Foundational Concepts for helping without hurting.
In this excellent book – a ‘must read’ for all who are involved in helping people who are poor or disadvantaged – the authors look critically at both the issues of poverty and how it is defined, and at the typical response of very well meaning individuals and agents of society that may in fact be doing more harm than good.
This is a book that will challenge the accuracy of notions you may currently hold – ‘is my desire to do good actually doing harm?’ It applies both to ministry within your community and to international development ie how to relate across cultures. Each chapter begins with questions for you to answer which reveal your present stance and ends with questions to review. This is a book that seeks to apply what is discussed. Prepare to be challenged!
I will make comment on this book over three blogs, being equated to the three parts the book. Part 1 addresses the issues of poverty from a Biblical perspective with excellent examples to illustrate what is being discussed.
How would you define poverty?
Lack of wealth or material goods? How do poor people define poverty? They tend to describe their circumstances rather than diagnose the problem eg using words such as ‘shame’, ‘humiliation’, ‘low self-esteem’, ‘inferior’, ‘powerlessness’.
Did you know that the average American lives on $90 per day but 40% of the world survives on less than $2? This leads to the inclination to try to resolve problems with money. But the authors show how we are in a 4-way relationship with God, Other people, Creation and Ourselves. The problem leading to poverty is more than material and we need to address all these issues for an holistic improvement in someone’s situation.
‘Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work …. the absence of shalom in all its meanings’.
What are our motivations in wanting to help? Are they pure or do they carry a certain element of personal gratification and relieving your conscience? True poverty alleviation is helping ‘people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with Self, with Others and with the rest of Creation’.
Do we think of Projects and Outcomes rather than People and Process? It is essential to understand the importance of equipping people for the long term, not seeing them as a project with a product outcome.
The authors then address the issue of recognising that this is the fundamental lens through which people see life. Without a biblical worldview it is impossible to see true and complete transformation taking place. But how do we help people to change?
As we shall see, parts 2 and 3 bring some very down-to-earth practical commentary and application.