For some people, change doesn’t take much—a word spoken by a friend over lunch, a book quote you just can’t shake, or a small act of kindness from a stranger. But for others, it takes a trip around the world. That’s what it took for Chris Marlow, founder of Help One Now. It wasn’t until Chris packed his bags and headed a couple thousand miles east that he was able to experience a surprising transformation.
Almost 13 years ago, Chris was pastoring a church in Austin, Texas. While enjoying a life full of exceptional barbeque, tacos, and live music, Chris felt a calling to go overseas. Through creative storytelling, he was noticing the condition of those who are suffering around the world, but kept ignoring the call to go.“Life moves so fast,” Chris said. “Often times, the reason we don’t make a difference is because we all think we’re too busy.” At least that’s what was holding Chris back from making a difference.
After five years of waiting, Chris had the opportunity to stay with his friend in Cape Town, South Africa. He ended up visiting Zimbabwe. At 4 a.m., Chris and his friend stopped at a gas station with dozens and dozens of kids living in it. The “pack leader” of these kids grabbed Chris by the hand, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “Sir, thank you so much for visiting our country. I’m so sorry it’s in the shape that it’s in. We don’t want to beg you for food, but we haven’t had anything to eat in days. Is there anything we can do to work for you, so we can get something to eat?”
Chris simply told him, “No. We don’t have anything for you.”
In that moment everything changed for Chris. He started to wonder why in the world every six seconds a child dies because of no access to food. His heart broke for these kids in Zimbabwe. Couldn’t he do something about it?
It might appear that poor people in underdeveloped countries need someone to hand them food, build them a house, or buy them clothes, but that is not the approach Chris decided to take. These people don’t need a handout. They don’t need to be told what to do. They’re educated. They’re effective. They’re tremendous workers.
What they need is a kick-start.
“These people don’t want us to do the work for them. They actually have dreams, and passions, and visions, and hopes, and they want to be able to pursue that and work hard,” Chris said. He wasn’t going to go to Africa and tell locals how to work. Instead, Chris insisted on partnering with local leaders to create jobs in these communities.
Chris’ inner circle of family and friends would not let his idea die. “Surround yourself with people who refuse to let you be content with living a selfish life,” Chris said. Because of the persistent people in Chris’ life, Help One Now is able to exist. In 2007, this organization kicked off with the goal to end extreme poverty by empowering families.
Eight percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty. These people are living on less than two dollars a day. By partnering with local leaders, Help One Now provides hope and dignity to people in the 8 percent. Currently, local leaders have helped create hundreds of jobs for locals. They have trained countless families to start businesses and develop their surrounding community.
Chris reveals his hopes for Help One Now: “My goal, my hope, my dream, would be that Help One Now would be considered the people who continue to show up again and again and again. We don’t pop in one time; we show up over and over and over again to help serve our local leaders and help see families and kids thrive.”
As an organization, Help One Now wants to be as invisible as possible. The local leaders are the hero of the story. And, hopefully, by the end of the program, these families won’t ever need this organization again.
Chris felt a call for years before taking a leap of faith and visiting an underdeveloped country. It can be overwhelming to see all of the brokenness in the world and not know what to do. With so many hurting people around the world, where is the best place to help?
“Ultimately there’s going to be a moment where you’re going to have to choose: Am I going to live a life that’s going to make the world better? Or am I going to live a life that’s going to focus on my own little world?” Chris said.
By taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, Chris is able to see that maybe it doesn’t matter where we help—maybe it just matters that we help somewhere. “Every human in the world, no matter what part of it, needs hope. It’s the baseline of humanity. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the richest neighborhood or the poorest neighborhood,” Chris said. “When it’s all said and done, the only thing we’re going to care about is: Did we love others well?”