Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Help? Thoughts

Finishing out my blog series on help, I here copy - anonymously and slightly-altered - some of the feedback I received on my musings and questions. I appreciated so much everyone who shared anything - while I'm not sure it brought me closer to any answers, it helped me have a more compassionate and realistic perspective.

These are problematic situations of helping without any criterion at all: of wanting to give more than the beneficiary can receive.

I would say err on the side of generosity, knowing that you may never see the results of the hard work you do. On the one hand, we do need to be wise about funding good programs and channeling most of the charity into places that work, but Jesus does say to give to everyone in need, and doesn't say "only give if you're sure they will use it for good."

I think you need to satisfy yourself personally that you've done everything you can with the resources you have at hand. If you eat yourself up, you won't be much use to anybody.

You need to trust that your planting and watering (we don’t always know what we are doing) will bear fruit.

You can reconcile yourself to the fact that people will just take the coins and buy what they want, and you continue to try to help that way, or you can find another way to help which sits better with your conscience.

I have become a much more fervent pray-er as a result of my helplessness. I have learned not to withhold any necessary help or affection, while being lovingly, graciously and consistently honest with [her]. The result? It's like a favorite song of mine, "It's your kindness, Lord, that leads us to repentance." Her heart has softened, she has begun to exhibit a repentant heart, and she is seeking to find out what pleases the Lord.

Then also, the fact that 'helping hands' don't always consider the full impact of their helping hands. For example, a friend told me of a community where the women had to walk miles each day for water, so a charity installed a pump in the village, making life much easier for the women. However, they then had huge chunks of unoccupied time and nothing constructive to fill the freed-up time and many of them turned to alcohol.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I think there is an extremely fine line between development and dependancy. It's hard to find the balance and sometimes no matter how hard we try we still tip to the wrong side.

The change / development comes with long long term projects. We do what we understand is best for local development, and we have faith that things are going to change,little by little.

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs"

"There is no rule that says you always have to act consistently." I applied that to my then development work with rural farmers. You are right in letting your heart lead you, but don't let your dear heart get too exhausted that you can't look on a situation with the compassion of Him who called you.

Good help is at times needed, but there have to structures to allow the locals own the projects and where the said donor can be happy about the use of the money.

There has to be local buy-in. Sometimes that's so hard because the people you see that need it the most, though you have tried to educate...

At the same time there is hope. In a situation where outside agencies are not allowed to enter, local Christians have stepped forward. They appreciate funding and help, but are not solely dependant on outside help. There is strong indigenous leadership, responsibility and accountability. In their case it wasn't a choice they, or foreigners made, it was forced upon them by the government.

I've always chosen to believe that even in the most egregious, trying, and evil circumstances, there is good to be found. The reality is that you're not going to succeed with all of the homeless, or maybe even most of the homeless. But you may succeed with some, and even if you only succeed with one, you will have made an extraordinary difference in that person's life.

I think it is a matter of deciding what God is calling/equipping/nudging you to do: serve him through your humanitarian job, which may involve pouring all of yourself into that work, or serve him by investing more in the relationships outside work. I don't think there is one right answer.

In the Bible, in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 30, God clearly says that the people will turn away after He brings them into the land of milk and honey. They will follow other gods and break his heart so that he turns away. But he will hear them when they call, in their horrible and awful exile, and he will hear them and bring them back into his care. It is all heartbreaking to read, yet God knows their future sin and loves them anyway. How could he? But, why shouldn't we do the same?

We don't help others; we live with others.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

a week like this probably shouldn't be forgotten

And so I will share here the events of the past 7 days in my life:

Saturday - housemate's birthday, purse and ipod stolen from inside my house, then my other housemate locked out of her room

Sunday - argument with landlord over whether our friends could be blamed for a robbery, security started its investigation

Monday - one of my housemates decided to move out, I was asked if I'm interested in a job transfer (or, long-term temporary duty) doing emergency relief with earthquake victims

Tuesday - learned for sure I would be leaving Timor within the next five days, and received harassing phone calls from the security guard suspected of robbing me and possibly from others

Wednesday - the ex-security guard now-suspect staked a stakeout at my house, pretending he'd been reinstated and scaring my housemates and landlord's family away from the house (I was out of town, dealing with this by phone)

Thursday - learned that the one project at work I cared about had been rejected internally so we can't even submit the proposal, spent hours looking for a plane ticket to Jakarta with no luck

Friday - confirmed my travel plans. This entailed a refund for an unused ticket, which the office administrator was to pick up for me. Somehow on the way back to the office, he "lost" the money. Was he robbed or was he trying to rob me? We don't know, but he did bring me the money later that night.

Saturday (today) - many theories posed and analysed as to what happened with the money from the ticket refund but no decision reached because the phone lines went down in the evening, and my other housemate got sick

Sunday (tomorrow) - depart for Indonesia. I'll be there for a week, followed by 5 days back in Timor wrapping things up before heading to Indonesia indefinitely

Can things get any worse? Oh yes, they can. Today, as I was running some errands in preparation for travelling tomorrow, I had two near-miss accidents in which I almost hit another car because space was tight and my vehicle was huge. But both times nothing happened. Then the word for a terribly horrid crime kept popping in my head, and I had to thank God that worse things have not happened to me.

Nonetheless, I'm not sure how many little things one can, or should, take before breaking down.