Our team here has been talking and praying much about this issue. We know that it seems to take no time at all to change from a relationship that involves some simple generosity on our part to avaricious dependency on their part. It humbles me to share this example but it was part of my education and I feel I need to. When I first heard of the predicament of the twins (several posts 1, 2, and 3) I rushed right in and provided formula, thinking that it was the best solution. I’ve since learned that it was the quickest and easiest solution but probably not the best one. The right thing to do when confronted with a need is to try to see to the root of the problem and address that for lasting, biblical change. In this instance I could have better looked at the issue of why this family didn’t purchase cow’s milk for their babies. However, it is easier, and makes me feel good, when they NEED me to be the one to just give them milk. But have I really helped the problem? Instead I’ve come to believe that I’ve actually made it worse. They are now dependent on me. They feel they needed me to swoop in and “save” them. I reinforced that they couldn’t help themselves. The father of the twins is an alcoholic, which is one of their root problems, but he drinks to dull the hopeless/helpless feelings. Which I’ve just made worse. It seems to also wreck their faith in God because now they look to me to provide instead of God. And lastly it destroys their relationship with me because, initially they are thankful. But over time they expect more of me. I can’t provide all that they think I should. And I’m human, I occasionally fail. They become mad at me that I didn’t provide. All over a few cans of formula.
So how do we build relationships, make a difference, share the gospel, all without creating dependency? We have to deal with the root problems. Which, let me tell you, is a lot harder than just giving things away. You have to really confront the much bigger issues. It is a lot dirtier, takes a lot more time and yet it is what will actually bring change. In the case of the twins, they are now old enough that they don’t need milk. Yet, their father is still an alcoholic, their mother still doesn’t have enough to make ends meet, their church is still just a place they go on Sunday and isn’t officering any hope.
And of course it isn’t just formula. It seems to be everything. Giving free medicine and medical care? Not actually addressing the bigger problems. Giving street kids food when they come begging? Not meeting the deeper needs. School fees? Why can’t their parents pay? What is the real problem?
So will you pray for us? As a team that we will continue to learn together and challenge each other to be faithful to what God has called us to do. That we can remain generous with all that we have been blessed with but not in ways that cause more harm. With the people we work with who really don’t understand why we won’t just give clothes, food, school fees, etc… With supporters who want to make a difference and donate “stuff” and have a hard time understanding the new things we are learning. We all need wisdom and guidance!