WHEN HELPING HURTS

(Title taken from a book of the same title)

Queen is struggling these days. At 60 years she is surprisingly spry and clear, especially for the hard life she’s lived. Like a goat, she can make a meal out of thorns and stickers and is still able to kick up her heals and challenge adversaries double her size.

But these days it seems her step is slower. Her husband, an invalid for many years, finally died this year. His substantial retirement earnings seem to have gone to the sons and brothers who live at a distance, and all that Queen is left with is the cast off grandchildren to raise. How many she cares for varies from week to week – in essence, she runs the village Safe House – yet with no compensation other than in her Heavenly Treasure Chest. So right now she watches the 5 children of her son who passed away last year – the mom is out of control drinking and carousing. Then there is Loveness, Winnie, Joseph and Soloman – kids from various relatives. Moses, a lone 30 year old worthless drunk has stayed with them for years – contributing nothing, while terrorizing the children and embarrassing the adults – but somehow there is grace here for him. Recently Mukela, an adolesant orphan, has been getting beaten regularly by his drunk brother, so he shifts to his grandparent’s, only to get “chased” (given no food and told he is a trouble and should go away) – so he is now at Queens city of refuge (we are in the process of giving Mukela and Joseph, another orphan friend, a plot to build a hut on our base, near our House of Moses).

This is the “hungry time”in the villages – gardens have died in the dry heat, maize is waiting for the first rains to be planted, even the fish seem to run away and hide. And Queen’s household is hungry.

So what should we do? Christ’s compassion led him to feed the hungry miraculously twice. The disciple band had a purse to help the poor. The early church fed the widows regularly.

Yet in Africa we have seen literally trillions of dollars in aid coming into this continent and all that it does is swell the empty bellies for a moment, and swell the chest of the donor in a warm sense of the good deed he has done, something purposeful, a god-like benevolence toward the helpless. But by next month the hand is outstretched for more and the equipment that was so happily received is broken and rusting. We sat with a guy today that told us all the ways their organization has tried to help the poor for four years and tens of thousands of dollars – garden projects, chicken projects, wells, micro finance initiatives, etc – and every one has failed to sustained itself after the initial period – many failing in the first month.  Africa has been ruined by handouts!

Learners

The key word in the last paragraph is“helpless”. Can they really not help themselves? Or have they learned a child like dependence from the generations of Colonial condescension and now paternalistic aid organizations that treat them like they are helpless children, incompetent to make a plan for their own improvement and implement it?

I sat with the headman of our village yesterday and brainstormed about one of the ills of their society – education. The headman’s own 7th grade son cannot write his fathers name! Most 7th graders don’t have a clue how to read or write. And headman does not know of a single village person who has been able to afford to send his child thru 12th grade – it is just financially impossible for someone on village wages to afford the fees of 8th thru 12th grades for their kids. They are dependent on the sponsorship of a rich uncle or chance benevolent tourist.

I am confident that I could promote this cause and raise enough money to send all the teens back to school in 10 villages! There! Settled! I took care of that problem! Or did I just extend the problem for another year, unresolved?

What really needs to happen is for these very village folk to put their creative minds together and come up with a plan that would set some gears in motion aimed at gradually overcoming this huge problem. Sure it might entail some funds or expertise from Western sources, it might take some coaching – but it would be they themselves who rise up to conquer this Goliath who has so far successfully taunted them into passive humiliation.

That’s exactly what I challenged the headman with – get some David Dreamers together and make a plan – I will do what I can to partner. Get ready friends for an opportunity to come alongside these David Warriors and kick the breastplate of this dying Goliath as we pass him in pursuit of his fleeing cohorts!

But now we come back to Queen – what should we do with her? She can’t wait for Giants to fall. Would micro-finance loan help? Research shows that seldom do micro-finance initiatives work with the poorest of the poor. There are just too many ditches along the path of the poor that will sabotage their best-laid plan. Perhaps a cooperative venture with other widows? Or a long-range savings plan. Or perhaps it is just time to give her some food or seed for her garden or hire her to work on ours, knowing none of these will not be a long term solution.

So we talk as a team how to really help the poor, and we read good books and network with people who are doing development. It is not easy to do it right. We don’t want people to be dependent on us every year for school fees, for seed and fertilizer, for a million little things. We are not really helping them – in fact we are hurting them.

And one of the hardest things is when our friends from N. America come and want to shower blessings on the poor – how do we allow them to get into the long term vision of bringing long term empowerment rather than short term enablement?

PRAYER AND PRAISE REPORT

  • Thanks to the one who donated $5,000 to the orphan ministry! We are immediately expanding the chicken business and have plans for an expanded garden. We will get another solar panel.
  • Pray for Mukela and Joseph – the two teen orphans who need a safe place. Pray with us as we try to do the best thing for them – perhaps inviting them to come create their own simple style orphan home…
  • Pray for Oliver – one of our (10 yr old) orphans – he is not doing well in school, and seems to be in a hard adjustment to home life when he has been so independent before.
  • We just got word yesterday – SOMEONE IS COMING TO SERVE US IN ADMINISTRATION!  WELCOME BACK – DENA! Dena has served with us before, but as a lover of the least and lost.
  • We also need an administrator for the orphan ministry – to help with all the details of operating this orphan home. We would ask for 6 – 12 month commitment, be willing to stay in the village with the orphans for most of the time, loving, serving, mentoring, but also organizing and setting up systems for ongoing operations.
  • Regina and I had such a wonderful time in N America, visiting and sharing the stories of God’s work in Zambia. We visited over 20 groups and 7 of these were first time. We want to thank all who have committed to partner with us monthly for the support of this work. We are sending out DVD’s to all our regular partners. If you would like to join the team, write Tammy at tammybenelli@gmail.com for the DVD and how to send your donations.

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