Helping or Hurting
Something I wasn’t prepared for with missions in Africa is the need of the people to compare you with missionaries of long ago who came to help. Unfortunately, because of some of these previous missionaries, many locals simply don’t trust missionaries from America; a sad truth.
And it’s because of this that I’ve begun researching how missions and ministries in the past have hurt physically-poor communities when they were intending to help them. With the guidance of other missionaries and wise people all over the world, I’ve begun reading books like “When Helping Hurts” and “Toxic Charity”, along with othere resources. And what I’m learning is invaluable but it also opens my eyes to how these hurts have caused walls for any ministry we may strive for in the future.
One example of such a hurt was discovered in Jeffery’s Bay when our team visited there to see other foster home ministries currently helping orphaned and abandoned children. While touring the local townships, we noticed several primary school aged children (elementary) walking the streets with bags of what looked like rubbish (trash). This was going on while school was in session. When we asked, we learned about a program created to help “clean up” the townships by paying children for plastic they pick up around the township and bring for recycling.
The goal behind this program was honorable and was striving to fill a need. However, as we saw that day, children were skipping school to earn money or points for things their families needed more immediately than they needed their children to have an education. What was intended to help the community was causing lasting damage by encouraging children to skip school; creating a cycle of illiteracy and many other issues. And it is programs and issues like this that push me to research and learn as much as possible as we are developing ideas for ministry outreach opportunities in our own townships in Plett.
Please join us in praying as we learn ways to best help, and not hurt, the people of South Africa.