When Helping Hurts

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When Helping Hurts

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Outstanding Book Review by Bill
Overall

When Helping Hurts is an outstanding book that should be required reading for anyone already in foreign missions or who senses a call to minister in the inner city. I am involved in both as I have worked with a mission organization in Uganda since 2003 and also am part of a church that is deeply committed to Denver's inner city. Our pastor has purchased the book for the entire staff and elders.

In Africa what many have been, and are doing could be called "colonialism." We more often than not think the local people are not capable of advancing God's kingdom without us or breaking the chains of either physical or spiritual poverty without us. It ain't true brothers and sisters. We need to equip and encourage and let God lead them forward. I have seen the men and women in one district in northern Uganda plant over 60 churches since 2007 because to are committed to be followers of Jesus and to carry out the true mission he gave us...to go and make disciples.

(Posted on 11/22/12)

For some reason I found it... Review by Rollalyn Ruis
Overall

For some reason I found it a task to listen to this audiobook. But as I forced myself to listen it, I found out how practical this book is to my line of work. I work as a houseparent, and I take care of children who have grown up in poverty. Many of the parents have been enabled. In fact, I think I'm personally guilty of helping enable a parent or two.
There are several things I like about “When Helping Hurts”. The North American church, in it's arrogance, thinks it knows what the poor need and how it can meet those needs. In reality, the church just comes in and basically bandages wounds without actually healing the problem.
“When Helping Hurts” uses the Gospel as the basis and emphasis for helping the poor. This is biblical and I believe it contrasts the “social justice” trend that so many churches are involved in. It seems that so many churches want to provide help and relief for the poor, but it seems that they don't share the Gospel with those they're helping. And if those churches are sharing the Gospel, they aren't putting a strong emphasis on it.
One thing I don't like about the book is the narrator. He has a warm voice, but his pacing was slow. And because of the practical suggestions and applications of this book, I believe it's better read than listened to. It's difficult to quickly get to a section of an audiobook you want to review. I believe a book is easier to reference and share information with people.
Overall, this is an important, eye-opening book. I have ideas that churches should implement to enable the poor with the life skills needed to break the cycle of poverty. I highly recommend this book for those who are involved in humanitarian work, missions, and churches.

(Posted on 5/18/10)

The reason I wanted to listen... Review by Theresa Haskins
Overall

The reason I wanted to listen to “When Helping Hurts” was a completely selfish one. After losing my family when I was younger, I noticed that when anyone suffers a loss (whether I know them or not), I not only relive my own pain, but I hurt DEEPLY for them. I was hoping this book would provide guidance on how NOT to hurt. After listening to the first chapter, I realized I was WAY OFF BASE. My next thought was “How selfish I must be!” After I got past my human-ness (one more time!), I continued to listen to this thought provoking book with an open mind. This book’s focus was on helping poverty stricken nations, while allowing them to keep their self-esteem. Their focus is completely different than anything I have ever been taught or thought.
While listening to this book, we received our first letter from a child we sponsored through a world-outreach program last fall (my daughter and I). I was SHOCKED to read that she didn’t receive any gifts for child’s day (I assume she meant Christmas). Why would she tell me that? My first thought was sadness, then guilt (for being so blessed!). But what do I do with that information?
While recently attending a Christian conference in Atlanta, I had the opportunity to speak with another outreach organization (who has been following THIS author’s recommendations for many years). She told me children are TAUGHT to ask for gifts from Americans. The personal written confirmation made my heart ache (but I still had to mail a couple of little Christian gifts). I now know I MUST continue to mail Christian information (and even a Bible – as I was told they are not supplied by the sponsor organization) to help really SAVE this family!
I’m not sure what the future holds for me – as far as support to foreign countries. I do know I want to purchase a hard copy of this book so I can re-read (and highlight) the helpful information…I KNOW I revert to my “old way of thinking” more than I’d like to admit. I do know that PRAYER is a must!
christianaudio Reviewers Program provided a download of this audio book. This did NOT affect my opinion of this review - http://christianaudio.com.

(Posted on 5/8/10)

Good but not great is how... Review by Travis Peterson
Overall

Good but not great is how I would describe the book When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself. I would argue that Christians can and should learn from the insightful way that these authors look at poverty and its alleviation. I would also say, however, that the book can grow tedious and the ideas do not appear to be transferable to all contexts.

What I Liked

The authors of this book have a clear love for the poor, but not the sort of adopt-a-stray-puppy love that many wealthy folks have toward those less fortunate. The truth is, sometimes adopting a poor person or people group as your pet project might harm them and you, and Christians need to know this truth for themselves.

I found the authors’ description of different kinds of poverty very helpful. Not all people who we think of as poor are impoverished in the same ways. The poor could have extra need for healing in their relationship to God, self, others, or the rest of creation. This book addresses all these categories.

The authors also do very well when pointing Christians toward more than one kind of aid that a poor person might need. While our gut reflex is to give immediate relief in the form of food, money, or service to someone in need, the authors wisely attempt to guide readers to a bigger-picture approach. Sometimes immediate relief is needed. Sometimes rehabilitation or skill-development is more appropriate. The authors show us how wise decision-making in this category can be a life-saver for the needy and the helper alike.

What I Did Not Like

While much of the book is very solid, I have to confess that this book simply grew hard to read after a while. The authors obviously had even more information, volumes worth of information, that they wish they could have packed into this little book. Unfortunately, the broadness of scope that they work toward in later chapters makes the reading far more tiresome than it is in the beginning of the text where readers are just becoming acquainted with this new view of poverty and help.

Recommendations

This book would be an excellent resource for church deacons or benevolence committees who need to think very clearly about how to help the needy in their area. It is a good work for pastors to ponder as they consider mission trips and giving for the congregation. Even county ministerial groups might want to take a look at this work for guidelines for how a larger group of churches might think differently about the poor. But, do not think many should pick this up for pleasure-reading. It get’s thicker as you go.

(Posted on 3/27/10)

Talk about a book that alters... Review by Matthew Rowley
Overall

Talk about a book that alters your view of missions, poverty, wealth and compassion. I have had many different experiences with missions and poverty alleviation. Often I have felt that my efforts were futile and at times harmful. However, until now I have not been able to figure out why! Why did my experiences at the soup kitchen drain me and leave the poor unchanged? