Community Development

Missions Class: Helping the Poor

by Dale Fisher

Have you ever taught a class, but learned more than you taught? That was my feeling after going into a subject area I knew very little about. Jim from my church and I recently completed our teaching of a seven-week class on "How to work with the poor." Although I did a minimum of teaching, I helped administer the class and set up field trips.

I agreed to help Jim with the class and began by doing some academic research. We used two books that have had a powerful impact on my life: "When Helping Hurts," by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, and "Toxic Charity," by Robert D. Lupton. The class sparked interest among church members. Our attendance was the biggest I've seen in a long time for a missions class.

A few of our covered topics were: "the four system poverty model"; "the difference between relief, rehabilitation and development," and "asset-based community development." People from our church's after-school tutoring program and two feeding programs and those involved with missions in Liberia all participated vigorously in the class discussions. Since the material was new to most of us, we discussed how to apply principles of working with the poor to a variety of ministry situations.

Here is the oath of compassionate service (from Toxic Charity) that we examined:
• Limit one-way giving to emergency situations.
• Empower the poor through employment, lending, investing, and using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.
• Subordinate self-interests to the needs of those being served.
• Never do for the poor what they can do for themselves.
• Listen closely to the poor, especially to the unspoken clues.
• Above all, do no harm.

I had a great time helping set up and lead class field trips. One was to a feeding program in San Bernardino; the second was further away in Mead Valley near Riverside. Cross Winds, as the second ministry is called, provides food for the needy, however, after receiving eight free meals, people are required to think about and discuss their situation and why they continually need food. They require each person to take the first step to begin to get out of their situation before allowing them to continue eating. Cross Winds provides drug and alcohol rehab programs, teaching people how to start a small business at home, perhaps by raising exotic birds, growing free tomato plants for home gardens, and lots more.

The content of how to work with the poor has challenged me as well as encouraged me to be wiser and more intentional in how I help the poor so that my efforts will help bring them out of poverty.


A bilingual sign on Cross Winds' entry gate announces some of the ministry's extensive programs.

Cross Winds teaches people how to raise exotic birds — parakeets (shown here) and lovebirds — to sell to pet stores. The director's wife had been making a thousand dollars a month profit raising and selling exotic birds.

At Cross Winds' model garden, people are shown how to raise tomatoes. Once the tomatoes become ripe, people can pick and take them home.

Tomato seedlings are grown in Cross Winds' greenhouse and nursery; when developed, they're given to people who plant them in their own garden.

Luke 10:36–37

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

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