Last time out I wrote about why our motivation for mercy ministries matters. Here’s another aspect that is surprisingly often overlooked: How we do mercy ministries also matters.
If we’re not careful, we can easily spend our time only treating symptoms. In addition to not actually solving problems, we run the risk of making things worse. When we are not careful how we do things, we can create dependencies and hurt the actually teach the idea that those we are trying to help are incapable of helping themselves. Further, we can spend a lot of time duplicating work and end up just diluting our own efforts.
Here’s an example: Say you encounter a person who’s hungry. The obvious fix is to give him something to eat. The problem here, of course, is he will get hungry again later. Now multiply this by every person in your community with the same problem. It is not merely an issue of handing out enough food. There are reasons — some obvious, others not — that have created the problems, and it will take more than one thing to solve them.
So, what is the right approach? Simply put, there isn’t a one size fits all method that works in all places at all times. My point here isn’t to create the One True Method, but to point out that we need to be careful how we go about things.
If you’re serious about helping people, then I highly recommend you read When Helping Hurts. It gives a clear description of the problem and provides guidelines for avoiding them.