My sister, Sharie, was reading through When Helping Hurts for the 2nd time when I visited her at Christmas. So, I did what every younger brother would do: I immediately ordered the book on Amazon. Can you imagine becoming a missionary and then hurting people?
The goal of helping people in poverty is always the same, regardless of location or culture: To glorify God in their lives, families, communities, and work.
That is the guiding light for all work with people living in poverty. Is what I'm doing putting him/her on a trajectory to reflect the light of Jesus Christ?
Empowering vs. Enabling
Broken community systems, fractured family values, distorted worldviews and twisted religions synthesize with personal sin to break and bankrupt individuals. These individuals are strong but start to feel worthless and fatalism grips their lives. The question is how to help rise individuals and communities from spiritual bankruptcy. The simple answer is empower, don't further enable. The power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that He gives a new identity, a spiritual life reborn to reflect God's glory, and the strength to live that life. Since the goal is for Christ-followers to glorify God with their lives, work, and talents, the answer is to partner with God in that process.
Although evangelism is a valuable piece, slow and steady discipleship is needed for personal and generational change. Without a heart change, a Biblical worldview, and a lifestyle change, the culture of brokenness will continue to destroy.
Many of us approach people in poverty with money, food, and building materials. In emergency situations, these are empowering. In long-term poverty situations, these can be enabling. There are several reasons for this: 1. The giver becomes a patron and paternalism ensues. 2. The receiver's feelings of worthless, inadequacy are reinforced. 3. The local community is disempowered. 4. A wet wipe is being used to clean a wound that is gangrene.
This is because relief is not needed by many people in poverty. Instead, they need rehabilitation or development. In this case rehabilitation means to get back to the level they were at before the tragedy struck. Development means to take a person or community to the next step.
When Helping Hurts has advice for how to give relief and how to rehabilitate and develop people in poverty and communities. Read the book for those ideas. My take-away from this book is:
1. Mulit-generational change takes a slow and steady approach of building relationships.
2. The answer is life-on-life discipleship and Biblical education that impacts daily life choices.
3. Without repenting of our sins, we'll continue to be broken and paternalism results. We all only have one Patron: Jesus Christ.
4. Empower and equip those we came to serve. In essence work ourselves out of a mission. They must replace us.
5. Local communities must make investment in all development projects, either financial or sweat equity.
6. This is impossible without the strength, vision, and support of Jesus Christ and his world-wide body of followers.