Redefining “Success” for Poverty Alleviation

Laura: Welcome back to Rethink Poverty. What’s the best way to help people who are poor? We can talk about techniques, but the truth is we need more than that. To really help people, we have to take a look at the stories that we tell ourselves. The stories we believe about what success really looks like, both for you and the people you are trying to help. My guest today is Brian Fikkert, co-author of When Helping Hurts. In his latest book, Becoming Whole, Brian explores the importance of stories and how they shape our work with people in poverty. He’s here to share some of the lessons that he and others have learned along the way. So Brian, in the last year you’ve released two books, Becoming Whole and The Field Guide to Becoming Whole. Can you describe what was your reason behind writing those two books?

Brian: Yeah, so about a decade ago, we were privileged to release When Helping Hurts and God used that book in far more ways than we ever could have possibly dreamed. But since that book came out over the past decade, we’ve had the following experience, someone comes up to us and say, I’m working in this very unusual region of the world, with this very remote people group and they have this particular problem. What do we do?

Brian: And we got so many very specific questions and I realized I couldn’t possibly ever answer all of those questions, partly because I don’t have the answers to most of them. But there’s just so many unique things. And I realized that what was really missing was sort of wisdom, that people were kind of looking for very specific tips and tools and tricks for their situation. And there can be important tools like that.

Brian: That’s a good thing to do. But fundamentally people didn’t really have a sense of what’s the story? What is God doing in the world and how does he normally go about accomplishing his work? And if people just had that sort of wisdom, they could then kind of improvise God’s story in their particular setting. And the second thing I noticed, was that in the past decade, a lot’s gone wrong in America. I think there’s a lot of anxiety. There’s a sense of loneliness. Families are struggling. Communities are fragmented. The political process is it just a mess.

Brian: And there’s this sense that something has gone wrong in America. And I realized that we’ve lost our story as a nation, as people that we don’t have a very good story for poor people. We don’t have a very good story for ourselves. So what does life supposed to look like and what’s the good life? What does human flourishing really look like? How do we achieve that? And then I thought it’s kind of ironic, we’re saying to poor people, kind of come be like us. We’re rich and you’re poor. And we’re kind of implicitly saying that they should become like us, but we’re not really that happy. And so why are we asking them to join our story, when our story isn’t that great?

Brian: It’s really a book about what is God’s story for all people. For the materially poor. For you and me. For all of creation. What is God’s story? And then, how does that apply to how we work with the poor?

Laura: So in Becoming Whole, you kind of show people, maybe we have the wrong story, here’s a new story. But in the Field Guide, it kind of shows more kind of real-life examples that people are implementing God’s story.

Brian: That’s it. The book has in it some fairly abstract things, but at the end of the day, what we want is that when a person walks into your church asking for help with their electric bill, that you know what to do and that you have a plan for what to do in that moment and that you’re well equipped for that moment. And so the idea here isn’t just to leave people with all kinds of super abstract ideas.

Brian: Rather, the idea is to go from some fairly abstract concepts about the nature of God and the Trinity, all the way down to what do you do, when that person walks into your church asking for help with their electric bill, because it turns out that the abstract stuff really matters for what you do in that moment. And so the two books combined move from fairly high level of abstraction down to very practical things that will help you to do better as you’re walking with the poor.

Laura: Yeah. So since the book’s release, what kind of responses have you received?

Brian: Well, it’s a little early yet and so I don’t think we completely know what God is going to do yet, with this book. But the kinds of responses that we’ve heard have been responses like this has completely blown my mind. I thought it was going to pick up a book that was going to give me a few tricks and I picked up a book and started reading and realized that this wasn’t just about practical things and helping the poor. It was that. But it was bigger.

Brian: It was about, who is God and what’s the nature of the world and how do we be in the world? And they’re saying things like this changes everything. It doesn’t just change how I work with the poor. It changes how I parent, how I coach my kid’s soccer team.

Brian: By the way, don’t ever check the box that says you’re willing to help out. I did that when my daughter was five and up coaching a sport for a decade. I didn’t know the rules of the sport of soccer. So it’s about how to be in the world in a different sort of way. And so the implications are wide-ranging. The truth is the book could be relevant for anybody in any walk of life.

Laura: Even if they’re not directly in poverty alleviation?

