Beyond Charity to Human Development

Beyond Charity to Human Development

By Phil Waldron, CEO

Recently I finished reading a book by Larry James of CitySquare in Dallas, TX entitled, The Wealth of the Poor. I found it to be both enlightening and encouraging at the same time. While I don’t believe in everything that the author advocates for in his book, like a universal minimum wage first proposed by Andrew Young when he was serving as the US Ambassador to the UN, there are many things that resonate with our own mission among the poor and disenfranchised here in Western Honduras.

Mr. James knows of what he speaks. He successfully led the CitySquare ministry in urban Dallas, TX for twenty-eight years. Their work is exemplary and models some of the principles that we have intuitively discovered over the years. One of those principles is perhaps the over-arching principle that guides almost everything that we do here at Mission UpReach. In my own words, what Larry James says and what coincides with our own journey of discovery is that, since God is the Creator and He made us body, mind, soul, and spirit; if we truly want to see individuals and communities transformed, we have to work on “all fronts.”

James speaks about the fact that without economic renewal in urban areas there cannot be transformation of the community. In other words, it cannot be done if we only focus on one area across the “entire battle front.” Here at MUR, we have seen these principles played out in our own ministries and programs. That’s why we host medical brigades that do clinics in remote villages. And that is why we teach our Biblical values curriculum in public elementary schools. And now, Lord willing, when we complete the construction of our new medical clinic building, we will be able to meet some of the medical needs of the poor in our community. At the same time, we have our Moses Project which is equipping young men with a formal education, while at the same time giving them the training to become agricultural entrepreneurs, if they so choose.

James speaks candidly about the 28 year long struggle that he had at the helm of CitySquare in consistently finding enough donations to continue the good work that they were doing. Once again much of what he said resonated with me in our own experience. I have copied a quote from his book and included it here because it is one of the best, most well-articulated, statements of what a non-profit like ours needs.

“As I’ve tried to make clear, our mission here cannot be understood using charity-based assumptions, values and approaches, or techniques. We are moving beyond charity to human and community development. Our mission requires partners of material means, who will surrender control of their dollars and other resources to those facing daunting problems needing a solution. This will always be the highest and best contributions outside groups can offer the inner city. I recognize that it takes real faith to give on these terms, but isn’t that what the church folks are best at doing?”

Here at MUR, we have been blessed with a small but very generous base of donors. We thank God for each and every one of these supporters who are really partners in what God is doing through our efforts. What the “world needs now” is more people like the donors described by Larry James here in this excerpt from his book. “People of faith, with material means, who are moved beyond charity to investing in solutions to root problems that leave people in spiritual darkness and physical poverty.” It ain’t easy and the solutions aren’t arrived at overnight. Please keep us in your prayers without them we will not prevail. And buy a copy of Larry’s book. You won’t regret it once you have read it.

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