In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of people were without power, without shelter and without food. Countless volunteers and aid workers swooped into the area to provide them with food, places to stay and blankets to keep warm.

On Tuesday evening, a young mother and her child come to your church. She has just lost her apartment because she couldn’t pay the rent, and she needs a place to stay and food for her child. Your church has some money set aside to care for people in her situation, so they give her a bag of groceries and take her to a nearby shelter for the evening.

In both scenarios, the needs seem to be the same, and yet the response should be different. There are three primary types of providing aid and assistance. Read the following and consider how these types of interventions might apply to the scenarios.

  • Relief is the “urgent and temporary provision of emergency aid to reduce immediate suffering from a natural or man-made crisis.”42 Economic conditions plummet, and help is needed to “halt the free fall.”43 Relief may also be applied on an individual level: On the first night when a child is rescued out of being exploited by traffickers and pedophiles, her immediate needs may be a safe place to stay, medical care, and food. Counseling, therapy, schooling, etc. come later.
  • Rehabilitation begins as soon as the immediate needs are met, and “it seeks to restore people and their communities to the positive elements of their pre-crisis conditions.”44 Importantly, while relief was largely assistance provided to helpless people, rehabilitation works with victims of disaster to empower them in participating in their own recovery.45 For the children being rescued out of trafficking, this step may be the process of counseling and therapy whereby they begin to understand their trauma and, more importantly, understand who they are in Christ Jesus. This is the bridge between relief and development.
  • Development is the “process of ongoing change that moves all the people involved—both the ‘helpers’ and the ‘helped’—closer to being in right relationship with God”46 and dealing with all of the forms of poverty we discussed yesterday (spiritual, internal, community, and material). It is a process that people do with each other, not simply for each other.47 This is the process not simply of rebuilding, but of helping impoverished people become productive such that they can care for their own needs and the needs of others. It is the process of discipleship that makes a new believer able to lead and disciple others to know Jesus; and it is the process of working with a child sex trafficking victim to be an empowered individual, whose identity is in Christ and who is able to contribute and give back to her community as God planned for her.

In the Hurricane Katrina scenario above, the aid workers were providing relief. In the weeks and months that followed, they continued to show up, but this time to help with rehabilitation. In some cases, the people in New Orleans and surrounding areas participated in the rebuilding. At other times, they let the aid workers do the work. With the young woman and her child, the church provided relief, but they also had the opportunity to intervene to help her avoid this situation in the future. This would have required getting involved in her life in a more substantial way, which takes more time, more energy, and can sometimes get messy. Maybe she needed job skills training, or education to finish her high school degree. Maybe she needed childcare to have time to go to work. Perhaps she needed a mentor to help her understand budgeting, or maybe she needed somebody willing to open their home to her as a family.

One of the greatest challenges in the Church today is that it too often applies relief when rehabilitation or development are the more appropriate actions. Why do you think this is? What is more gratifying – coming home from a mission trip and telling your church that in the two weeks you were in Cambodia you helped provide food for more than 2,500 people with the money and provisions they sent over, and that you built a brand new house for a family, or that you spent two weeks training an AIM staff person on how to input numbers into an Excel spreadsheet. One certainly makes for better pictures and stories, doesn’t it? One also requires a different type of emotional energy and a different kind of time.

Read Luke 5:3-11. Peter was the disciple upon whom Christ chose to build his church. Yet in his first interaction with Jesus, he told Him, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Peter knew that he was not worthy of being in the presence of God, and yet, Jesus said to him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). Peter didn’t hesitate; he dropped everything and followed Jesus.

But Peter’s exploits certainly didn’t stop there, and his was a process of training and discipleship that prepared him for the ministry ahead. Read Matthew 14:22-31, 16:21-23, John 18:1-11, and Luke 22:54-62. It was Peter who began to walk on water to meet Jesus but faltered when he lost sight of the Lord. It was Peter who tried to stop Jesus when He foretold His death and had to be rebuked. It was Peter who rushed forward to strike the right ear from the high priest’s servant in the Garden of Gethsemane, and it was Peter who denied Jesus three times after He had been betrayed and arrested.

Peter was a man of zeal who was constantly screwing up, and yet, Jesus chose him as a disciple and constantly poured into him to prepare him to be the rock on which the church would be built. We see his discipleship in bringing Peter to witness the transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13), and most tenderly when Jesus forgave and commissioned Peter after the resurrection (John 21:15-19). It would have been so much easier for Jesus to have done things Himself, just as it would be so much simpler for God to not involve us in His plans.

AIM’s work reflects each of these types of interventions. They work with police in Cambodia to provide relief and rehabilitation to children brought out of brothels immediately after their rescue through the Agape Restoration Center (ARC, see page 20 of the Appendix for more information), and they participate in the development of both the community and the lives of individual young women through the Agape Training Center (ATC). ATC demonstrates the empowerment, growth and discipleship of young women in communities plagued by sexual exploitation and abuse. At ATC, these young women are trained and employed at a higher wage than what they would be making in karaoke bars (see Day 24 for more information about karaoke bars), they receive mandatory education each day, and there are childcare and counseling staff on the premises (see page 22 of the Appendix for more information).

While it would be easier and more lucrative for ATC not to provide these additional services, they are vital to the development of these women in that they are not only making a living, but they are also being given the tools to rise above their situations. Similarly, it may be far simpler for you, when you go to Cambodia, to see a project or a need and to simply fill it – but it may be that it would be far more beneficial to the people to help train them, support them in their work, and to patiently walk alongside them so they are empowered and equipped with new skills and new confidence.

Spend some time thinking through the following questions:

  • Why is it more difficult to provide development rather than relief?
  • What kind of sacrifice does “development” require of me and what would it look like to participate in the development of people in Cambodia for the long-term, even if I am not present in the country?
  • Am I willing to give the time, energy and resources to be part of long-term development work, both in the lives of people in my own community as well as in Cambodia? What holds me back?

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42 Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), chapter 4.
43 Ibid.
44 Ibid.
45 Ibid.
46 Ibid.
47 Ibid.

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