“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meaning.” When Helping Hurts
I have told many people about this book that I’m reading, When Helping Hurts. It’s a book serving to identify what true poverty looks like, from all aspects, in order to be able to discern the best way to help alleviate it. Poverty is not just lack of material possessions. It’s not just about lacking food or shelter or shoes to walk to school. There’s definitely a lot of that kind of poverty here in Zambia and it’s an easy thing to recognize, that’s for sure. But what this book is distinguishing between is the material poverty and the kind of poverty that goes deeper. It goes into the very fiber of who we are and who we were created to be. It’s poverty that keeps us from being able to have compassion on others, or that keeps us broken inside, or that keeps us distant from our Maker.
Living in Africa, it’s very tempting to want to help in visibly large ways! I want to be able to say, “I fed 1,000 people today!” I want those 1,000 people to have food. It’s not a bad thing to want, I believe. But what happens when tomorrow, those same 1,000 people don’t have food again? Do they come together as a community to figure out creative ways to get food, or do they come to us, the “makuah” for the handout? (makuah is white person). My heart would be the former, and not the latter. They are wonderfully intelligent, hard working, and compassionate people. But if we only see the immediate need of giving the handouts as the answer, we are stunting their ability to be whole people, to have the dignity of working and to be creative beings to solve problems and see it through. I am challenged and encouraged by the concepts in this book, and it’s helping me form relationships with the people in the village that is not on a “giver and receiver” basis. Instead, it gives us the ability to have relationships with mutual encouragement, helping each other reach our full potential as loved human beings, created for great things, restored for His glory!