Guest blogger Lauren Roddy, one of seven students in this summer’s Community Health Immersion, writes…
“ 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
These verses from Matthew 25 are just one example of how we, as Christians, are explicitly called to care for and minister to the poor. The participants in this year’s CHI Program and the staff at Siloam are seeking to answer this call, but what if our best efforts to help are actually hurting those in poverty? What if our desires to be the hands and feet of God are preventing others from doing the same?
“What if our efforts are hurting those in poverty?”
The CHI Program, in addition to providing opportunities to shadow Siloam staff and directly engage in community outreach, has several settings in which the students can begin to discern what their future service in medicine will look like. One such forum is a 6-week small group study on the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. The book offers a framework for rethinking not only how we address the needs related to poverty but also to redefine the term completely.
Instead of thinking about poverty in terms of a lack of material wealth, When Helping Hurts challenges us to think of it as a product of broken relationships – with our own being, others, God, and the rest of Creation. Therefore, true poverty alleviation is a process in which both the materially poor and non-poor work together to rectify each of our broken relationships. The goal, therefore, of working with the materially poor is to reconcile these foundational relationships and in such a way that all are empowered to perform the work in God’s kingdom that they are meant to do.
What good is relief if we’ve crushed the confidence
needed for true development?
Those of you not familiar with these concepts may be shocked to hear phrases like “our poverty” and “our broken relationships”, but through this process, I’ve learned to recognize the places in my own life where relationships have been broken. When Helping Hurts advocates for poverty alleviation that focuses on building on the God-given assets already present within individuals and communities. In my own life, I often am afraid to “brag” about my assets, talents, and ideas, and as a result, fail to fully achieve what I am made to do. Imagine how much more debilitating that fear must be for someone who has been made to feel as though their lack of material wealth makes them worthless. To then tell this person that we have all of the answers to fixing their poverty strips them of the already limited power they have. What good is relief if we’ve crushed the confidence needed for true development?
Framing poverty in terms of relationships just makes sense to me now. Not only do we belong to a relational God, but medicine is also such a relational field. Our primary focus should always be on the empowerment of our patients. A piece of this certainly is restoring physical health, but helping others (and ourselves) feel empowered and purposeful is how real growth occurs. I hope that my friends and family will consider reading the book, engaging in conversation with me about these ideas, and holding me accountable to living this out!
“Share the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”
– St. Francis of Assisi