One of my main ministry goals is empowering people. If I can do that, it eventually makes my job easier (read: I can take on other tasks, it doesn't actually free up any of my time). Sometimes I feel like it's just easier to do the job myself. Training people takes time, money and resources that I don't always have readily available. I'm trying to teach 3 people to play instruments right now. I know that if I can train up a bass player and a piano player that I won't have to do either, and yet making the time to get together with these guys has been impossible (on my end, not theirs).
So what's all this have to do with the third world? Well, my view of late has changed considerably (to read more about this, check out The mexi-blog pt 8: A story of God's love). Before Mexico I wanted to ship out all of the illegals, because they were criminals (because they had come here illegally). What I found down there is that the American ideals of being able to work hard and get ahead in life don't apply to the rest of the world. Just because you're willing and able to get a job doesn't mean that you will be payed enough to survive, or that you're guaranteed a job in the first place.
So what can be done about all of this? I love that churches are moving towards becoming more active in social issues. I think it's neat that some of the largest churches in the world are leading the charge towards eliminating poverty and disease. Many churches are supporting missions like they haven't in years. And yet the need seems to be so great.
Standing down there in Mexico the need became very specific. As I looked out over the houses I was overwhelmed by the pain, not for the entire area, but for the individuals in the area. How can I help and what can I do to make a difference, not for everyone, but for one person. An idea that's always been of great interest to me is microfinance. This seems to fit in with my love for (or at least understanding the need for) empowering people. The concept is a pretty simple one. A poor person has some sort of skill (say seamstress) but doing it by hand takes too long to make a profit. A company comes in and loans this lady $500 for her to buy a sowing machine, she starts to sell more and earns enough to repay her loan. If it doesn't work out the company is only out $500, but if it does then they've just changed the life of that entire family, possibly forever.
The problem people seem to run into is when the company is trying to make a profit exploiting people who are poor. Those who's businesses don't work out find themselves not only poor but also in debt, compounding the situation. This only works well when it's run through a non-profit company, because I personally would give to this without expecting money back. World Vision is one non-profit that is trying to aid in this effort. Here are a series of articles on microfinance, also put out by world vision. They state that 97% of their loans are payed back!
This story by the Stanford Social Innovation Review makes the point that while these loans might help those interested in starting a business, what of the 90% of the world that doesn't have the drive to make a small business successful? I guess that's why we need companies like Nike to outsource all their jobs, because to someone in Mexico making $5 per week, making $5 per day is like hitting the jackpot.
He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will reward him for what he has done.
He who gives to the poor will lack nothing,
but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.
I guess to sum everything up I'd have to say that it's too bad that those that want to work and make there lives better only end up being squashed whereas those who take advantage of things like Welfare get to sit around all day. If only we could export the lazy and bring in those with a drive to do better. Then America would be a lot better place to live.