November 30, 2011

Why HANDS? How HANDS Trips Give Dignity to the Poor

Blog Archives:

For the month of November, our blog has featured weekly posts discussing the challenges and benefits of HANDS short-term mission projects. This is the last post in the series, but we'd love for the discussion to continue. Feel free to read and comment on the posts--we cherish your ongoing thoughts on this important issue!

While those on HANDS short-term mission trips are quick to pick up on the very physical and real changes that a school can bring to an impoverished community, there is another aspect of the HANDS program that is often not seen or understood. In the eyes of a local person it brings hope when groups of humble, servant-minded Christians travel to visit them.

The materially poor are often reduced to a statistic, marginalized, overlooked and, are told in many ways that they are not worthy. Having Canadians come to them, to learn from them, to work under them, and to worship with them gives many poor people a sense of worth and value — they are good enough to visit. It motivates the teachers, the students and the community. While EduDeo Ministries fully understands the dependency and humiliation that can come from insensitive Canadian visitors with a “know-it-all” superior attitude, we have more often seen a personal pride and sense of worth developed in locals because they are put in a position of honour by being a host.

In When Helping Hurts, a book about understanding poverty and how we are called to make a difference, authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert issue this reminder to those ministering to the poor: “Remember the goal is not to produce houses or churches or other material goods but to pursue a process of walking with the materially poor so that they are better stewards of their lives and communities, including their own material needs.”

EduDeo desires and trains HANDS participants to serve according to this same worldview and encourages them to interact with children, parents, and educators from a posture of humility, respect, and mutual learning. We believe—and have seen time after time, trip after trip—that this is the only way lasting and God-honouring transformation can take place, both in the hearts of those serving and in those being served.

For discussion: The authors of When Helping Hurts emphasize that in order to give dignity to the poor we need to define poverty properly—by the following definition: “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.” Do you agree with this definition of poverty? If you do, how does this definition challenge those who see material goods (school buildings, resources, money) as the main focus of short-term mission trips? And if you don’t, what, then, is your definition of poverty?

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