Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Musings: On complications

So, last week in our discussion on charity and the direction the church should be taking, we discussed how complicated charity actually is.  

Better, it was acknowledged that there were different types, different levels to charity work.  And that it was really difficult to figure out in the moment which type of help was needed.  

The lesson broke it down into three levels: relief, rehabilitation, and development.  

In short, relief is what you do to get someone through the initial crisis, the rehabilititation gets them back on their feet, and development helps them move forward. To further clarify, we used a huge example that we were all familiar with: the F5 tornado that ate Joplin thirteen years ago in May.  

Relief was the initial response: when one of the two hospitals was picked up off  its foundation and set down three feet to one side, relief was the rednecks rushing in to help evacuate the building before it fell down.  Relief was the sick and wounded transported en mass in the beds of  pickups a few blocks to the other hospital, and room made at the other hospital.  Relief was digging people out of the rubble, digging storm shelters out of the rubble to rescue people that managed to get into them.  Relief was the initial rescue.  

Once that was done, we moved on to rehabilitation: the day after the tornado, there were people walking through, and shifting rubble out of the streets so that vehicles could get through.  Rehabilitation was getting the rubble cleared  out enough to get insurance companies in.  Rehabilitation was getting what was left of people's lives pulled away so that rebuilding could start.  So that people could get back on their feet.  Rehabilitation was Walmart cancelling the remodeling and upgrades on Supercenters statewide to rebuild the one that the tornado destroyed, so that people could get back to work, and pay for what their insurance wouldn't--or rather, couldn't, given the volume--cover.   Rehabilitation was Home Depot putting up a tent in their parking lot, opening for business before Walmart had even gotten their lot cleared, and bringing in the bones of building materials for people to cover broken windows when their houses were otherwise livable.  

After that comes development: some businesses didn't come back.  We built new ones.  Some streets had to be totally torn out and redone.  The mall--left more than half-empty by a few anchor stores going bankrupt years earlier--took in the high school while the city built a new one (in partnership with a local community college and technical school...which turned out to be good for the city, the high school students, and the tech school).  Yes, the city made some really stupid choices, but that's par for the course.  A lot of good was done, too.  

When we turned it from city level to individual...things got a lot more complex.  How do you tell which step you need to be on?  How do you get the person you're trying to help to buy in, to cooperate?  The last two steps are hard, folks.  And yeah, accepting "relief"--handouts--is easy.  And a lot of people won't try to get back up on their feet.  

How do we as a church figure out who wants help up and out of the hole, and who just wants food packages and comforts added to the hole?  It's hard.  

It takes getting to know people.  It takes building a relationship.  Once that step is in place, it's a lot easier to tell who actually needs help, and who wants to coast on no effort expended.  

Relief is easy, because it's in the moment, and it's instant gratification.  Boom--done.  It's as easy and tempting for the helpers just as much as it is for the helped.  Rehabilitation is a lot harder.  It takes more time, it requires a lot of effort from both sides, and progression isn't always linear.  Development is the hardest of all, because the helper has to step away.  And yeah, the person being helped is going to stumble, and probably fall a couple of times.  But it has to be done.  

But first of all, the church has got to get the relationships built.  And that isn't easy, either.


  1. I've watched people after the destruction left by a hurricane. Those willing to recover feel blessed for relief, build their lives back as best as they can, and the criminal elements abusing charity eventually disappear. Churches have to have to pray for discernment. Many they help use the resources available to continue their lives of crime or chemical abuse. Sometimes, it's not ignoring the values of Christianity to say no.

    1. "If you love Me, feed My sheep" doesn't extend to giving them money for speed, crack, or meth.

      The problem is telling who needs the help, and who just wants a hit. And that's where that relationship--and the time spent with the people, building it--comes in.

  2. Yep, hard to 'separate' the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. And we're dealing with this right now in North Texas with the fires above Amarillo. Lots of calf feed, liquids, and hay in addition to things for people that have lost everything.


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