A lot of people who want to help others want to do something big. Something tangible. Something that matters. Maybe it’s bringing food to a malnourished child. Or a water filter to a family plagued by parasites. Or putting an orphan in a home.
Those are all awesome things to be a part of. And they’re pretty sexy to tell your friends about too. You helped a malnourished child survive? Wow!
But a lot of times, the needs out there just aren’t that sexy.
Our church partners often express a need for clean water or emergency food support. But you know what else they know that they need?
- Teacher training
- Soccer leagues
- Parent education
- Music camps
- Character training
It’s not quite as dramatic to say that you helped a boy in need join a soccer team or a girl learn to play the guitar, is it? So why do we spend time and resources on things that seem so … nonessential? I mean, come on, there are kids starving and dying of diseases and we’re wasting our time on soccer?
Emergency aid is really, really important. But you know what else is important? Long-term change. Transformed people.
We don’t want to respond only to the immediate physical needs of a child. That’s a great thing to do, but it’s not necessarily going to help that child long term.
In order to help a child take steps to get out of poverty when she grows up, she needs to not only be free of disease, but she also needs to know how to prevent disease in the future. Her parents need to know that she has a right not to be hit. She needs to gain self-esteem and learn that she has special skills she can offer the world, like playing the guitar or playing soccer. She needs to know that corruption is wrong and God has a better path for her. She needs to learn that God is our ultimate source of hope and that He does have a good plan for her life.
That’s why we believe in and keep harping about this little thing we call “holistic child development.”
When we respond to all the different aspects of a child’s life — not just immediate physical needs — that child can grow up to have children who don’t need to be sponsored.
It might seem nonessential, but something as simple as a soccer team can teach a child that he has worth. That he should respect others. That there is an alternative to stealing with his friends. And that maybe his future can look different from what he sees around him.
We believe that in order to make a long-term dent in ending poverty in the life of a child, we can’t focus only on what sells or what seems most important from our outside perspective.
We need to listen to the communities where we minister. We need to invest in a child’s long-term well-being. We need to do what isn’t all that sexy.