How should aid be sent help disaster victims who are members of the church? I received the following letter [edited] and I don't know how to respond.
I would like to offer a unique opportunity to you and your respective congregations. So many times, when there are calamities such as this that hit Southern Asia, our only avenue to provide assistance is through international relief organizations. However, during this time of disaster, we will have one of our own there in the middle of the effected areas. Our minister, ___________ and _____________ will be traveling to India beginning on _______ for about three weeks. _____________ has been planning this trip for several months and the Church here in _____________ had already arranged for his travel prior to these recent events. So, we would like to offer the opportunity to personally deliver any financial aid to the brethren in India. If you or your congregation is interested in providing any financial aid to be delivered specifically to the church and its members in India, we would be more than happy to deliver it through _________ and _________. ______________ has been in continuous contact with two brethren in the area for quite some time and during this disaster, they have provided him with good information regarding the events and the impact on the church and its members over there. _________ will be providing a detailed report of the way that these funds are used and dispersed during his visit. I believe it is a wonderful opportunity to provide assistance in a very personal way and it will help to ensure that the money is going to those that truly need the help. If you would like to provide some support for this effort, please send your donation to: ________ Church of Christ.
Make sure that it is mark as Tsunami Relief so that we can account for it separately. As you can imagine, time is of the essence, as ________ will be leaving in two weeks, on _______. So please send your donation as soon as possible so that we can send it with _________ when he goes. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at __________.
I believe those involved in the above letter are not a part of what is generally called the liberal churches. However, the method being eimployed to gather aid doesn't follow the scriptural examples. Unfortunately this often happens because during a disaster people don't often stop and think about the method they choose to use and their ramifications.
By sending funds to a church as the gathering point, they make this church responsible for the relief effort (i.e. a sponsoring church). Decisions as to where the funds will flow are in their hands and not in the hands of the local church. The church soliciting donations has placed itself as the middle man in the flow of funds.
The method employed by those in the New Testament was to collect funds locally and then select a messenger to deliver the funds. "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem" (I Corinthians 16:1-3). As an example, if the church there knows a man heading to India and values his judgment, they should send funds to that individual with instructions on how the funds are to be used in their behalf. The man then becomes a representative of the local church in regards to the use of the funds. Ideally, the funds should be placed in the hands of local elders to distribute to their members who are in need. The messenger would be responsible to see that the funds reach trusted elders and to report back how the funds were used.
If a congregation doesn't know the men who announced they would be traveling over to India, and they want to help, then they need to find a local person that they do know and trust who is willing to serve as a messenger. This is what several churches did in sending funds to Judea. "But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus. For he not only accepted the exhortation, but being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord. And we have sent with him the brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches, and not only that, but who was also chosen by the churches to travel with us with this gift, which is administered by us to the glory of the Lord Himself and to show your ready mind, avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us -- providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. And we have sent with them our brother whom we have often proved diligent in many things, but now much more diligent, because of the great confidence which we have in you. If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ" (II Corinthians 8:16-23). Titus volunteered to go to Jerusalem. Paul also selected two other men to travel with Titus and Paul. One of these men was selected by several local congregations to be their messenger in regards to the funds being sent to Judea. Paul sent these men ahead to gather the funds and he then planned to travel with them to Jerusalem.
By having multiple men involved and by the churches personally selecting their messengers, Paul stated that they were making provisions for honesty, not only in God's sight, but also in man's sight. The method minimizes the possibility of fraud.