Aid to Trade: Empowering the Poor


Ever wonder why billions of dollars given generously by churches and NGOs (Non- Government Organizations) seem to evaporate compared to the many needs around the world?

Here are some thoughts—

  • Addressing global poverty with the same tactic as disaster relief keeps people poor.
  • Short term efforts done for all the right reasons, if not part of a larger plan toward self-sufficiency, supports economic insecurity and creates generational dependency. 

Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis inflict widespread damage and loss of life. Disaster relief efforts done well, however, alleviates much suffering in the early days of a tragedy, then transitions to restoration and rebuilding. The relief efforts, then, are no longer needed.

Much of what is considered compassionate missions work today more closely resembles a never-ending disaster relief model. In fact, in our efforts to "help," well intentioned efforts have actually conditioned entire cultures to depend on outside, short term help which is rather like a bridge to nowhere.

Example: Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti the world rightly opened their hearts and purses to render desperately needed aid. Haiti has been rebuilding, but some scars will last for a long time. One scar, as an example, is the collapsed textile industry that could not compete with the bales of used clothes shipped by the ton. Intended to cloth the needy, most ended up, even to this day, being resold, creating short-term income with no overhead.

What is so bad about this? -The true cost: Scores of previously employed men and women making clothing never regained their jobs, as textiles were put out of business. Some have returned. Many have not.

Another Haitian example: Many children were orphaned, sort of. "I don't know that I've seen a true orphan having no one, not a grandparent, aunt or uncle," reflected the founder of Mission of Hope, Haiti. Orphanages in places like Haiti have actually become an alternative for families in financial crisis with little ability to feed, house and educate children. The children certainly need care, and the acute need drives this practice. Most I have seen serve these children do so in an outstanding way with the absolute best motives. However, would it not be better if families had greater capacity to raise their own children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews? I have ever known of any culture who willingly gives up their children.

Solutions?

The emerging trend among NGO’s (faith-based or not) is a long view strategy of capacity building. It is all about fostering long-term relationships that render emerging, sustainable outcomes in every dimension of life! For this, pastors are needed! Business leaders, agricultural experts, nutritional experts, teachers, medical professionals, moms & dads, and scores ordinary people –all needed!

God’s people have everything necessary except a MAP (Missional Action Plan)! –A strategic plan that takes years to unfold fully, but will change generations!

To end poverty in even one small place, the Church of Jesus Christ must end operating out of PITY and engage with specific, objectified PURPOSE.

Having been a Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor, and now a Global Strategist I know the struggle U.S. church leaders have to bridge the desire to make a difference around the globe, but feel their efforts, in light of the daily demands of ministry, fall short.

If you’re a pastor, you and I have said these words to our congregations, “We are making a difference around the world,” and even as the words are rolling off our tongues, intellectual honesty sits on our shoulders, shouting, “Really?”

We truly have deep desire for impacting our world with the “GREAT NEWS”, however, the need is so large, the distance far, methods too complex, and the press of the urgent keeps our time and priorities diffused. I know the gnaw of sending out one more missions team knowing that while their hearts will be broken, their efforts will, in most cases, evaporate.

My words are not an indictment, rather a call to mission and partnership. I want to help your you, your church, your business, develop an actionable strategy that sets the course for unleashing the strength of the people of faith to the people of the world!

Written by Steve Helm, Founder, Share Collective, Inc.

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  • Email: Steve@Share-Collective.com
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