Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Foreign Aid & Neck Rings
One of the questions that keeps smacking us in the face is, "With so much foreign aid here, whether Christian or not, why aren't things improving?" Matter of fact we've had Haitians tell us straight up that things seem worse in some ways - not better. We want to humbly remember this question is a bit black and white and not many things in the world are so easily contrasted. There are many here who are doing a great work. Although, we're being exposed to something we had not anticipated learning about. Foreign Aid. It's so true, "You don't know what you don't know." And folks, the "don't-know" category seems to grow. Just when we think we've got something "figured out" it seems to blow ahead of us again - like chasing paper on a windy day.
We've had endless conversations about this topic. What is foreign aid? When is it needed? How should it be given? Should the universal church participate? What is the long term fruit of people, communities or even countries that receive it? Why does foreign aid seem to quickly deplete a community when it's meant to help? On and on and on the questions fly. They can haunt us in the night and there hasn't been a day go by that we don't contemplate it to some degree. For us it has been one of the daily background noises here - just kinda always whistling its tune. These conversations, at times, have been fun and fascinating to contemplate but most of the time they are incredibly tiring. Our discovery seems to regularly pull up the damage caused by foreign aid. It is really sad to witness good, well-meaning intentions that end up being misguided, unhelpful and sometimes even oppressive. Even worse when organizations exist for the purpose of selfish gain and "exporting poverty" to that end.
Jason rightfully states to me (the analogy queen), "Every analogy breaks down at some point but they're still helpful." So one night, a while back, we were talking about all of this and he explained that Haiti is like the women that wear neck rings. Every ring represents an NGO (nongovernmental organization) of some sort. They slowly add rings one year at a time and the weight of them actually pushes their collar bones down, permanently changing the structure of their body, to make the neck appear longer. The skin is often scarred from the rings rubbing. There are actually groups, or so we've read, that wear the rings for the purpose of drawing tourism. This word-picture keeps coming to mind and we're praying a lot about how not to be another ring on an already stretched neck.
What does helping and loving the poor look like? Especially as well known pastors draw the Western church's attention to the matter through books like, "Radical", "Don't Waste Your Life", and "Crazy Love."
I realize that we could delve into this subject matter like really, super-duper, a lot but I'm not sure this is the place and time to go there. We're still struggling to articulate it let alone publicly converse on the matter. Just know that it is something we see and are wrestling through. If you're looking to learn more on the subject matter, "When Helping Hurts" and "Awaiting a Savior", would be great resources to help you responsibly respond.