At PORTA – the Albania House in Athens – we’re all about giving. We give of ourselves, and we give nearly everything we do for free. There are many reasons for this.
For one, as what Greeks call a “spiritual” center, we are not allowed to charge for our services.
For another, our primary clients do not have extra cash to pay for things like English, Albanian or computer lessons, copies of the Bible, spaces to hold events and baby baskets for newborns.
Our motivation for being here in the first place derives from the One who, in Jesus Christ, gave Himself for mankind. “For God so loved the world that he gave ….” (John 3:16a).
Some offer supportive critique, asserting that we should charge for what we do. To preserve the dignity or integrity of those whom we serve, they insist that we should price our services and show basic respect by charging.
And we respond by saying that, in time, we’ll charge, at least some, for at least some of what we do. But, for now, we largely give of ourselves and our gifts without payment.
This doesn’t mean that we do not count the cost. Indeed, although our ministry is free, it is also costly.
For many, it costs their generous contributions. For just over 500 short-term PORTA Partners, it has cost them some days or a couple of weeks of their time.
When we pay the rent, the utilities and the food bills, it costs. When we buy gasoline for the vehicle, pay the salaries of our Albanian staff or buy supplies, food or baby clothes for those who need them, it costs.
But, when we examine carefully the larger picture, and not disputing the expense, we choose to give. And this model of giving is having its effect.
Immediate needs are being met in the spirit and the model of Christ. Persons who have typically assumed that there is no God or, if there is, that He does not care for them, are questioning their life assumptions.
Persons for whom there typically is no interest beyond self-interest and who trust no one, even from among their own people, now wander into other ways of thinking and wonder if they could be wrong about being so selfishly “right.”
Many also follow a universal impulse to give, some in advance of our giving and some as a consequence.
Although they have very little to give and lack the deep well of resources from which to draw, many give back.
They provide food for events, time to plan and serve, and give cultural advice on how to care for their own.
They give smiles of joy and sighs of contentment and words, nervously but genuinely offered, in deep appreciation.
But, some insist, “These people will take advantage of you! If you give them an inch, they will take a mile!”
Yes, there is some truth to that. In our six years of operation, this generosity has been abused on occasion, sometimes egregiously so. But, all and all, this is the exception rather than the rule.
We often reflect on how careless humanity most certainly has abused the gift of the Christ Child and the generous love with which our God gave, since long before that first Christmas evening years ago in Bethlehem.
And so, as we look to the days ahead, with all its difficulties and challenges, we have decided to continue giving because when we grow up, we want to become more and more like the Great Giver God.
Bob Newell is ministry coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Athens, Greece. He blogs at ItsGreek2U. This article is taken from one that first appeared in the December 2012 edition of The Newell Post, Bob and Janice Newell’s monthly electronic newsletter.