Saturday, April 14, 2018
Here's the very first blogpost written before our first trip to El Salvador.
There's so much excitement and anticipation in these words. As we set out on this first trip, we knew we wanted to make a long term commitment, but how would it work, what more would we need to learn when it seemed like we were so ready for that first time.
Time...Time also gives us perspective, particularly when it comes to evaluating our efforts: the progress and the mistakes.
One of the biggest changes we've made is that we no longer take anything with us to El Salvador for the purpose of giving away: no soccer balls, no jerseys, no school supplies, no shoes, no candy...nothing...
Over time we have gained perspective by evaluating the effectiveness of a trip, not based on our emotional high of doing a momentary act of generosity (in our own opinion), rather by considering the long term effects those actions have on a person and a community.
We've been learning that there are times, such as in emergency relief situations, where giving is necessary and vital. However, to continue to give prevents those who receive from discovering their own God-given strengths and abilities. It also dulls their capacity to discover and trust God's provision for them in their own community.
Today, we were reminded of this in simple way: Each family that is to receive a house is required to provide $100 (approx. 3 months income for some) as their commitment. They are also required to take down their old house and clear their land in order for their new home to be built. One single grandmother, was the lone adult looking after several children, some of whom had disabilities. She was the only source of income. She is blind and begs for money on the street. How could she afford to pay $100? Also their property, or patch of land, was too small to accommodate a Shelter house.
If anyone should be given an exemption, a handout, then surely she would be it.
Instead, our ES Shelter Team talked to the community leaders, who in turn talked to the community as a whole. The policy didn't change for this family. Together, over a period of months, the community contributed funds to help pay for the house. Together, over a period of weeks, the community helped arrange a bigger plot of land, and cleared and levelled it for this family. The result is that, together...they all recognized God's presence and provision as coming from within their community. God does provide!
If this were 9 years ago, we may have done all of that work for them. We may have given them clothes, and flipped them some cash. We would have felt an emotional high, taken pictures and told the story of how we changed someone's life...for a day. Because then we would leave, and that family would think that God's solutions lie somewhere beyond their community and their country and with others.
This series of six videos "Helping Without Hurting" are among the many resources that have helped change our perspective.
As we begin to prepare our 10th Anniversary team, getting some perspective is an important thing to do.