Humanitarian 101: Getting Started

Providing Help and Hope in the Toughest Places

By Amanda DeWitt

What Is a Humanitarian?

Look up humanitarian and you will find a variety of definitions: promoting human welfare, valuing human life, relieving suffering. To be a humanitarian means that you see people’s needs around the world, are deeply moved by their suffering, and do something to relieve it. 

Humanitarian works begin by meeting the tangible needs of people around the world. It looks like meals, clean water, clothing, blankets, hygiene kits, and more. But it does not stop there.

For followers of Jesus expressing kindness often flows into sharing hope. Not just hope for a brighter future but also hope that lasts forever. When people ask, “Why would you help me?” We have the privilege of sharing about Jesus and His eternal hope.

Humanitarian work provides opportunities for relationships to form and conversations about the hope of Jesus to happen at the right time. When we engage in Christian humanitarian work, we care for the whole person — physical, emotional, and spiritual — pointing people to the only One who can truly meet their every need.

Why Does it Matter?

Jesus told us the greatest commandment is to love God more than anything and to love our neighbor like we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). When He finished His earthly ministry, He gave His followers the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).

In humanitarian ministry the Great Commandment and the Great Commission work together. We demonstrate our love for God by our care for other people. Our care is not second-hand or haphazard. No, we strategically work to relieve the suffering of people in the toughest places. We carefully restore their dignity — respecting their culture and providing aid in the same gentle way we ourselves would want to receive it. At the right time, we reveal the hope of Jesus, telling people about the One who loves them deeply, pursues them tirelessly, and gave everything to give them eternal hope.

Humanitarian work matters because in it we express the heart of God — His kindness and care for humanity and His work to draw all people to Himself.

How You Can Help

In a world where more than 168 million people need humanitarian assistance — and that number could soon double — the situation can feel overwhelming. It is easy to wonder what one person can do to help.

At Unto® we help you express the kindness of Jesus in the toughest places on earth by relieving suffering, restoring dignity, and revealing hope. For almost 30 years, we have provided humanitarian assistance through the Cru® 190+ country network, fueling the discipleship process and church planting strategy of local partners worldwide.

In the places where our local staff members serve, humanitarian aid is often the only reason ministry is allowed to continue. By meeting tangible needs, our field staff gain access to new people groups, build credibility in their communities, and increase their effectiveness in ministry.

When you partner with Unto, you help support three programs: Food and Agriculture, Clean Water, and Critical Aid. Children and their families receive nutritious meals when food is scarce or seeds that provide long-term, sustainable food solutions for entire communities. People who lack safe, clean water receive help through deep wells, household water filters, and hygiene training. Refugees and others in need receive critical items including temporary shelter, blankets, clothing, and hygiene supplies.

We cannot fix complex global issues by ourselves. We cannot help every person. But each of us can do something to relieve the suffering of another individual, to restore their dignity, and to reveal the hope of Jesus.

How will you be a humanitarian — sharing help and hope today?

Want to learn more about being a humanitarian?

People around the world experience suffering, and we wonder how to help change that. But the Bible assures us that God is constantly at work, drawing people to Himself, not in spite of disaster, conflict, and poverty, but even in and through those situations. Our Humanitarian 101: A 7-Day Devotional journal offers seven devotionals designed to help you consider suffering and how you can make a difference.

Humanitarian 101: A 7-Day Devotional

Published September 14, 2020


Amanda is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Gift for Leadership, Kindred Spirit, and Christianity Today publications. She holds a M.A. in Media and Communication from Dallas Theological Seminary.