Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Effect of Short-Term Missions on Poverty

(Author: Bill Walsh)
For day two in our series on short-term missions, we feature two articles by the Chalmers Center for Economic Development. Their vision is to train the church worldwide to minister holistically to the poor without creating dependency.
The article, "Short-Term Missions Can Create a Long-Term Mess," lays out the challenges and implications of how we serve the poor.
The approach of most short-term mission teams seems to be to do things to the people instead of with the people. This approach exacerbates the feelings of inferiority that already paralyze the poor in my country and the feelings of superiority that often characterize those of us from wealthy countries. This dynamic is particularly problematic here. The government and the church have such a long history of paternalism that the people often believe they cannot do anything without the help of money and resources from others.
"Doing Short-Terms Missions Without Doing Long-Term Harm" reinforces this by showing that to authentically serve the poor we need to examine our mindset.
STM trips can play a positive role in the lives of all those involved, but a different paradigm is needed. Rather than going as "doers," some powerful dynamics can be unleashed if STM teams go as "learners" from the poor or as "co-learners" with the poor.
Deciding what role a short-term team can effectively play is a difficult task. The staff at Chalmers recommends asking questions like these before the team even leaves:
What is the nature of poverty?
What does it take to alleviate poverty?
What is God already doing in this community?
Who are my brothers and sisters there? What issues are they facing?
How does this trip fit into the overall picture?

Source: Desiring God

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