I recently spent a night at an Atlanta-area Hyatt that displayed a basket of apples just inside the entrance and promised to “satisfy all your cravings.” That’s a sensational guarantee offered each guest, particularly because our cravings have been disordered ever since one long-ago day in the Garden.
The serpent, pretending to own Hotel Eden, told Eve to bite into a piece of fruit and satisfy a craving she apparently had: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Ever since then various religions have proposed ways to handle cravings. Theravada Buddhism’s recruiters say to potential monks, We’ll train you so you have no cravings. Radical Islam’s recruiters say to suicide bombers, Satisfy your cravings to kill (and then have sex).
Christianity, though, tells of the one Person who had rightly ordered cravings, so He did not sin, and was even willing to die to save others. Ever since then, the best stories have echoed that great story and understood that self-sacrifice is noble and our own cravings often are not—except for one, the often-suppressed desire to know God. That’s why my heroes tend to be people who enrich themselves not with material goods but by sacrificing themselves for others, particularly widows, orphans, prisoners, aliens, and others among the poor.
For the eighth straight year, WORLD is honoring those generally forgotten heroes by sponsoring (with the help of a generous donor) the Hope Award for Effective Compassion. Starting in January readers nominated poverty-fighting ministries that are explicitly Christian, local rather than national, dependent on donations rather than government grants, and experienced in offering challenging, personal, and spiritual help. In the spring our reporters eyeballed regional finalists.
Over the next two months we’ll feature articles profiling the West, Midwest, South, and Northeast winners and runners-up. We don’t claim that these winners are the best: They’re good, but not necessarily better than others. We chose them because they show what some Christians do and what more could do: They’re not big operations that demand huge resources. The work they do is very hard, but simple enough that others could go and do likewise.
Regional winners, along with an international winner, will receive $4,000 each, plus national publicity. In October, readers will be able to vote online for the ministry that most appeals to them: About 8,000 readers have voted (one person, one vote) in each of the past two years. The ministry receiving the most votes will receive a total of $25,000. I hope you’ll pray for our first regional duo: a California ministry to single moms and an Arizona rescue mission on the Mexican border.