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Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor Their Assets
Scripture: Mark 1:38-42; 1 Peter 3:8; Philippians 4...
Track 5 of 8 in the When Helping Hurts series
Running time: 1 hour, 07 minutes, 45 seconds.
Instead of looking outside the person or community for resources and solutions, Christians need to start by asking the materially poor how they can be stewards of their own gifts and resources. The purpose is to help the poor be what God has created them to be from the very start of the relationship to help them.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

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Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor and Their Assets

Before we get started I want to apologize for last week’s lesson. After listening to the audio, I felt I sounded a little above the situation. I heard the “God Complex” coming out in me. When talking about picking a number between 1-3, it sounds easy or it makes sense, but there are different sides of the poverty issue. If I am the person picking a number, the situation can be much different than if I am the person being helped. What am I talking about? Let’s review.

When confronted by the poor, what is the best way to respond? We learned last week that we need to figure out in what stage the person is in.

1) Relief
2) Rehabilitation
3) Development

As we discussed last week, most people we will encounter will be in stages 2 or 3. Very few are in stage 1. But if you are someone needing help and are desperate, stage 1 might be where they feel they are. We have to be very careful not to let our perspectives or prejudices get in the way as we discern what to do. For someone like me who has not experienced poverty or the loss of all material things, “picking a number between 1-3” is more theory than reality. But if you are the one in need, reality is hard and oppressive.

Helping the poor is all about the heart. Do you have a heart for the poor? If our motive is to help the poor because God tells us to, the chance that we will do more damage than good is high.

What is needed in helping the poor?

15 times in the New Testament we see the word “compassion” used. Jesus expressed this quality when dealing with people who were in some kind of need. Paul wrote several times about the Church expressing compassion for one another.

Mark 1: 38-42 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

COMPASSION: To feel passion with someone, to enter sympathetically into their sorrow and pain. The English translation represents 5 Hebrew and 8 Greek terms. Compassion is deep and wide in its understanding and it is a very powerful expression. In short, being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes but feel their pain and sorrow while doing something about it. In every case where Jesus experienced or expressed compassion for someone or some group, he did something to fix the problem. 5A: Compassion is the ability to feel and to act on someone’s behalf

Too often in my life I have pity or feel pity for people who are suffering. I need to become a person of compassion and do something about it.

So after determining whether relief, rehabilitation or development is the correct intervention, what next? What is the next step or steps that need to be taken?

What message can a “needs based” approach send to someone we are trying to help?

How would you respond if someone asked you, “What is wrong with you?” Or what would your reaction be is someone said, “How can I fix you?”

Even though our intentions are good, a needs based approach often times initiates the very dynamic we want to avoid, a confirmation that I am superior over you and you need me to fix you.

We want to begin with assets, not needs.

Many Christian community development ministries have discovered that looking at their needs sends the wrong message and really starts the whole process off on the wrong foot. In fact, almost every poor person has some kind of assets. So what some groups are using now is an ABCD approach. In addition to picking a number between 1-3, we also need to be able to say our ABC’s up to “D”.

ABCD: Asset Based Community Development

From the name of the approach, in what stage of intervention do these ministries see their efforts going? Stage 3 – Development

The premise is based on one truth; God has blessed every individual and community with a host of gifts, including things like land, social networks, knowledge, animals, savings, intelligence, schools, creativity, production equipment, etc. ABCD puts an emphasis on what the poor already have and asks them to consider from the outset, what is right with you? What gifts has God given you that you can use to improve your life and that of your neighbors?

Instead of looking outside the person or community for resources and solutions, ABCD starts by asking the materially poor how they can be stewards of their own gifts and resources. The purpose is to help the poor be what God has created them to be from the very start of the relationship to help them.

Look at these two questions; what do these communicate?

What is wrong with you, how can I fix you?
What gifts do you have?

Which question affirms a person’s dignity and contributes to the process of overcoming the poverty of being?

In contrast, needs based development focuses on what is lacking in a person’s life. The assumption is also based on the solution coming from outside human and financial resources. Churches are too quick to provide food, clothes, shelter and money to meet the PERCIEVED immediate needs. Too often the poor are viewed as “clients” or “beneficiaries” of the PROGRAM. Also, pouring in outside resources is not sustainable and only increases the feelings of helplessness and inferiority. What happens when flow of resources stop? The people become more powerless and desperate. In the long run, we didn’t actually help them, we hurt them.

What do you thing would happen if our government no longer could pay unemployment benefit? What about welfare?

ABCD has 4 key elements:

1) Identify the abilities and resources of the individual
2) As much as possible, look for resources and solutions from within the individual, not from outside.
3) Build relationship with other local individuals who can be interconnected and complementary
4) Only bring in outside resources when individual resources are insufficient to solve pressing needs.

All throughout this process, we are building relationships with these people. We are not solving their problems for them; we are helping them solve their own problems and empowering them to be stewards of their own lives.