked for support for the refugee embassy in Woomera, and financial assistance with the production of "The Worst of Woomera", and assistance came in from many different sources.

Then last year, we asked four local Quaker meetings for help with a Christmas party for 450 orphans in Kenya (and some sponsorship of a regular feeding program). The response was enthusiastic and we were pleasantly exhausted just spending and distributing all that they had donated. We may do something similar for Easter this year, but realistically it does take a lot of work to distribute funds like this in a responsible way, and so we continue to shy away from asking for outside support for the projects that we have personally undertaken.

And now I want to explain some of our concerns about the choice of projects, and especially how they relate to our more "evangelical" emphasis.

Our "gospel" differs from that usually associated with missionary work. We are not offering a simplistic formula for salvation, nor are we presenting membership in an organisation as the solution to one's problems. On the other hand, we do see the answers to the world's problems in the teachings of Jesus, as found in the Bible.

Jesus taught about a world where everyone seeks first to love God and to love others, and where people do not worry about material needs. He called it the kingdom of heaven. The Bible says that he went around telling people that the kingdom of heaven was "at hand", and that he SHOWED the world this kingdom through his lifestyle. (Luke 8:1)

We do believe that there is life after death, that Christ died for our sins, and that God wants people to serve him; but we also believe that "living by faith" as presented in both the life and teachings of Jesus is crucial to our understanding of all of this.

So when we come to a country like we have done now in Kenya, we try to stay open to ideas about how we can most effectively communicate what it is that we stand for. There is a saying: "It all depends on where you live, and what you have to build with." Each situation presents new challenges (the differing languages and culture if nothing else), and these challenges will be met differently, according to what resources and skills we personally possess.

There are immediate and life-threatening needs like those of the many orphans created by the AIDS epidemic in Africa. There are the broader needs for everything from education to adequate clean water and better farming techniques for the general population of poorer areas of the world. And then there is the greater spiritual need of a life that is wholly yielded to the leadings of God's Spirit.

We ourselves represent a handful of people who have committed ourselves to doing what we can to make a better world. If we could motivate others to do something similar, then together we would be able to help many more people. So some sort of recruitment campaign continues to be one part of our overall vision (although we realise that conversions to our lifestyle will always be quite rare). So we see a need to keep promoting the theory along with our own efforts to live the theory out through practical assistance to others.

In conclusion, we trust that this article (rambling though it may be) has helped to fill in a few gaps in people's understanding about how we live and what it is that we stand for.

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