Friday, November 20, 2009

Finally, a practical book on how to help the poor

thepoor Peter Greer and Phil Smith have done the Christian community a great service with their new book The Poor Will Be Glad: Joining the Revolution to Lift the World Out of Poverty.  Practical and realistic are the two words that I would use to describe this book.  This is what people like me are looking for. 

I know that I should feel differently. but I have little time or interest in the arguments for or against global debt reduction.  I am convinced that simply throwing more relief aid money into Africa is any real solution at all. Personally, I think that initiatives like Micah Challenge and the Millennium Development Goals have done very little practical good and have perhaps served to distance the average Christian and church from the discussion of how to assist the poor.  I have grave doubts that simply reducing developing world debt is any kind of long-term solution (or even short-term solution). Hence, it seems to me, the discussion of how to help the poor has become specialized, leaving the average “Joe” or “Jane” wondering what he or she can really do.  The problem seems so large and our ability to contribute so limited in comparison to the need.

Greer and Smith, however, introduce the problem, describe practical and real strategies that can break the cycle of dependency and and point to possible ways that the average church and individual can get involved in reducing poverty. This is what most people are looking for.  This is what I am looking for. 

The authors don’t provide all of the answers, of course. I am still wondering how micro-financing, credits and insurance can be established in societies where religious persecution is common and where the poor not only have to deal with poverty but societal prejudice and hostility.  All of the examples given by Greer and Smith are in countries where there is relative stability in terms of religious tolerance.  Is it possible, we wonder, to graft onto an already existing microfinance institutes a program of providing micro-loans specifically to persecuted Christians?  We were able to do something similar in India a few years ago.  Could this be replicated elsewhere?  As a ministry that focuses solely on serving the persecuted, this is a fundamental question, since most  MFI’s serve the poor in general, regardless of religion.  We respect that, but that would take us beyond our mandate. Having read Greer and Smith, I feel better equipped to know where to proceed, however, in finding the answers to some of these questions.

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