Wednesday, January 19, 2011

When Helping Actually Helps

My friend Don Gentry urged me to work my way through this book - When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...And Yourself. I bought it, and today I'm digging into it.

Both Don and I have had many conversations about how our churches can help the poor and low-income families in our communities. With compassion and wisdom, we want to discover best-practices.

Don pastors in one of the poorest counties in Michigan. I pastor in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Fort Wayne. Don's church has done some great work with area churches to care for the poor. Anchor has hired a Community Connections Director to help care for the poor and low-income families in our church and neighborhood and city.

But still the question remains: what's the best way to help?

I'm hoping this book will help Don and I move forward, to help our churches blossom even more in providing really good help to the men and women and children God brings to us in response to their prayers for help.

Here's a quote from the opening chapter that was convicting to me:
First, North American Christians are simply not doing enough. We are the richest people ever to walk the face of the earth. Period.

Yet most of us live as though there is nothing terribly wrong in the world. We attend our kid's soccer games, pursue our careers, and take beach vacations while 40 percent of the world's inhabitants struggle just to eat every day.

And in our own backyards, the homeless, those residing in ghettos, and a wave of immigrants live in a world outside the economic and social mainstream of North America.

We do not necessarily need to feel guilty about our wealth. But we do need to get up every morning with a deep sense that something is terribly wrong with the world and yearn and strive to do something about it. There is simply not enough yearning and striving going on.

Second, many observers believe that when North American Christians do attempt to alleviate poverty, the methods used often do considerable harm to both the materially poor and the materially non-poor. ...these methods are wasting human, spiritual, financial, and organizational resources, [and] these methods are actually exacerbating the very problems they are trying to solve.

2 comments:

Nancy Watta said...

I've lived on both sides of this equation. I've worked in the corporate world, small business and large. In the last few years I experienced times when I was very near to living in the streets. I now understand what it is like to not know where my next meal will come from. I understand the fear, the feeling of shame and the hopelessness of what comes with this. I also know what it is like to stand on the outside looking in at a world that I once was a part of and be treated with disrespect.

On a positive note, I also continue to be blessed by people around me who continue to bless me during this time. God is taking the ashes and turning them into beauty in a way only he can do.

When, people especially Christians, assist others in a tangible way they become the hands of Jesus.

Andi said...

Yes! That quote, and Nancy's comment, fire me up!