Tuesday, 24 March 2015

40 Acts - Be First

There are probably very few scenarios where we ought to push for ‘first’. One is the Olympics. The other is volunteering. The thing is, if you wait for someone else to put their hand up before you, you miss the opportunity to make a generous difference. It might be a tiny ripple or a mighty wave of change. Today, be willing to put the hard work in when nobody else wants to. Be first to raise your hand.
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. 
James 1:27 (NLT)
At the age of 28 I had a realisation: I was the worst person I knew.

For ten years, I had built a career as a nightclub promoter in New York City. By the age of 24 my business partner and I were getting paid $2000 per month just to be seen drinking Budweiser in public and by age 28 I had a Rolex, a BMW, a grand piano and a girlfriend who was on the cover of magazines. I put myself first, yet I was spiritually, emotionally and morally bankrupt. I’d spent a decade selling decadence and escapism, and there wasn’t a single redemptive thing about it.

I began to realise my bankruptcy while on a decadent vacation to South America and began to re-explore the faith I’d been brought up with as a child. I remember sitting and reading theology while still hung over from the night before. I remember reading that ‘True religion is looking after widows and orphans in their distress’ (James1:27), and I thought: I’ve not done anything genuinely charitable in ten years. My search eventually led me to say to God: ‘OK, I’ll give you one year of service as a tithe or payback for the decade I’ve wasted.’

I volunteered to be an official photographer with Mercy Ships – the only humanitarian organisation that would take me at the time. We sailed into West Coast Africa, where I began to document the lives of people whose need I couldn’t have ever imagined before. Eventually I realised that the problems so many people faced were largely because of lack of access to clean water and basic sanitation.

Aged 30, I returned to NYC. I knew I wanted to do two things with my life: give people access to clean water, and create a charity that people could believe in – that they could see the results of. And so, charity: water was born.

Eight years later, charity: water has raised more than $175 million and funded more than 13,000 water projects which, when completed, will have brought water to over 5 million people in 24 nations. For me, generosity is practical. It's the ability to use one's position of influence, relative wealth and power to affect lives for the better. I needed to put myself first in a completely new way – putting up my hand to say ‘I’ll go’. My one year of voluntary service became a lifetime calling to make a difference. If you were the first to raise your hand today, where might God lead you?

Scott Harrison
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