I suspect Cambodia would be better off if most of the foreign organizations and people doing development and compassion work left. Of course, everyone would think they are among the few that should remain.
I’m reading a new book, Walking With the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, by Bryant Myers (1999). I hope it will help answer some questions that I have.
How can I walk alongside the poor in a way that lifts them up, rather than lifting up myself? How can I lead in a way that doesn’t seek control but respects the ability and freedom of the poor to make their own choices for change? What can I do to support genuine, lasting transformation in individuals, communities, and society?
Who is this for?
In the Foreword, Paul Hiebert says Walking with the Poor is “a masterpiece of integration and application in thinking about Christian ministry.”
Christians have a mixed reputation in development. Frankly, so do non-Christians. Human beings helping others, despite our best intentions, have similar habits of playing god and under-appreciating the abilities of the poor to help themselves, even as we talk about mutual respect and empowerment.
The book is for people …
I’m a follower of Jesus shedding religion. When I think of being with the poor, or loving the poor, it’s over my head — meaning I need a lot of grace. Here’s a post on Geography of Grace entitled “With the Poor: Three Conversions” (the meaning of the word “conversion” is to change your way of thinking/direction).
I can identify with each of the three conversions: 1) becoming oriented toward the poor and discovering Christ with the poor, and 2) beginning to feel anger over the structures and systems that oppress the poor and 3) working side-by-side WITH the poor to change the spiritual and material conditions.
The third conversion begins with a crisis of disillusionment. We realize the poor are not going to cooperate with our ideals and grand ambitions to help. They do bad things, fail to make good choices, and settle for less than we hoped. The author calls the third conversion the movement into solidarity with the poor.We join with them — accepting the joys and sorrows, celebrations and failures that come with the territory.