Brian: No, it’s about life. And the context is poverty alleviation because I think it helps it to see some things. This is my own story. It’s not like I knew all this stuff. In writing the book I learned, and so I’m still learning and growing. But I think in the context of working with the poor, in a way that’s consistent with God’s story, we learn a lot about life in general and so it’s slowly transforming me, very slowly. But the content is changing me.

Laura: Can you describe some of the different statistics that you gathered from the book about how depressed people are these days?

Brian: It’s really shocking. If you look at the statistics, what we find is that anxiety and depression, particularly amongst young people in America, continues to increase, but it’s not a new story. A lot of us kind of think, oh, the iPhone. Right. And that is part of the story by the way. But it turns out that the data that we have or some recent studies that show from 1938 … So pre-world war II. From 1938 to the present, there’s been an ongoing upward trend in anxiety and depression among his college-age people in America. And so despite unprecedented increases in income, unprecedented increases in wealth, we’re actually not flourishing more. And my training is as an economist and so I’m trained to believe that human flourishing is basically about having more stuff and that the constraint on us having more stuff is income.

Brian: And so my whole discipline is about how can we promote economic growth so that we have more income than we can buy more stuff. And this is kind of the story of Western civilization as a story that we are inviting poor people into. And it’s a story that quite frankly generates incredible income and wealth and in ways that are unprecedented in human history. And so I don’t want to downplay that.

Brian: The truth of the matter is, in a purely material sense, the institutions of Western capitalism have wiped up more poverty in a purely material sense than anything else in human history, there’s no question. As we export this to the world, we see poverty in a purely material sense plummeting in places like China and India. The problem is there’s more to life than stuff. And so the institutions that are fostering this kind of growth are also fostering isolation.

Brian: They’re fostering extreme individualism. They’re fostering materialism. It turns out that individualism and isolation and materialism are really horrible for human flourishing. And there’s a huge explosion of literature in particularly out of the field of psychology showing that the good life isn’t this. And so we’ve kind of like bought into the wrong story.

Brian: It’s a story of growth and isolation, of growth and loneliness, of growth and anxiety. And it’s interesting or discovering is that as places like China are adopting Western capitalism, and again, there’s good things about it. There’s great things. China in the past 25 years has experienced massive reductions in material poverty, but we’re also seeing evidence that the Chinese are saying, you know what, I’m less happy than I was before. So we’re exporting our own diseases.

Laura: When you make a certain amount of money, there’s some kind of cap where once you get past this point, your happiness will not increase.

Brian: Yeah. And it’s also context-specific. So that number in America might be different from that number in India, because so much of what social scientists are discovering is that it’s really about … Well, quite frankly, it’s about how we feel compared to the people around us. And so, there’s a sense in which my happiness in a material sense is sort of a function of how much I have compared to you. And there’s a little bit of how to keep ahead of the Joneses.

Brian: And so it’s really about pride. And so kind of what the number is depends on the overall economic context that one is in. But globally it is true that in every nation there is some point at which having more doesn’t actually make you happier. Yeah.

Laura: And if you were to make more money and move to a more expensive neighborhood, then you might have a higher cap that you feel like you must reach.

Brian: So it’s like we’re on kind of a consume- earn-consume-earn treadmill. What we’re finding with social scientists are finding is, it’s a little bit like when you get new toys for Christmas. You’re really excited when you open it. Right. It’s this burst of joy and a couple of days into it, you’re kind of bored with your new toy. You actually need another new toy to give you that burst.

Brian: And so we end up on this sort of constant consume-earn- consume-earn treadmill where we achieve some higher level. It’s great for short period of time and then we get bored with it and then we ask for a higher level beyond that. And so we’re driving ourselves into the ground on this treadmill. The treadmill is the embodiment of all angst.

Laura: Well, walking and running outside is always more enjoyable, if it’s warm enough. Yeah. I had a friend who worked with someone who was temporarily homeless and they were able to get this man housing. But it was interesting because the man that they helped receive housing I think increased … His anxiety increased tenfold because he was used to knowing exactly where he was going to get his meals, knowing that he had a small amount of stuff to manage and now he has an apartment, where his day to day activities is increased and just knowing how to manage that without a community around him was really hard.

Brian: You’ve hit on just some great themes there. There actually a book called The Paradox of Choice and it’s written by a psychologist. I really hate this. My field is economics and all the great insights are coming out of the field of psychology these days. It basically that more is always better. So more choices. That the more choice that you have, the happier you’re going to be. And what we’re discovering is the actually too many choices actually creating anxiety.

