World Compassion Network: Giving More Than Words

At 212 Media Studios, we believe that giving is more than just something you should do out of habit every December. Giving is really important—and can literally change both the recipient and the giver. That’s why this holiday season, 212 Media Studios is spending 12 days focusing exclusively on what it means to give.

It was Liberia, 2005. Joe Wilkey, founder of World Compassion Network (WCN), was assessing refugee camps for the UN. “I went out to this big camp, trying to determine if I they needed rice or not. On my way, I noticed a small camp to the left. I asked around and found out it was a leper colony. I said, ‘Well, is anyone going there?’ And they said, ‘No. Once in a while someone drops food out the back of the truck and leaves.’ God instantly convicted me to go there. I have to admit that I went with fear and trembling…I mean, leprosy? I didn’t even shake the camp manager’s hand. I told him I would bring some rice back. I was getting ready to leave, and as I looked down on the ground near my feet, there was a baby crawling with leper marks on her head. I couldn’t resist; I bent down and picked her up and gave her a hug. I thought, ‘Okay, I am going to die—but we all have to go sometime.’ I put her down, and as a result, the camp manager said, “Now I believe you will bring rice tomorrow.” It wasn’t my words, but my actions that touched that man. Then I shook his hand. The power of what we believe is not seen in what we say, but by what we do first.”

This mantra has carried World Compassion Network, based in Warsaw, Indiana, through disaster relief, missions, and community events. As a vehicle for businesses and churches to respond to the needy, WCN has impacted tens of thousands of lives—with only four staff members.

“What sets us apart from other disaster relief organizations is that we work through the local church. So, people will come to get supplies through that church, and then when they have a spiritual need they will go back to that church,” says Sandy Hatcher, Office Manager.

WCN also connects businesses and other organizations with relief efforts. Most people can’t jump in the car and drive down to a hurricane scene to help the needy, because they lack the resources to really make a difference. But WCN provides partnerships that allow businesses to give full-force disaster relief without having to organize it. For instance, Biomet wanted to help in the winter storm situations going on in upper New York. Their donations let WCN take heaters and generators to those people. “We can go on behalf of the average Joe, and the reality is we are all blessed through that,” says Josh Grill, Director of Missions.

They also meet local needs through partnerships with organizations like The Salvation Army and Combined Community Services.

But Why Do They Do It?

“We are Christians, and the Gospel is about giving. God gave His son. His example has always been giving. What we do is put feet to the Gospel. People really want to know if you care, and they can tell by what you do. That is our basis for why we exist. This is how the word spoken and the word in action really come together. I was a pastor for many years, and so I spoke a lot of words. But it wasn’t nearly as effective until I did something,” says Joe Wilkey.

Josh Grill recalls, “I was a school psychology teacher in my mid-thirties. I had great friends and a great family, but I was just not happy with life. I was searching for something else. I ended up going on a mission trip (which I never thought I would do), and that week changed everything for me. I had been a Christian all my life, but it had basically been more like book knowledge. But when I actually put that into motion, it triggered something in me. Within a year, I quit my job and came to work here. I got hooked—not because someone told me to, but because God shows up in a crazy way in the most dangerous and poverty-stricken place, and He does some incredible things in your life. And we have seen Him do that consistently.”

Joe Wilkey continues, “Just from the standpoint of humanity, even if I weren’t a Christian, I would probably still care for people—but my reasons wouldn’t be as good. I do it because of the love of Christ in me, and because those who are suffering are humans.”

Josh Grill adds, “In simple terms, we do it because we believe God has called us to. But even if your religious views aren’t like ours, we will help you. And it is just the best way to live because helping others is fulfilling. It is a good thing to help kids who are hungry.”

Why is This a Good Thing?
Here are a few results WCN has seen from generous living:

  • The giver’s perspective is changed.
  • It removes or lessens judgmental attitudes.
  • Generosity builds humility.
  • Givers become more Christ-like.
  • Giving is contagious. The more it is done, the more people want to do it.
  • It enhances appreciation for what you have.
  • Physical needs are met.
  • The church is built, and the Gospel spread.

Josh Grill explains that doing these things significantly increases his appreciation for what he already has. “When I left that first mission trip, I had a secondary real estate business and good retirement. The primary things I was concerned about were the package on my car or the size of my TV. When I saw poverty for the first time—smelled it, felt it, and witnessed it—I felt like I finally appreciated the things God had given me all my life. I realized that God literally changes something in you when you give. Romans 12 talks about a renewing of the mind. I think God literally makes us think about things differently, which is the beauty of mission trips: people getting a glimpse of God.”

How Can You Help?
Here’s what WCN has to say about how the community can help:

  1. Get connected. Get to know World Compassion Network.
  2. Volunteer. Help us pack hygiene kits, organize our warehouse, stuff newsletters, or pray.
  3. Donate. We need to be supported by others. If people really care, they should put feet to the Gospel and come help us—sometimes using feet and hands, and other times writing the check. We could not do it if others did not contribute.
  4. Invite us to speak. Whether it’s a business lunch, class, or a small group, we want to tell people the story of the power of compassion and get the community involved. One third grade class at Washington Elementary raised over $500 for an orphanage in Honduras after WCN came to speak.
  5. Tell us if you have a need. If we can help you first, we would rather do that.
  6. Promote us. Spread the word!

“People always say, ‘Why do you think God called you to this?’ I don’t think it is because of any special gifts for any of us. I think it is because we are regular people. We just know that God has been faithful and has done really crazy awesome things in our lives,” says Greg Rauen, Director of Operations and Disaster Relief.

Josh Grill reminds us that you don’t have to be a seminary grad or have a perfect history to live a life of generosity. “I can guarantee you that if you went back and asked the people who went to high school with us, we would all be the least likely to be in missions. My friends would have laughed. That used to keep me away from it, thinking I am not qualified, or I have done this or that in my past. But now I’ve realized that God uses that. People who knew me back then look at me now and say, ‘If God can do that in this guy’s life, then there is nothing too big for Him to do for me.’ We have been on both sides of the fence, so no one can tell us that the grass is greener on the other side.”

The generosity of regular people can make a big difference—one that goes beyond the impact of words. How can you use your actions or gifts to make that kind of impact?

To see previous blog posts in our 12-day GIVE series, click here. And be sure to come back tomorrow to see post eight!