Giving hope

Published 7:18 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2019

As you know by now, Mary Ella and I help churches and pastors on the Navajo Reservation with preaching, Vacation Bible Schools, and building projects. But it’s easy to cause more harm than good when you help people? May I give you a rule of thumb, “if the people you help see you as a benefactor, you’re making yourself bigger and making them smaller.” That’s what happens when we simply give people money or things.

But if we offer them an opportunity, we make them partners. Habitat for Humanity helps people build themselves a home, and they require the new homeowners to invest “sweat equity” in their homes and pay a reasonable mortgage payment… so the goal is self-reliance and it has transformed missions over the past few decades. 

Heifer Project pioneered the self-help movement in world missions by giving people animals instead of food; they become self-reliant by raising the animals and selling either the animals or the eggs or the milk or the wool. World Vision is now changing its mission from merely giving out food, to the Heifer Project model of giving people animals… and opportunities. Their motto is now, “Going after poverty’s symptoms is temporary; going after its causes is permanent.” You can “Give a family a fishing kit with things like nets, lines, hooks, a pole and a basket.” 

There is an old saying, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for the rest of his life.” Missionaries, for most of their history, simply handed out bread and fish; now we’re all handing out seeds and hoes, animals, nets, lines, hooks, poles and baskets filled with opportunities… and hope. The Navajo Mission Team helps churches help themselves. 

We just completed the fellowship hall at Blue Gap; we bought the materials while they did most of the work. We’ve made a real effort to avoid being merely donors; we really want to be friends and partners. And our next project will help a young Navajo couple buy a food trailer or truck so that he, as a trained chef, can travel the reservation teaching nutrition. It’s part of a plan to create a ministry on the Reservation combining his skills in nutrition, another friend’s evangelism training, our revivals, building projects, and Vacation Bible Schools… all of us working together for the glory of God.

From Proverbs 23: “[18] There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” Hope, according to the dictionary, is “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” Hope, in the Bible, is the root of faith and, like the air around us, necessary for life.