Brian: So in the opening of this book, there’s a story the guy says, when he was younger he used to just buy blue jeans and now he goes to the store and says, I want a pair of blue jeans and there’s like 50 different options. Pre-washed. Where do you want the stitches? And he’s paralyzed with all these choices and it actually creates anxiety, because you were afraid of missing out.

Brian: And so it’s a funny thing. We’re not actually wired for all of this. It has more to do with what you were saying. It’s about community. So that homeless gentleman you were talking about, he liked community. That’s actually how God has made us. So it’s less about stuff and more about being together.

Laura: In The Field Guide to Becoming Whole, I hear you share a lot of real-world examples of people innovating their ministries. Can you describe some of those examples?

Brian: I’ll tell a story of a very poor church in Kenya that had a ministry to HIV/AIDS sufferers and in Kenyan, these people are essentially modern-day lepers. If you can check AIDS or HIV, your family rejects you, your friends reject you and you believe God has rejected you because you’ve got friends who are engaging in the same behaviors as you were, who didn’t get HIV/AIDS and you did. So God has kind of chosen you in this sort of Russian roulette game. God has chosen you to get the disease. And of course, there’s all kinds of ways one can get HIV/AIDS apart from various sexual practices. But in any event, you believe that your family hates you. Your tribe hates you, your friends hate you and God hates you. To typically curl up in the corner and wait to die.

Brian: And here’s this church that’s working with HIV/AIDS sufferers who have migrated from various parts of the country to the slum, where there’s churches and this church reaches out and tries to help these people by starting a savings and credit associations, a form of microfinance that helps poor people to be able to save and borrow money to be productive, to start their own businesses, to pay school fees for their kids, what have you. I got a chance to visit this church and this ministry, quite a few years ago now and what I was so struck by was it wasn’t just the people who were benefiting economically.

Brian: They were, but they saw themselves as … and they wouldn’t have used this language, but they saw themselves as priest-kings. They weren’t sitting in a corner waiting to die. They saw themselves as agents of reconciliation. Second Corinthians chapter five teaches us that Christ is reconciling all things that we are agents of his reconciling work and these 50 HIV/AIDS sufferers that I visited.

Brian: They had all gone out and started additional savings and credit associations on their own. So they were first brought into a savings and credit association by this church, then as they saw what it was doing for them, they essentially went out and spread this like a good priest-king would, starting their own savings and credit associations with about a thousand other people.

Brian: I said to them, when you come to this church and to this group, I believe that there’s prayers and Bible studies in this group. Do you take those with you to the savings groups that you started? I said, oh yes and so essentially in modern-day lepers were being restored as priest-kings and instead of sitting around in a corner waiting to die, they saw themselves as people with dignity and worth and capacity, who could spread the knowledge of God’s kingdom, as far as the curses found in their little part of the world.

Brian: And so I like that approach because that’s consistent with God’s story. Restoring people, not just the people who aren’t poor, but restoring people to people who minister on God’s behalf and his name. I love that. It’s not easy to get there.

Laura: Yeah. You’re not just paying for the electricity bill. You are remembering that this person has deep capacity, deep dignity and honor that should be bestowed on them because that’s what God has already done.

Brian: That’s it. That’s it. And then the holy spirit actually show up and transformed them. Another example, there’s a ministry here in Chattanooga, where we live, called Love’s Arm and Love’s Arm is reaching out to women who have been caught up in the whole sex trade.

Brian: And what’s so interesting is the founder of the ministry, a wonderful godly woman here in Chattanooga named Mimi, who goes to my church by the way. Mimi herself was trafficked at a young age and she ended up being caught up in the whole sex trade and got addicted to all kinds of things. And then it’s a perpetual cycle of how do I pay for this and all that business.

Brian: And the Lord got ahold of her life. Rescued her in just unbelievable ways. It’s a miracle. He pulled her out of the kingdom of darkness, brought her in the kingdom of light and now she is, as a restored priest-king, going out rescuing girls from this whole industry and those women, once they are rescued are now going back and rescuing others and so again, it’s a story of I’m captured by the kingdom of darkness. I’m brought in the kingdom of light as a member of that kingdom, I am a restored image bear. I’m a restored priest-king and I can spread the knowledge of God’s presence in rain.

Brian: It’s a tremendous story, but how you get into that more empowering posture, is a different approach to working with the poor and different expectations of what could happen than most of us have, I think.

