Monday, February 01, 2010

When Helping Hurts: Heroic Fail in Haiti



Well-Intentioned Christian 'Heroes' in Haiti FAIL

A friend of mine knows the folks arrested in Haiti for snatching 33 children. Here is part of our dialogue on the Haiti situation, slightly edited for anonymity:
“So the big international hoopla ("Ten Americans Arrested in Haiti...") is folks from our [city]. Three of them are friends, and one of them is barely 18...

“My most visceral reaction was frustration and even anger, that they could have gone in with such a cock-a-mamie plan. They literally planned to find a bus in the DR to charter, drive across the border, fill with the first 100 children they could find, and return across the border to house them in an old motel in the DR.

The intent was honorable and loving, but the logistics were completely of the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants variety. Central Valley… financed it to the tune of [a significant amount of money], with the intent of similar funding on a monthly basis. They partnered with another church in Eastern Idaho, which had a dream of building a future orphanage, but without feet on the ground in Haiti [WHAT!], or, apparently even a clue about the correct process, rather than working with an existing mission.

“Apparently none of the leadership thought that planning to be questionable--and even now defend it.

Now the opportunity is lost, 33 frightened children are displaced once again, innocent (if naive and well-meaning) people are in jail awaiting trial resulting in unknown extra costs, and all of that money was wasted.

“Some of that money had been promised to [a local mission in ID], but then rescinded when the emergency trip idea hatched. I am … dismayed at the poor stewardship and lost potential here, and I find myself, uncomfortably annoyed with people who are sitting in a Haitian jail, while I sit at my computer. It does not all add up ... and I wonder at my smug contempt.”
Helping Hurt! Helping unwisely, from the perspective of the ‘all-knowing missionary’ hurt so many people. And who knows the full extent of the damage.

Again, I strongly recommend that we as comparably wealthy Western Christians LOOK HARD at the affects of our well-intentioned mission work. Not all of it will be so disastrous as this episode. But what is 'doing the right thing?'

We (church leaders) have to ask - before we dash to disasters - 'What makes the church response Christ-like or biblical compared any other non-government agency or relief work?'

Answer: Incarnation and long-term development.

The people and nation of Haiti will be no different in the long run without the gospel of Christ preached and lived out - in both relief and development.

Again I recommend When Helping Hurts:How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett. I also recommend their online courses on the same subject. Worth the time and effort.

2 comments:

60stadia said...
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60stadia said...

For starters, helping the poor without hurting them means using the MIND God gave us so as to avoid CLEARLY illegal activity such as these dodoes "fell" into (if that's the right metaphor). If good intentions justify breaking international (and national) laws designed to prevent kidnapping (which are precisely the laws these people broke), then let's "Robin Hood" our way to social justice on several fronts. (In fact, why not simply adopt the ethic so condemned in teh book of Judges?)