Toxic Charity

If I owned this book, it would be all-marked-up.

toxic charity Robert Lupton, in Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It), tells stories of how well-meaning individuals and organizations hurt the people that they were trying to help. Fortunately, he doesn’t just talk about the problems. (Because, really, I don’t want to ignore the poor – that’s not helpful either!)  He gives some advice and shares stories of ways to effectively minister to people in need.

Lupton differentiates between a chronic poverty need, and a crisis need.  He writes that “When we respond to a chronic need as though it were a crisis, we can predict toxic results: dependency, deception, disempowerment.”  We should be responding to both types of need – for example chronic homelessness AND homelessness due to a crisis such as a fire – but we need to respond differently for each situation.

I appreciated the personal stories he shared from his life and experience. He told the story of how his church changed from doing a clothing giveaway program to a family thrift store, and how people who used to receive free clothing are now employed at the store and able to buy what they need. I don’t think that giveaways are always wrong, but I do see how there are other options that can help in greater ways.

I’m still thinking through a lot of what he wrote, and perhaps I won’t agree with everything he said. He does have years of experience in community development work, however, and a lot of what he said seems to ring true, especially after I read The Poor Will Be Glad. I do want to read more on this topic, however, and I noticed that the library also has When Helping Hurts.

The Hole in Our Gospel

Richard Stearns, in The Hole in Our Gospel, shares from holeinourgospelhis experiences as President of World Vision, and as a man wrestling with God’s call on his life. Although I didn’t read every single word in this book, I did enjoy the parts I read. Richard shared many inspiring stories of people around the world. One of my favorite stories involved a Zambian entrepreneur who successfully started and ran 13 different businesses.

Stearns also included plenty of challenging sayings and quotations. Here’s an African saying to chew on: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito.”

At the end of the book, Stearns includes other books, movies, and things to do to further grow in understanding poverty and doing something about it.