Posts in “When Helping Hurts”
If we want to see an end to material poverty, we need a clear vision of what this looks like. Just as our diagnosis of the causes of poverty shapes the remedies we pursue, so too does our idea of the ultimate goal of poverty alleviation.
In the heart of Nairobi, Kenya, lies one of Africa’s largest slums—Kibera. Conditions there are harsh. People live in makeshift structures, surrounded by open ditches filled with human and animal waste. Opportunities for jobs and education are severely limited, as is access to healthcare, food, and clean water.
Over a decade ago, Ruan and his family moved from Cape Town to the village of Zithulele in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, just miles away from the place Nelson Mandela was raised. His wife had secured a job as a physician at a local hospital and he was looking forward to working in youth ministry.
He read When Helping Hurts soon after his arrival, but over the next five years, he made many of the mistakes he read about. Despite hosting many Bible studies, outreach teams, and events – all of the things he brought with him from westernized Cape Town – they still weren’t seeing transformation in their rural village.
Inspired by our book, When Helping Hurts, Watermark Health, a nonprofit affiliated with Watermark Church, has designed its three clinics to instill value and promote dignity among their patients. The majority of their patients are uninsured and from marginalized communities who otherwise lack access to adequate medical resources. Located near a large refugee resettlement area, their original clinic has had patients from 123 countries.
Bryant Myers, a leading Christian development thinker, argues in Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development that in order to effectively address material poverty, we need to consider the fundamental nature of reality, starting with our triune God as the Creator of that reality. God, eternally existing as three-in-one, is inherently relational, and as beings made in His image, we too are inherently relational.