Laura: Yeah, and with that specific ministry, Mimi she had been through it and she showed them that, hey, your life can be different. And I am an example of that. When you invest in someone at your church who might be struggling with housing, they are the gatekeepers to their own community and can bring other people in and say, hey, there’s a different life you can live.

Brian: It’s really true. And so your right, the flesh and bones that Mimi’s personhood is captured in or is embodied then I should say, it is a bridge to that community because of her own story. That’s exactly right. The book really again, tries to get at what is God’s story of change and in by a story of change we mean two things. What is the goal and how do we go about achieving the goal? And in all of us implicitly have this.

Brian: When we get out of bed in the morning, we have some sense of here’s the goal of life and here’s how one goes about achieving that goal. And we probably don’t articulate it to ourselves very often, but our culture has communicated to us something that we’ve absorbed in our DNA. We have a sense of kind of, what is the goal and how do we go about achieving that goal?

Brian: And again, in Western civilization, the goal is basically more stuff. And the way we go about getting more stuff is through working hard, increasing our incomes. As our incomes go up, we have more stuff. We’re going to flourish and there’s truth in that. That’s the problem with so many things. There’s elements of truth in it.

Brian: God does want us to work hard. He does want us to be productive in the reward of that is partly material in nature that Adam and Eve experience. That in the garden, if they worked, they could tend the garden, they would get to eat fruit. And so there’s truth in that story. But God’s story is bigger and more multifaceted than that simple story. And in God’s story, the goal is for us to be what God created us to be. And so what we’re discovering and when I say we, it’s not me. Theologians are unpacking. It’s really what was God doing in the garden of Eden and who were Adam and Eve in that garden?

Brian: It turns out that there’s all kinds of reasons biblically to believe that the Garden of Eden is actually a temple. A temple is a place where God and human beings meet. The Garden of Eden was in scripture, essentially analogous to the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and the temple.

Brian: It’s a place where God and human beings had intimate fellowship. And in that garden temple, Adam and Eve were actually created to be priests and kings. As priests, they were to engage in worship, not just for themselves, but to lead all of creation into worship. And as kings, they were to rule over the creation on God’s behalf. And the idea was that they were supposed to go out into the world as priest-kings to spread the knowledge of God’s reign and presence in the whole earth.

Brian: And so that’s sort of a temple expansion agenda and in that temple expansion agenda, we are wired to be priests and kings. The fall happens, Adam and Eve get thrown out of the garden temple. When you start to see scripture in that light, it changes everything. We’re actually longing to be in the dwelling place of God and to be restored as priest-kings in that dwelling place.

Brian: That’s the story. In The New Testament, what the believers are described as the Royal priesthood at the Holy nation. We’ve been restored as priests and kings. Revelation chapter five describes us in the new heaven and new earth as being restored priest-kings. What does that have to do with anything? Well, it means that when that woman walks into your church asking for help with her electric bill, she is hardwired by God almighty to be a priest-king and God’s desire for her to be restored to being a priest-king to one who worships and reigns on his behalf.

Brian: That’s quite a lofty goal and most of us are going, do we write the check for her electric bill or not? Well, that’s an important question to ask, a broader question to ask is, what is God’s goal for her? Then how does he typically go about achieving that goal in his world and to see that issue about should we read a check or not in the context that larger story. The ministries that we highlight in our book, are ministries that are really trying to restore the poor to be priest-kings.

Laura: What questions do you feel like the church is wrestling with at the moment?

Brian: Yeah. I think of course the Western church is facing so many questions right now about, is the gospel true and what does the church and how do we live faithfully in what’s increasingly a post-Christian culture? There’s all kinds of big questions.

Brian: At the Chalmers Center. I think most of the churches that we’re dealing with, their entry point to the Chalmers Center is a little more practical. It’s where it’s a little more hands-on. It’s more, how do I walk with poor people more effectively? What are some tips? What are some tools? What are some techniques that you could give us to help us to work with poor people more effectively? And that’s good.

Brian: There are principles. There are tools. There are tips. And so it’s important that we ask those. Those are gifts from God. But I must say that posture to some degree is reflective of the problem. And I have this problem in spades. Western civilization really is enmeshed in this idea that we can conquer the world if we have the technology. And my discipline as an economist is this in spades.

Brian: There’s a subdiscipline with economics called growth theory. And the essence of growth theory is how do we get our economies to grow? And after decades and decades and decades of research, the conclusion is the way that we continue to grow is through technology.

