June 6, 2011

Why HANDS? Serving and Sharing for Shalom

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Every year, HANDS Teams travel from Canada to 'Help Another Nation Develop Schools.' The goal of these trips may seem obvious on the surface - going to help a community in need build facilities so that children can receive a quality, Christian education. However, the purpose and outcomes of these trips are much deeper than laying cement blocks or painting classroom walls.

One of the main reasons people go on mission trips is to help people living in poverty. Poverty is often defined by a lack of material possessions, but is it more? What role do HANDS teams play in alleviating poverty?

In When Helping Hurts, a book about understanding poverty and how we are called to make a difference, authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert uncover the root of poverty:

'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 meanings. Every human being is suffering from a poverty of spiritual intimacy, a poverty of being, a poverty of community, and a poverty of stewardship.'

This book points out that all of us are ultimately living in broken relationship - with God, with ourselves, with others and with the rest of creation - but that, as Christians, we are called to work for the restoration of these relationships.

The HANDS program serves as a stepping stone in this ministry of reconciliation. A HANDS team report from King's Christian Collegiate in Oakville, Ontario, powerfully articulates how 'these trips enabled [them] to serve another community while learning immeasurable life lessons about God, others, and themselves.'

'The bulk of our time was spent painting and varnishing. At first, our students were disappointed because they were looking forward to hard labour. This was a valuable lesson about serving. Serving others is about finding out what they need as opposed to doing what we want to do and assuming it's in their best interest.'

'When we met for devotions, we took turns giving personal testimonies. This was extremely moving as students became vulnerable, raw, and broken.'

'This trip was characterized by the tight connection we had as a group and by the interactions we had with the school children. Whether it was through their hard work, their willingness to be vulnerable, their ability to connect with the Belizean students, their exuberance and intense energy level, or through individual conversations, each student was an inspiring example.' 

'We are so thankful for the experience. It was clearly evident that our students have grown in their favour and stature with God and each other.'

As we develop relationships with the body of Christ around the world, different expressions of poverty are identified and addressed - both in the lives of HANDS team members and the people they go to serve. We are all working and learning together to alleviate poverty by serving and sharing with others to bring about God's healing, restoration and shalom.


Jun 6, 2011 at 8:52 am

Great post! I highly recommend the book "When Helping Hurts" mentioned in this article.

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