“I Am Somebody”

Send Relief’s compassion ministry helps people realize their worth

Taylor Field

Ron* had been an alcoholic for decades, but he had a turnaround at our Ministry Center in New York City. It started with a prayer in a park, but it wasn’t easy. After an agonizing time in detox and rehab, Ron entered recovery. 

Baptists do Bible study, so it was a rough moment when Ron finally told us in the group that he hadn’t actually been forgetting his glasses. He simply couldn’t read. At all.

Ron wasn’t big on sharing feelings, and so it wasn’t until I went with him to start a specialized reading program that I really got to know him. As we waited for the subway, he pointed out the tunnel where he used to sleep when he was homeless. “The rats in there were terrible,” he said, and then he remained silent.

He also told me a little about his alcoholic dad. When he was a kid and his dad was at home, his dad used to knock him out of his chair if he didn’t put the fork on the table in just the right place. Ron shrugged as though it wasn’t a big deal.

As we traveled to another part of the city, I had never thought about how totally frightening an unfamiliar subway station would be if you couldn’t read. The signs on the walls would mean nothing. Maybe he wasn’t standing in the right place on the right platform, just like when he used to put the fork in the wrong place. I watched Ron fight not to show how scared he was.

The interviewer at the reading program was gracious, telling Ron that at one time he was not able to read either. I left the two to work together on filling out the application. A little while later, the interviewer came to fetch me. “You better come,” he said with a worried look.

There was Ron, who always tried to act so tough, with his face in his hands, sobbing uncontrollably.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, as I sat beside him.

It took Ron a while to be able to speak. Then he said something very simple, something that crystallized for me what our mission is all about.

“I just can’t believe I am somebody,” he said between sobs.

To be somebody. In Ephesians, the goal of ministry is to help each Christian grow into, as some translators say, a “mature person to the measure and stature of the fullness of Christ” (4:13). We are actually God’s “workmanship,” even God’s “masterpiece” (2:10).

Send Relief

Send Relief is a collaboration between the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board. It is a compassion ministry. It works to help people become “somebody” in Christ Jesus.

To share Christ’s love in a tangible way is an important avenue to make a connection with so many. Even when there are huge gaps between people, kindness tends to cross many cultures. In the end, Paul says, it is God’s kindness that brings us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

Send Relief has five focus areas. 

  1. Strengthen communities. Send Relief walks with people in under-resourced communities to help develop the local neighborhood and beyond.
  2. Protect children and families. Send Relief comes alongside vulnerable families by caring for children in foster care, the orphan, women in a crisis pregnancy, and families needing restoration.
  3. Fight human trafficking. Send Relief works to assist those who have been caught in a web of human manipulation and exploitation.
  4. Care for refugees. Send Relief helps the churches be the hands and feet of Christ in walking with refugees through their resettlement process.
  5. Respond to crisis. Send Relief helps equip and train churches to address the crises that affect our communities—from national disasters to pandemics to other conflicts.

These focus areas help us organize and work more effectively. However, we can’t really isolate these areas. These focus areas can’t really be called “buckets.” They are a river. They connect integrally with each other. Being involved in strengthening communities often leads to care for refugees, which can mean protecting children and families, which may lead to fighting human trafficking. These are sometimes the very communities that are least able to respond to major crises.

Furthermore, to honor human dignity for each person, Send Relief is expanding its ministry sites on the national front. These Ministry Centers work to execute, model, and multiply missions for all the churches in our convention.

Opportunities to uphold human dignity

I see two opportunities in this new phase of work. 

A renewed understanding of wholeness: First, in compassion ministry, there is a renewed understanding that we can do more together than we can do separately. The Word of God binds us together. In some of the most controversial issues in our world today, we may find around 10 or so Bible verses that address that specific issue. However, there are more than 2,000 verses in the Bible that talk about helping the poor.

The current generation understands that the gospel has an amazing coherence in terms of our outreach. Ephesians 1:10 tells us that God’s plan is to unite all things in Christ, things on heaven and on earth. All things—that relates to salvation and sewage, housing and heaven, crime and the cosmos.

Jesus didn’t go out and meet needs one day and share the gospel the next. Everything he did revealed the truth of the gospel—from feeding, to teaching, to healing, to challenging religious leaders, to preaching on the need for repentance and salvation. The kingdom wasn’t carved up.

Of course, as one friend told me, “This is not new. It is just new to you.” Yet we do have a renewed sense of the health of the living Word of God as it relates to the inestimable dignity of each person. Many young people understand this wholeness intuitively. We have a window of opportunity. We can take action for the chance to help each person realize their own human dignity and truly be “somebody.” Then, Christians can be known again for what we stand for, not just what we stand against.

The biblical understanding of being human: The second opportunity relates to our biblical view. In these turbulent times, the Bible helps us understand both our nobility and our savagery—nobility because we are created in the image of God and savagery because we are fallen, which has made human history so tragic.

Just as Ron said in the beginning story, “I am somebody,” so Genesis 1 lets us know how special we are. As one poet put it, “We feel that we are greater than we know.”

We sense that we are not just a zero. We are not merely a chance glob of protoplasm, or as one physicist put it, “just a chemical scum on the side of a moderate-sized planet.”

In my neighborhood in New York City, we remind people that they are not just a trash can with a hairy lid. Sometimes the women in our group tell each other that according to the Word of God, they are each a precious diamond, not plastic jewelry. Because tangible addictions and homelessness have been high in our area, I often remind myself of one Bible teacher’s phrase: We are “magnificent even in ruin.”

We have such value. As the TV shows about antiques and pawn shops remind us, something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. According to the Bible, for us, the price paid was infinitely high—the life of the Son of God.

The reason for the ministry

When I first began working in compassion ministries in New York City, the challenges of homelessness seemed totally overwhelming. I read a story about a man named Muretus that helped give me strength.

Muretus was a wandering and poor scholar in the sixteenth century. In Italy, he became sick and was taken to a place where the destitute were kept. The doctors looked at his situation briefly and spoke together in Latin, the language of the educated. They assumed that others would not understand what they were saying.

In essence, the doctors looked at each other and said that it was unnecessary to expend time and money on this worthless human.

Muretus sat up in his bed, looked them in the eye, and said in clear Latin, “Call no person ‘worthless’ for whom Christ died.” Then, he lay back down again.

That is the reason for our service at Send Relief, regardless of the challenges and frustrations. No one made in God’s image is worthless. No one for whom Christ came, lived a perfect life, died, and now invites to trust in and follow him is to be cast aside. Because of the imago Dei, each of us can see ourselves as “somebody.”

*Name changed for privacy purposes.

Taylor Field has been working with Compassion Ministries with the North American Mission Board for over 35 years.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24