Brian: It’s not going to be more resources because the world is finite. It’s going to be better ideas. And so the whole subfield is about how do we generate better ideas and more technology. And so we kind of think that technology is how we master the world. And again, I like this in spades and every part of my life. It’s always about if I could learn more, I could find the formula or the recipe for this thing. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about. I’m always about learning more. Professor, learn more, get the knowledge, get the recipe.

Brian: Once I have that, I can solve the problem and there’s good in that we should look. God has revealed knowledge to us. He’s revealed truth to us. We should learn from what humanity’s discovered throughout centuries of in hundreds, thousands of years. That’s all a good thing to do. But fundamentally, poverty alleviation is about being dragged from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light and having miraculous things happened in your life. And it requires a supernatural act of God almighty to be restored as a priest-king.

Brian: And so our posture needs to change. Yeah, we need knowledge. We certainly need the Holy Spirit to show up and do something miraculous in individuals’ lives, in our communities, in our systems, in our nation. We need the triune God to show up and do a miraculous thing, in all of our lives. And so our posture needs to change. Not that the tools and tricks and tips don’t matter. They do. There’s plenty in our books, but we’re putting too much emphasis on that and not enough emphasis on the triune God showing up and doing a miraculous thing. And that changes our effect and it changes what we look for.

Laura: One thing that I believe is super important is that I think any relational ministry, whether it’s people under the poverty line or anyone, is slow. And I think since we live in such a fast world, I think we just expect change to happen at kind of a faster rate.

Laura: But if you’re walking with someone in any walk of life, gaining their trust and knowing that if that person has experienced trauma in any form, gaining their trust, that runway extends about 10-fold. And so knowing that it’s going to take a long time to gain trust, but still knowing that if you saturate your work in prayer, that change is possible and God can do wonders in people’s lives.

Brian: Laura, you’ve got it. I don’t change very quickly. And so I can say, I’m going to diet this year. I’m going to exercise this year and I get all excited and one week into it, I really haven’t changed very much. And yet, we expect poor people to make dramatic changes in their life and we plan out that they better do it within our two-year grant cycle, because we’ve got to report back to our financial supporters that shazam happened.

Brian: And so every nonprofit ministry, there’s an anxiety about we’ve got to get these poor people straightened out, because we’ve got to report back to our donors. And so the whole dynamic of the financial supporters and the ministry and the low-income people is set up wrong, because the ministry is in this paradigm of having to produce shazam that only the Holy Spirit can do.

Brian: And if we don’t produce shazam, the money’s going to run out. And so a huge part here of the story is what you were saying. We have to have a slower pace, our expect slow. But the problem with a financial supporter is they’ve given money and they can’t tell if the ministry is doing anything or not. And so they’re in a bad situation.

Brian: They need to know, they’re stewarding lots of money, is something happened in here? Should I be keep giving to this thing? And so the stewardship questions, they’re asking are good questions. They don’t have the information. It’s really hard.

Laura: It’s so much easier to track stuff is like quantifiable. I’ve given this thing. I’ve supplied rent. This person having three new friends. That’s kind of hard to calculate.

Brian: Totally. That’s it. What we’re hoping that two books will do, to say, look, maybe we should focus a little less on measurable outcomes and a little more on, is the ministry pursuing a process that seems to be consistent with how God normally works in the world? And maybe we should focus a little more on faithfulness.

Brian: Now, this is a touchy one. And because you can get really lazy as a ministry and say, I’m just being faithful now and all I’m really doing is being lazy. So there’s a tension here. I think we should lean into wanting to see fruit. We should lean into it, but ultimately recognize the only God can do it and maybe focus a little more on, are we the kind of ministry that seems to be consistent with how God works in the world?

Brian: And then pray for rain. God’s going to show up and send showers of blessing. That’s a little different posture from, I’ve got to make it happen here within two years. It’s a different affect. It’s a different posture. It’s hard to get this right.

Laura: Yeah. My husband and I were mentors to college students for about three years and there would be times where I’d be hanging out and investing in college girls and I would tell my husband, I don’t know if I’m being a good leader or I’m not sure if this is meaningful for them and he would just remind me, all you need to do is be faithful and show up. Just be present.

Brian: That’s it. I was talking to a young church planter here in Chattanooga recently and he’s not planting church the normal way. He’s basically planting a church by hanging out in neighborhoods and just hanging out. And he looked at me at breakfast and he said Brian, basically I’m a savant at just showing up. He said, it doesn’t matter what the thing is, I just show up. Whatever, a community event, I just show up. And he said, that’s all I am. I’m a savant, that’s showing up and being there. That’s actually the thing.

