It was the best of times.
It was the worst of times.
by Bob Nyberg -- Nov 2001


Charles Dickens' epic classic, “A Tale of Two Cities,” begins with: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Truly this could be said of the weeks following the tragic events of September 11 th , 2001. The evildoers who perpetrated those cowardly acts intended to devastate the spirit and determination of the American people. Instead, their heinous crimes against humanity have inadvertently united this nation like no other event since World War II. It's absolutely amazing to watch both Democrats and Republicans unite behind President George W. Bush in the fight against terrorism. Certainly there are still major ideological rifts between the two parties, but nevertheless, there is a spirit of cooperation that was not seen before September 11 th . The citizens of this great nation have also demonstrated their collective heart of concern and compassion by generously pledging 1.5 billion dollars in donations for the families of terror victims. In this hour of devastation, America has put forth its best. Though the spirit of giving and patriotism burns bright, there are ominous signs on the horizon that threaten to quench that flame.

It's been 8 weeks since the twin towers of the World Trade Center came crashing down. Thousands of families have been devastated with tragic losses. In spite of the generous donations by millions of Americans, the vast majority of these hurting families have yet to receive the help that they so desperately need. One month after the attack, the United Way had more than 200 million dollars in the bank designated for the families who had lost loved ones on September 11th . Yet the United Way had dispersed only 15 percent of the money it had collected.

Right now 160 charities have received money that was donated to help these families, yet very few of those charities have contacted the grieving people. They are not proactive. They want the people who are burying dead husbands and wives, to seek them out. They want the families to ask for money — money that was donated by generous Americans so that these families would not have to deal with this kind of anguish.

Congress is now investigating these charitable organizations to find out what is happening with the money that has been raised. The Red Cross has told Congress that as much as 80 percent of the money it has received for the Liberty Fund will NOT go to the families of terror victims. Instead, the Red Cross will use those funds for other projects. And what projects might those be? Will part of those monies be used to pay the salary of the director of the Red Cross who makes $350,000 a year? I guess time will tell!

The two big charities, the Red Cross and the United Way , both say time is needed to distribute the funds in a fair and responsible way. On the surface it sounds reasonable, but look below the surface. The truth is that these charities can do pretty much anything they want with the donated money. They can pay salaries with it, pay bills, or pay outside consultants and contractors.

Recently, Joshua Gotbaum, Executive Director & CEO of the United Way 's September 11 th Fund, was interviewed on “The O'Reilly Factor.” He stated that 100% of all contributions will go toward the relief effort, but when pressed, he finally admitted the truth. The September 11 th Fund acts as a clearing-house for other relief agencies. These agencies will get 100% of those funds, but they can use a portion of those funds to pay staff salaries and administrative costs. If the truth be told, 23% of the money donated to the September 11 th Fund will pay for that type of overhead.

Joseph Farah is Editor and Chief Executive Officer of In a recent report he wrote: “Giving to Big Charity is just like paying taxes. Don't expect that your money is really going to do any good. It does not. Most is wasted, squandered, misused, given to people who have no business getting money, or redistributed in ways you could never imagine. This is the reality of Big Charity. It's a joke. It's a scandal. It's a crying shame. It may make you feel good to write that check, but if you ever found out what happened to the money, you'd be angry. I guarantee it.”

I guess I'm not quite as cynical as Mr. Farah. I think that eventually most of this money will indeed do some good. However, it does anger me that these organizations are not upfront in telling us about the hidden costs. I suppose that we might expect secular charitable organizations to take a cut in order to pay the salaries of their executive officers, but certainly that's not true of Christian organizations, is it? Unfortunately, it is true. When I first started looking at various mission boards with which I might desire to serve, I discovered the cold, hard facts. To cover administrative costs, the average mission board takes around 11% off the top of each check written for its missionaries. One particular mission board that works with college and university students takes 25% off the top for administrative expenses. I can certainly see why they do this. Having served in a stateside ministry, I know the difficulty in raising support for such a staff position. One particular church told me that when I was ready to go overseas they would support me at that time, but not until then. It's as if they were saying that by serving at home I wasn't a “REAL” missionary.

No doubt New Tribes Mission stands out as an enigma with regard to its financial policies. Every missionary with NTM (from the Chairman of the Board to the guy who pushes a broom) is responsible to raise his or her own support. When you write a check for a missionary with NTM, you can be assured that 100% of those funds will go to whom you have designated it for.

Recently, a number of celebrities made an effort to raise money for the disaster victims of September 11 th . Some were not too pleased to find out that less than 100% of those funds were going to these suffering families. Clint Eastwood stated that they were under the impression that all of the donated money would go to the families.

Kurt Russell said, “if 90 percent were going to the people and 10 percent were going to administration, nobody would complain. If it were 80/20, some would complain. But around 70/30, I'm going to tell you something, in the future, I won't be doing these until I know that the money is going to go to the people.”

The American public is becoming more skeptical of charitable organizations, and rightly so. In light of this growing skepticism, I realize what an honor and privilege it is to be the recipient of charitable giving. Truly the hearts of generous Americans have expressed a compassionate and giving spirit unsurpassed in recent days. I'm so thankful for each and every partner that helps me financially and prays for the ministry here at New Tribes Language Institute.


Bob Nyberg

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