Western do-gooders need to resist the allure of ‘exotic problems’
This article published in The Guardian hits us where it hurts. Most of us can relate to what she calls “the reductive seduction of other people’s problems.” We’re all tempted to think our short-term trip, t-shirt donation, or sponsorship contribution is the quick-fix solution to issues of generational poverty, systemic racism, and world hunger. Surely my $45 a month to send a child to school and feed him will set him up for success to defy the odds, right?
We’re tempted to pat ourselves on the back too quickly. Maybe what’s required of us to fulfill Micah 6:8’s command to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God,” is both less and more than our monthly donation. It might look like less reliance on our simple answers to complex problems and more commitment to long-term, sacrificial partnership.
At 127 Worldwide, our resistance to using terms like “rescue” and “save the world” has theological rooting, but it’s also just a humble inventory of what we as “western do-gooders” can contribute to massive societal problems. We’re founded on the belief that vulnerable communities can flourish, but we recognize that our role to play as outsiders is more of a supporting character than the lead.
We appreciate this article’s encouragement to pursue justice work in our own communities and are challenged to do so personally through our local churches. 127 as an organization however is a “both” answer– we’ve both stayed at home and given the best of ourselves to people who don’t share our nationality. We invest in mutually-edifying relationships with local leaders for the exact reasons she champions– so that we might appreciate complexity, do something difficult, listen hard enough that “other people” become real people, and recognize that our ability to save is far less than we imagined. While we are forever outsiders, 127 partners are strategically positioned to initiate lasting change in their communities. By supporting and furthering their ministries, we can play our part in helping vulnerable communities flourish.
- Are you surprised to learn about some of the long-term effects of charities that at face value sound like an inventive and generous idea? How can we think productively and critically about our charity in the future to avoid these pitfalls?
- What is your next step toward combating reductionistic solutions and embracing the complexity of caring for the vulnerable?
- How do you think 127’s commitment to partner with local leaders helps to ease some of the risks associated with cross-cultural ministry?
- This article warns that “The reductive seduction of other people’s problems is dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve avoided.” Do you care as much about problems in your local community as you do for problems in other countries? For example, if you seek to help orphans in Africa, do you have a similar passion to help orphans in the US foster system? Why or why not?