At 127 Worldwide, we believe that the image of God in people requires something of us. The Bible teaches that God made man in his likeness (Gen. 1:26), so to honor the dignity of people is ultimately to acknowledge the majesty of our God.
Our ministry with 127 partners in vulnerable communities is rooted in this commitment to human dignity in two major ways. First, we resist the urge to view ourselves as superior to people who live in circumstances different than our own.
The way we serve marginalized people can easily fall into two traps. We can unintentionally communicate pity, making the receiver feel small, or we might insinuate that we just want to feel good about our contribution, making ourselves seem big. Either way, we create a distinction between the “helper” and the “helped” that undermines the goal of our service. Instead, we want to be people of compassionate humility.
127 Worldwide seeks to empower vulnerable communities to flourish, which includes championing the capabilities they already possess. The people our partners serve have persevered through extreme hardships that most of us have never faced. They deserve our respect and should never feel like the complexity of their lives has been reduced to a “project.” So we constantly evaluate our own motives and seek to correct behavior that diminishes the worth of others and elevates ourselves, and we look for opportunities to celebrate vulnerable people as individuals with capacity to be productive, generous contributors themselves.
Second, we recognize God as our Creator and Rescuer, so there’s no need for us to play the hero in their story. Because this is ultimately his work, 127 Worldwide intentionally avoids verbiage about ourselves that we should attribute to him. We don’t rescue or redeem or restore hope. We simply play our part in the body that God is using to do all those acts. He is at work restoring hope to widows, orphans, and vulnerable communities, and he’s accomplishing that work directly through our partners. By recognizing them as the primary ministers and ourselves as their supporters, we remove ourselves from center stage and join the work in ways that bolster our commitment to the global church.
127 also acknowledges that this emphasis on human dignity requires constant cultivation. It’s usually the small, unnoticed things that wound human dignity the most. When we do for someone something they could’ve done themselves, we rob them of agency over their own lives. When we describe the impoverished as “so poor but so happy,” we simplify a complex lifetime of challenges and victories to a single, gutted narrative. When we exaggerate cultural differences, we exoticize people instead of relating to them as fellow image-bearers.
We’re learning and we’re growing because we believe accountability fosters progress. And we find that as we partner to empower vulnerable communities, those very interactions equip and empower us to better live out James 1:27 in ways that glorify God and honor his image.