I knew the man well who walked up to do the intercessory prayer that Sunday. The prayer is part of the service every Sunday and it is a prayer asking God to intercede on behalf of the people. The man is a church member that has a knack for coming to see me for social calls that only coincide with times when he wants to ask me for something. I thought it was ironic that this man would be asking God for things now and my next thought was that I knew how God felt always being asked for things from us. My next thought was that I had no idea how God feels because He is so much more loving and patient than I am. My next thought was that I had a God-complex myself thinking that I had so much in common with the Creator of the universe. All that happened in about 10 seconds I guess.
When we help those that have less without the proper perspective, we risk driving them into deeper poverty and hurting ourselves in the process as well. Seeing the materially poor as not as wise, not as driven, not as worthy of respect, not as…elevates ourselves in our own minds and leads to all sorts of problems. If I am intrinsically better than another I need to get the respect and results I demand. I better be appreciated and even celebrated for all my sacrifices that I don’t have to do on their behalf. Now I am a prideful, bitter, unhappy person and far away from my God.
On the other side the materially poor person is shamed, belittled, and disrespected by my actions and words. The idea of poverty is rooted in the minds of people as a broken unfixable state of hopelessness, not usually a simple lack of material resources as most westerners believe. The poor believe they are not worth as much, will always be poor, and trying to change their situation has been given up generations ago. When someone comes to help with a dominate attitude, high expectations, and hand out mentality the idea that the poor can’t be or do anything themselves is enforced and poverty deepens when the programs are gone and the wealthy are disillusioned.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Phil 2:3) In Philippians, Paul warns us about having wrong motives and that we must see the reality of who we are- all equals in this world. We are all equally broken and all equally needing God (Romans 3:23). We have all been blessed to bless others (2 Cor 9:11). We have all been given gifts to serve others (1 Peter 4:10). All of us are loved by God and equal in His sight (John 3:16). Without this worldview, our efforts in poverty alleviation will fall flat with pride on one side and shame on the other.
As we go along in Mwandi, the projects continue to move and we continue to try to do our best to do the work He has given us each day. Each night we pray that God will help us see people as He sees them and ourselves as He sees us (which is the same- see above if you are skimming). This letter is a simple reminder and request that we ourselves and the Church in the world will see with God’s eyes in order to be His hands.
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