So here I am stirring the pot... again...
Read here for an article that lays out the issues and the problems.
Books like Dead Aid and When Helping Hurts raise serious questions about what is going on and the complex answers involving issues of basic economics, power, dependency, and motives.
Read some statistics from Robert Lupton's book, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It):
- Africa has received $1 trillion in benevolent aid in the last 50 years, and per capita income is now lower, life expectancy has stagnated, and adult literacy is lower.
- 85 percent of aid money flowing to African countries never reaches the targeted areas of need.
- U.S. missions teams who rushed to Honduras to help rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Mitch spent on average $30,000 per home---homes locals could have built for $3,000 each.
- The money spent by one campus ministry to cover the costs of their Central American missions trip to repaint an orphanage would have been enough to hire two local painters and two new full-time teachers and purchase new uniforms for every student in the school.
I came to similar conclusions after going on a short term mission trip to Tijuana several years ago. Our congregation sent 30 or so youth and adults to build (3) 12 X 12 houses. We had our travel expenses ($1,600.00 ea.), rental of vans for transportation, rental of pickups for construction, etc. When all was said and done, I did wonder who was really benefiting from our service. We would have been better off working through a trusted congregation, giving them the money we raised rather than the airlines, etc....but then I guess we would have missed out on the experience or the emotional high that is the draw for many of these endeavors.
I have often wondered why we do not follow the pattern of missions in Holy Scripture: A seasoned, mature pastor/teacher (usually skilled in apologetics, homiletics, and thoroughly conversant in the Gospel -the true one), is sent with monies gathered from local churches.
When St. Paul carried those gifts, they were to the local churches he had formerly established. Those churches then used the monies as needed..
We are so eaten up with the social gospel. We must see that indeed, the building of houses, orphanages, etc. are good for our neighbors. However, even if these people are fed, clothed, sheltered and educated, they will still go to Hell if we don't preach repentance and the forgiveness of their sin through Jesus Christ.
This is a continual thing. Two weeks might see the Grace of God delivered effectively to some, but sinners are resistant.
Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Compassion International may be worthy charitable causes. I take offense when such organizations are officially supported by LCMS churches. LCMS charity work needs to ensure that LCMS doctrine is preached and that confessional Lutheran churches are planted. Otherwise, why bother being a church?
Let's take two of the pieces of info presented here and see how they fit together to create an impasse in helping those in highly corrupt regions.
1) spent on average $30,000 per home---homes locals could have built for $3,000 each.
2) 85 percent of aid money flowing to African countries never reaches the targeted areas of need.
So, what is 85% of $30k? $25,500. That is how much is wasted by sending money.
Now, how much is wasted by going and doing yourself? $27,000
(aren't you glad your teacher made to do word problems?)
The difference is $1500. As a fraction of what is given, that is only 5% but as a fraction of what is received, it is 50%.
So, sending $30K means the program provides 50% more benefit to the final beneficiary.
Small consolation when your choice is between 85% waste and 90% waste.
Which brings us back to the point. People need the word of God more than they need stuff. They could probably solve many of their own issues if they were not so corrupt and abusive of their neighbors. Hey, another reason to let God's word work rather than thinking we can fix people's problems for them. People need God's word more than they need our good works. The problem is that we have more faith in our good works than we do in His word.
This is a first commandment issue.
Which reminds us why the first commandment is first.
An African visited Queen Victoria and asked how England managed to build all the great stuff he saw.
Hey, how about we send trained pastors as missionaries and have them administer funds for charitable projects like home building, relief, clinics and what not using local talent and resources. That way the people get what they really need, proper ministry from the pastor and he and maybe his wife can use reasonable judgement for the prudent use of donations for humanitarian aid. Of course, we will have to make other vacation plans, or no plans if those were our vacation dollars anyway.
1) 85 percent of aid money flowing to African countries never reaches the targeted areas of need.
The 85 percent represents "administrative costs."
2) spent on average $30,000 per home---homes locals could have built for $3,000 each.
Let a full time missionary oversee the spending of that money, and let the natives do the work themselves. How can you teach the natives to become self-sufficient? I agree with the post above. Handouts alone will not work.
Why not contact Pastor May and solicit his thoughts?
Does this impulse to actually go ourselves come from the current protestant meme of everyone is a minister?
but then I guess we would have missed out on the experience or the emotional high that is the draw for many of these endeavors.
Are we called to seek "emotional highs" as part of our service to our neighbors?
Is "helping others" part of modern American status mongering?
"Hey, how about we send trained pastors as missionaries and have them administer funds for charitable projects like home building, relief, clinics and what not using local talent and resources. That way the people get what they really need, proper ministry from the pastor and he and maybe his wife can use reasonable judgement for the prudent use of donations for humanitarian aid. Of course, we will have to make other vacation plans, or no plans if those were our vacation dollars anyway."
YES!!!!!! Where's the "like" button for this post? THIS is where the LCMS should send the new seminary grads without calls. Tell them 100% of their seminary student loans would be forgiven if they agree to spend at least 5 years in the third world as missionaries planting churches. (Of course, send married pastors when possible)
I find it difficult to understand how these mini mission/VBS trips are any different from everyone's a minister being used to teach The Great Commission as law to the laity.
How about the perspective from some one "in the field"? Here is an article posted at the Steadfast Lutherans blog from Pr Joshua Gale serving the homeless in Philadelphia.
My daughter went with LCMS World Missions on a 2 month trip to Hong Kong. BEST experience EVER. They put on camps (similar to VBS) in 5 different schools. She raised the $ herself to do this. Now she has moved to HK and China working in an international school and doing gospel camps. KEEP supporting anyone who wants to go with LCMS World Missions!
This is a point on a continuum. At the other end is the person who puts together $10 worth of ingredients to bake a pie that will sell for $5 at a fundraiser. These events, whether mission trips or pie baking are, I believe, about the engagement of the person traveling or baking not the substantive helping of the recipient of their efforts. Clearly these events are not about economic efficiency but about engagement. The two other components are the depth and duration of the engagement and the effect these efforts have on the recipients. I have great concerns about both of those and believe that we should spend more time structuring these events to do no harm. We need to be a bit more honest about what's really happening. Not easy, but important.
I wish you would go on a mission trip and then express your opinion.
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