When Helping Hurts: What’s In Your Hand?

“The Lord said to [Moses], “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff” (Exodus 4:2).

So far, this book is not light reading for when you can’t sleep at night. It’s deep and challenging and (on occasion) causes my head to hurt.

I have a couple of takeaways.

One is that when dealing with impoverished communities, the best way to look at the poor is not from a needs-based analysis, i.e. what do you lack in terms of material resources, finances, education, mindset, etc., but from an assets-based one which asks, “What is that in your hand?” In other words, what skills and talents do you bring to the table? What knowledge of your own community could you give us to help better serve you?

Another is instead of implementing a one size fits all blueprint approach to every crises or problem involving poor communities, the better way is a learning process, where instead of “doing to” and “doing for” the people we serve, we are “doing with,” involving these people in the process and actually empowering them to be a part of the solution to their problems.

Above all, the goal is to see the innate image of God in the people we serve, distorted as it may be from the effects of sin and the fall. It’s not us coming down from on high to serve those who aren’t as good as us, but broken people serving other broken people with the ideal scenario being that both parties learn and grow and change and find healing in the process.

Doing ministry in this way takes longer and goes against our microwave, fast-food, quick-fix mentality, but is by far the better way in the long run.

There will be more of these updates as I continue to make my way through this book. Seriously, it’s a very good book, but it’s like one of those books that I read in seminary. It makes me have to use muscles in my brain that I haven’t used in a while, so I may have to read parts more than once to really grasp it.

But that’s a good thing. Exercise is good, even if it gives me a sore brain in the morning, right?

PS I’ve included a link to the amazon webpage for this book if you’re interested in learning more about it or purchasing it. I recommend it for anyone who is even remotely interested in pursuing either short-term or long-term missions.

http://www.amazon.com/When-Helping-Hurts-Alleviate-Yourself/dp/0802409989/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424978877&sr=1-1&keywords=when+helping+hurts

Thoughts from Deuteronomy

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I heard this from a pastor once: most people have every intention of reading through the Bible. Every intention.

They start off well, because Genesis has a good bit of action and intrigue and drama. Sort of Downton Abbey meets Ben-Hur. You get to see the story of God’s people unfolding and see where everything got its start.

Exodus is doable because it continues the storyline from Genesis. There’s more than a few rules and regulations thrown in, but there’s also the drama of God’s people making their way through the desert.

Leviticus throws most people for a loop. There are a lot more rules and a lot less action. A lot of what’s here seems far from relatable and applicable. I mean, who will be sacrificing a goat any time soon?

Numbers usually is like a punch to the solar plexus and Deuteronomy generally finishes the people off that Numbers didn’t. I mean, it seems so far removed from the mercy and grace of the New Testament.

But think of it as an unfolding love story between God and His people. At first, His people need boundaries and guidelines, as we all do when we’re growing up. We need to know that sin is serious business and that every sin demands a sacrifice and blood.

It’s the same God who shows up later in the form of Jesus. I admit I don’t completely understand how the different parts of the story mesh together, but I know that they do. All the loose ends of the plot get resolved and we do live happily ever after. Just not yet.

I see how Adam and Eve blew it in the garden. I see how the children of Israel messed up with God literally from day one. But instead of looking at the could-have-beens, I see the what-will-be. Where Adam and Eve and the Israelites failed, Jesus got it right and one day soon, everything that went wrong as a result will be put right.

That sounds like a happy ending to me.