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In farming, you need three things: efficiency, perseverance and a positive attitude. Those are the same qualities you need to succeed in home building.

How to Help and Not Hurt

HOPE InternationalThere’s a well put together graphic (for all the visual learners) that does a great job of illustrating the crucial importance of empowering those living in poverty, through a Christ-centered approach, based on biblical theology, research and widely-recognized strategies, as the most effective method of alleviating poverty. The Visual Summary of “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself” summarizes the book by that name, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. The book combines biblical theology, factual research, foundational principles, and proven strategies that lay a foundation for all poverty-alleviation efforts whether in the local community or abroad. The visual summary shows us how to respond to poverty around the world in a way that starts with people’s assets/resources, working from the inside-out, in a culturally-appropriate manner, and not applying short-run interventions (albeit well-intentioned ones).

First, it’s important to understand that sin has caused brokenness in relationships (with God, ourselves, others and creation), and, as a result, there is poverty, which is multi-faceted and caused by both individual and structural reasons. Poverty is rooted in individual and systemic brokenness, and, until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good.

Jesus came to save us from our sins, redeem the world and restore relationships, which goes hand-in-hand with poverty alleviation, or the ministry of reconciliation – moving people closer to glorifying God by living in the right relationships. The graphic explains three types of poverty interventions: relief (the urgent and temporary provision of emergency aid to reduce immediate suffering), rehabilitation (restoring people to the positive elements of their pre-crisis conditions) and development (the process of ongoing change that moves all people involved closer to being in the right relationship with God).

You can guess that development is the type of intervention that I can get behind. It’s the foundational principle of HOPE International and Homes for Hope. The crux of the graphic is an explanation of how we should respond to poverty, by first starting with the resources within a community (before seeking outside help) and using the participation of those in need, in a culturally appropriate way. Locally, we should be doing development, focusing on changing systemic issues; and participants should be involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of that process. The church is uniquely positioned to be a part of this, while sharing the gospel with participants. And internationally, collaboration and partnership with trustworthy organizations and local churches is the best approach.

Read the visual summary Responding to Poverty: When Helping Hurts to learn more. To support or get involved in an organization that is built upon alleviating physical and spiritual poverty through empowering individuals to break free from the cycle of poverty, check out HOPE International. HOPE International is a network of microfinance institutions and savings and credit associations operating in 17 countries around the world. The organization works to empower men, women, and families to break the cycles of physical and spiritual poverty through discipleship, biblically based business training, savings services, and small loans. Visit www.hopeinternational.org to learn more.

Jeff Rutt