I have another story today of a young adult with all kinds of potential and years of people pouring into him and his lovable personality. Opportunities laid out before him after a lifetime of hardship up until he was in his late teens, when others met him and stepped in.
The story, sadly, is a warning from those who have loved and helped him as he has not used the opportunities or money wisely and is now looking for more people to help him after reacting badly to those who poured into him.
I’m saddened not only as he happens to be a friend but also as he is not the first person to do this. I am humbled once again to keep a bigger perspective while we are working.
I (yes, I, the “missionary”) so easily forget to bring God into the equation, and keep him at the forefront and purpose of it all. I have been guilty in my actions of not focusing on the type of poverty that is the primary need to fill – spiritual.
This is easy in a place where we are bombarded with the physical and “what are you going to do about it?”
A place where people are saying what they NEED is some financial help, an opportunity, a physical resource. That will solve them and their problems! And instead of remembering God, I listen to the world in front of me. Because I am human and I forget that there is more than the physical, so I run around trying to solve the physical and come alongside people. These needs are real and these people DO need these things – but that’s where I stop and where the problem is. I am busy trying to help in the building pile of physical needs around me, no further. (Other needs take more time and investment anyway – I have to save time and then use it to help more immediate physical needs!)
But stories like this young man are numerous and it is only proven more the longer that I live and work in a place where there is physical poverty – the deepest poverty is not physical. All of mankind has a deep spiritual poverty that is much more imminent than the physical.
Now I want to be clear – I am NOT against helping the physical and it is indeed a key part of ministry in Haiti and many other places in the world, including America. I am NOT saying it is wrong. I am NOT saying we should stop.
But I AM seeing people given opportunities who come back the next day right where they started the day before. I AM seeing people after years who have not moved except having some nicer things in this temporary life.
Why do we emphasize that life is a breathe in our American churches battling an apathetic, comfortable life and forget it in contexts of poverty? A life of suffering in poverty is still just a breath compared to eternity. And an eternity suffering because of the separation of Christ will have souls groaning about the physical focused on during their breath of life on earth.
We must focus on lost souls and not just poor physical bodies. We must reach hearts not just hardships.
Helping Without Hurting has talked about this too – you must change hearts, that’s what makes the difference in the other lasting change you attempt to implement. And it makes sense. Because we equip people who are building towards one of two Kingdoms – their own or our Father’s. They will build towards one of them, and only one lasts. Only one vision breathes life and redemption and transformation. We must give and encourage vision of worth and purpose in Christ – otherwise what are we building?
This is why it matters to do partnership. This is why I am committed to CPR-3, as CPR-3 is committed to relationships. CPR-3 is committed to the planting and deep discipling of the Haitian church. CPR-3 wants to reach and change hearts that then reach and change the community.
The physical must stop being addressed as THE problem. Is it a real, painful problem, and a deep and serious effect of a fallen world? Of course! But it is not the deepest need or deepest problem. Do we want to see the end of malnutrition? YES! Are we serious about the injustice of human trafficking in the form of restavek? ABSOLUTELY! Do we believe in the investment and change happening through child sponsorship and clean water initiatives? YES, and it is making a difference!
But we must not lose sight of the deep poverty at work, the spiritual. We must address physical while coming alongside in the long, hard work of relationships and making disciples. We must not let physical sight of this world blind us to the poverty that matters eternally. Let’s keep our perspective as we move forward confident in the Lord who is making ALL things new – physical AND spiritual!