Laura: Yeah. I think that takes away so much anxiety of who you got to be. How much do you need to know? You just need to be there. How would you encourage churches that feel like they can’t help people, because they’ve gotten it wrong the first time?

Brian: Yeah. We learn from our mistakes and we get back in the game. That’s it. God doesn’t call us to perfection. He calls us to faithfulness and we all screw up all the time and all kinds of things. And so saying, man, I made a mistake, I hurt somebody. So. Huh. So you repent of that. You learn from it. And you get back in the game, you do it better and God shows up and does something with our mistakes.

Brian: It’s just the profound importance of community. It turns out again, we are wired for community and it turns out that we all need community and materially poor people need it too. And I really come to see that when we design our ministries, if we’re not fostering healthy community, we are missing a powerful, powerful dynamic. And we don’t always think of this as westerns because we’re captured by Western individualism.

Brian: Right. And so let me just give a quick example. I mentioned a few minutes ago that that savings and credit association in that church in rural Kenya. Well, there’s different ways you can do microfinance. There’s an individual process or a group process. Well many Westerners are saying, let’s figure out an individual lending process because being in a group takes too long. People don’t like showing up in groups. If we could just figure out how lend money. Hey, we can even lend money over the iPhones. People have to even do anything. We can just lend money over iPhones and you know what?

Brian: It’s more efficient. It’s true, it’s more efficient, but people actually need community and communities. Part of what we’re wired for is part how God restores us as human beings. And so what happens in micro finances, we worked for efficiency and the efficiency actually undermines the community that’s so essential to human flourishing.

Brian: And so how we design the ministry needs to reflect human wiring and human flourishing. Same in the US we think about, gee, how can we get people off of welfare and into the workforce and in a productive job? And so we’ll do some kind of job preparedness training program. And Chalmers does this. It’s an important thing to do, but that training ought to happen in the context of supportive community and that supportive communities to last for as long as possible, because we’re wired for it.

Brian: Because that’s one example. Community is essential to ministry design. Let me throw on that a little bit weirder. The Lord’s Supper is actually essential to poverty alleviation. Now, that something and I’ve got two heads and I’m from Mars. It actually is the Lord’s Supper is central to human flourishing. We’re wired to be in the very dwelling place of God and God’s presence is most keenly felt in the local church when the word is preached and the Lord’s Supper is served.

Brian: And so the Lord’s Supper is absolutely essential to how God restores us as priests kings. Well, I don’t think many of us think of, gee, when I designed my ministry to help low-income people, I got to figure out, how to make sure that the low-income people are incorporated into the church family in such a way that the Lord’s Supper is made available to them. And there are issues here about believers and unbelievers and all of that. We discussed some that in the book and said, am I going to get into that and this, but the Lord’s Supper is actually essential to human flourishing for all of us.

Brian: Well, I don’t know of a single ministry in the world, that goes, my world we’ve got to make sure Lord’s Supper is, and being rooted in the church and flowing back into the church. It’s central to how it is on our ministries. That comes out of a different understanding of human flourishing, of houses flourishing is achieved than most Western ministries are coming from.

Laura: You mean so a ministry having communion?

Brian: No, but a ministry that needs to be made. Here’s a good litmus test. Is your ministry designed in such a way that when the Lord’s Supper is being served in the local church under the authority of its leadership, that poor people want to be in the front row of that church, when the community is being served? Is your ministry design [inaudible 00:36:32] if that’s happening? Is your minister designed in such a way that low-income people are going, I want to be in deep relationship with the God who has transformed my life and that God is being presented to me in the bread and the wine, as it’s being served? You can make it happen with high degrees of intentionality for how you’re partnering with the local church. Our book concludes all kinds of examples of that.

Laura: We discussed two books in the episode. Becoming Whole, which describes how we can break free from the lie of the American Dream and redefined success for you and the people you are trying to help. We also mentioned The Field Guide to Becoming Whole, which dives into the five themes of poverty alleviation and provides practical examples of how others are helping people in their local context. You can find more info on Becoming Whole and The Field Guide to Becoming Whole at


Laura Haley

Laura Haley

Laura formerly served as the social media manager and designer at the Chalmers Center. She enjoys serving weekly at her local community kitchen and has a desire to see the church build relationships with disenfranchised people. Laura lives in Chattanooga, TN with her husband Tim.

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