I started a new bible study and it focuses on poverty around the world, mostly in the developing countries. Are we helping or hurting the developing world? Strong countries, like the United States, and many organization throughout the world, such as the United Nations (UN), charity organizations such as ONE, and Christian ministries like Feed the Children, Food for the Hungry, etc. do everything in their power through donations of food, money, clothing and other goods to help the developing world and the locations with the highest poverty levels. But are they actually doing what they set out to do? Or are they hurting the very people they have spent countless hours and dollars on helping?
I have recently started a new personal journey into self discovery and reaching into my faith to find answers to questions I have had for as long as I can remember. I have always had a heart for missions work, I just never knew how to go about it, or how to get my mind into the right place. I am a scientist. And an anthropologist. I have studied religions across the world, and I fully embrace the idea of evolution. Am I a Christian? Absolutely. I just see things a little differently. Missions work is one of those things.
I have always struggled with missionary work. I feel like as Christians it is our goal in life to bring people to God as well as to help anyone struggling in any way we can. I have always thought that missionary work is essentially buying followers. By providing necessities like food, clothing, clean water, and an education (things that are essential to a healthy life and lifestyle), they require that you believe or at least profess a belief in God. As a personal belief, I feel that as a Christian I am required to give whatever aide I can give to anyone who needs it regardless of their religious affiliation.
The purpose of this bible study is to embrace world missions and determine what we can do as people, not just Christians, to help the developing world.
The first thing that is necessary in missionary work, be it in the name of God, or just a personal need you feel the heart to meet, determine what the actual need is. What can you do to ACTUALLY help the community you are trying to reach? This first session of the bible study focused on how charity and missionary work can actually HURT the people and the countries the people are trying to help.
If people don’t research the location or the people they are trying to help, they can’t properly determine the needs of that community. An example that was given, a local farmer started an egg business. Just when the business started turning a profit, a church across the world had heard eggs were a need in the community and started donating eggs. The donations put the local farmer out of business and he sold his hens off. A year later the church chose to focus on another community and the eggs stopped coming. That farmer had no hens to start over meeting that need that had come back into play and no financial resources to start a new business all over again. They ruined that farmers business, not intentionally, but it happened nonetheless. That had a long standing effect on the community and the potential growth of the local economy.
Donations can hurt local economies. They ruin businesses. None of which is intentional but leaves a lasting mark on a community. Another example of donations leaving developing communities in a lurch is the clothing donations. Because second-hand clothing is available in a lot of communities, the cotton industry has essentially died and become nonexistent. The developing world no longer produces it’s own cotton for clothing production. That’s an entire industry in multiple locations, across different countries, that is nearly gone, if not already dead.
Aide can delay development of developing countries and economies. People who are constantly and consistently receiving help feel no urgent need or desire to help themselves. If there is not a need that they can meet at that immediate time, outsiders choose to “donate” to help them meet the need. But those donations can cause setbacks to the countries trying to develop.
It was suggested that rather than “helping” the countries with our own agendas, that we should help local economies follow their own agendas by helping them help themselves. Helping them build their local economies. Helping them to grow. To evolve into countries that are no longer developing, but are growing. Places that have economies of their own outside of charity work and donations.
People who help need to have a “mind” for how to help the poor, not just the “heart”. We need to help them in a way that won’t diminish their growth. Help them move from aid to production, from existing to living.
My mind was in a lurch at the end of this. I have always been a volunteer fanatic. I love to help people. I love to do what I can to make people happy, to make people feel better. But am I really doing the right thing? Am I enabling non-developed peoples to stay in that condition? Am I not allowing them to grow as people? Am I hurting the local population> The global population? Is there a better way to help? Is there a way to determine what needs are actually in the community and how to meet them?
I don’t know but I am going to do my best to find out. I am going to do my best to end poverty in my neighborhood, the surrounding cities, my state, my country and the world.