Tag: Justice

Partnership or bust

Written by on October 17, 2010 in Helping Without Hurting, Notes By The Way with 0 Comments

We love to use the words “partner” and “partnership” in cross-cultural and development work, but do people on the other side feel like partners or means to an end? Do we really want partners, or do we want locals to help translate and implement our ideas and projects? We need to honestly ask.

If that catches your attention, see what Vinoth Ramachandra wrote this week.  He’s writing about Christian mission,  but it’s a short step to apply these thoughts to development work as well. Here’s something to wet your taste.

It is troubling that mission has been reduced to what we (the relatively well-off) do in other cultures and places, and does not seem to apply to what the poor can do for us and what we can do for them where we are. Those who live in the poorer South are constantly at the receiving end of “packaged” gospels, discipleship courses, leadership seminars, church-growth “gurus”, even sermons and “worship” DVDs from rich churches abroad. The latter have no desire to learn from others and, ironically, have little impact in their own societies…..

“Partnership” has been a buzz-word…cynics will say that it is simply a disguise for neo-colonial mission. Like

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Are we helping or hurting?

Written by on October 16, 2010 in Helping Without Hurting, Notes By The Way with 0 Comments

I’ve been reading When Helping Hurts, a book about how many international aid and development efforts end up harming the recipients.

This isn’t a new idea, but I think this is the first book to address the issue from a Christian perspective. Christians play a huge role in relief and development work around the world and in their home countries, mostly with the best of intentions, but the sad truth exposed in this book is that many of their efforts have more negative effects than positive ones. The positive message is that we can do better and be part of genuine development and change; but it’s not going to be quick or easy.

[Update: To be clear, negative effects are an issue across the board, not just in Christian aid efforts.]

I had a conversation once with someone who asked why I would criticize well-meaning people. My short answer: Because they hurt other people. I think people who really have good intentions want to know this and change course.

But how can this be? How can professional agencies created to help people in need become complicit in their suffering and injustice? How can a caring student in Texas start …

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Saving the world, putting ACTS of compassion in perspective

Written by on April 2, 2010 in Notes By The Way with 0 Comments

Are you acting in compassion on behalf of the poor? Imagine if the roles were reversed? What is so ridiculous about what you see in this video? What could this teach us about authentic acts of compassion?

Hat tip to Aid Thoughts via Chris Blattman (via IPA).

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Our Christmas in Cambodia story

This is the story of our trip to Cambodia. It’s a bit long, but it’s an easy read. Grab a cup of coffee first (I did). If you contributed money for “Christmas in Cambodia,” you’ll find a description of how it went with photos below.

On December 15 we left Tokyo headed for Bangkok and then Phnom Penh. I was anxious. I’d been to Cambodia six times but never with my family. Would they like it? Would they connect well with the people there? Phnom Penh is not a great place for tourists, especially families. How would they react? At least the kids were eagerly anticipating lots of animals: dogs, chickens, geckos, and monkeys.

We flew to Bangkok first using frequent flyer miles and took a cheap flight to Cambodia the next day. Gani, a Cambodian friend-of-a-friend, picked us up at the airport. Cool and appraising, he had a large bass speaker filling up most of his trunk. I’m glad to know him now. He took us to the apartment where we planned to stay for our first five days. It was in a giant concrete block of a building. We walked down a narrow passage, climbed several steep flights …

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Spit on the next person drinking bottled water

Written by on December 17, 2009 in Food and Miscellany, Notes By The Way with 2 Comments

I’m just kidding, but reading this may change your response to ubiquitous sightings of bottled water.


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What does it mean to stand “with the poor”?

Written by on April 5, 2009 in Helping Without Hurting, Notes By The Way with 0 Comments


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.

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