Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When Helping Hurts: Part 6 Theology with Feet

In this final post of this exploration of the brilliant book "When Helping Hurts", I'll be connecting to content of the book that has been discussed here with an example of how we are attempting to live these truths out in Jacksonville with 2nd Mile Ministries.

Upon reading this book with our team a few months ago, we were somewhat encouraged and greatly concerned. Encouraged at the ways we saw our ministry fitting this model, but concerned at the many ways we saw ourselves committing the errors described in the book and convicted that the book was dead on--but that living out those truths was going to be really, really hard.

The authors make it clear that in their decades of experience in poverty alleviation they know about mistakes because they've made them all, and they write from the humble point of view of flawed individuals who are still in the process of answering these questions, so at 2nd Mile, we too, hope to be in process, and that our process would take us closer and closer to a Biblical, loving, and effective response to the brokenness of this world.

So how does 2nd Mile seek to help without hurting in the inner city of JAX. Its starts with the view of poverty. We've ditched the material view of poverty and choose to enter into a story where we're all broken and all in need of redemption. Rather than looking to material poverty we take a relational view.

As a part of a relational view, all of our staff are required to live in the neighborhood alongside the people we are seeking to minister to (and hopefully, letting them minister to us). Ideally we come to share life with our neighbors. Their problems become our problems, their joy becomes our joy, and the Gospel permeates all of our lives with a belief that "I'm not OK, and you're not OK, but Jesus can fix us both."

So it starts with relationships.

From these relationships we seek to learn what the community really needs. This is not based on an assessment of middle class values, but is based on the very words of our neighbors and Scripture. If the community doesn't desire something, why waste everybody's time pursuing it?

From these relationships we also seek to discover the natural gifts and abilities of our neighbors and invite them to come along on the journey of restoration in our streets. We don't start from scratch but find out what's already going on and existing in our neighborhood and seek to propel it further.

Finally, from these relationships, we are dealing with people. We don't want to fix people or change them or help them. You fix a car. You change your cell phone contract. You help those "below" you. Instead we would seek to love people, to develop people, and to empower people (plus, if you watch LOST, you know that trying to fix everything never works! Right Jack?!).

We deal in development and empowerment. Specifically, we would love to see young people from our neighborhood be developed into leaders and role models who follow Christ boldly in our neighborhood and are empowered to bring the message of reconciliation with their lives. That's the goal.

I could go on for awhile, probably far too long, so I'll wrap this up here. Seriously, "When Helping Hurts" brilliant, convicting, Scriptural, well-written, and illuminating, go pick it up.