“One of the biggest problems in many poverty-alleviation efforts is that their design and implementation exacerbates the poverty of being of the economically poor – their feelings of inferiority and shame.” – Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts
If you’ve ever read Fikkert’s now-famous little book, When Helping Hurts, you understand exactly what he’s talking about. Lately short term missions are really taking a beating in the Western Hemisphere blogosphere. The criticism is just. Christians for far too long have felt contented to build a house or hold some babies for a week in some exotic location, assuage any pang of “white guilt” (or whatever you want to term it), and come back to the U.S. to the praise and adoration of others as we show our pictures of the destitution we just witnessed a few thousand miles away. We have been satisfied just to “go” without a huge concern about what happens for those who stay.
The stories speak for themselves:
- Parents mutilate their children to receive more from Westerners when they beg (The Gospel Coalition)
- Haiti received over 8 billion in foreign aid before the 2010 earthquake yet over 40 years of outsider benevolence, was 25% poorer for it (USA Today)
- Homes built for $30,000 by short term teams after Hurricane Mitch destroyed Honduras in 1998 could’ve been rebuilt for $2000 by locals (DePaul University)
- Fake orphanages in Thailand, Cambodia, and many African nations prey on the Western “savior” mentality (Daily Mail)
Knowing this, how can Christians, in good confidence, continue on with short term mission trips? How can we continue on with missions, period? If we’re doing more harm than good, what is the purpose of going?
Notice though, how so much of the corruption and lack of change noted in the above statistics surrounds one thing: money. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Money often costs too much.” In the case of what author Robert Lupton calls Toxic Charity, we see that money really does cost too much, especially when it’s not coupled with a long term strategy, purpose, or goal. And even with a long-term outlook, money alone still lacks the staying power to alleviate the materially poor.
In the case of Man Up and Go, we do not claim to be perfect in our execution of short term missions. We are besieged almost daily with requests for money from ministry leaders in developing nations via our website. We are reminded often of what Jesus said – “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Yet we still ask people to go or give, so it begs the question – what are we actually doing, and can our methods be trusted?
Over the next couple of months, we’re going to delve into Man Up and Go’s philosophy and theology of ministry on this blog. Smart people in the non-profit world call this Theory of Change – that is, what are you actually doing to solve the problem that exists?
We’re often asked, “I love your message, but what do you guys do?” The short answer is easy – we’re on the front lines in the fight against fatherlessness. We realize this doesn’t communicate details, but it has to be the starting point for this conversation, because everything else flows from it.
If you were to map our minds regarding ministry, it would look something like this:
What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?
- 1 in 3 kids around the world are fatherless.
What do you believe about this problem?
- We believe families have the best chance to thrive when both mom and dad are in the home. With 33% of all families in the world failing to function on the level God designed and desires (Proverbs 22:6, Joshua 24:15, Deuteronomy 6:6-9), we believe this fatherlessness will pose significant moral, psychological, educational, emotional, and economic challenges to individual families and the communities in which they live.
What are you doing to solve the problem?
- We have employed strategies to combat the problem of fatherlessness around the globe. This is our Theory of Change. We boil it down to this – by building and strengthening families, less fatherlessness will exist; when less fatherlessness exists, the aforementioned challenges are mitigated, thus leading to a change in the quality of life for everyone over a period of time.
We recognize that our ministry will fail to enact change in the world simply by facilitating trips or giving developing nations money. But does this mean we stop going on trips and stop giving money? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that for our Theory of Change to actually work, it must be grounded in the Gospel message of reconciliation. Our ultimate problem is that all people are born into this world alienated from their Creator (Romans 3:11). The strategies of Christian ministry, then, should always be filtered thru the goal of reconciliation. The best strategies in the world will fall on their faces without the ministry God has given each believer – reconciliation.
And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:19
Brian Fikkert says it this way in his book, When Helping Hurts: “Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.”
Ultimately, this is our aim. We want to see men, women, teens, and children brought back into a right relationship with God and others. When this happens, we believe the problem of fatherlessness literally disappears. When broken relationships are reconciled, the family benefits. When families benefit, communities benefit. When communities benefit, nations benefit. When nations benefit, the whole world is a better place.
Hopefully by understanding the problem – fatherlessness, which is fueled by broken relationships – it helps shed light our Theory of Change to address this problem.
We look forward to unpacking our strategies with you over the next few blog posts. Our hope is that after reading them, you will be able to confidently answer, “So what does Man Up and Go actually do?”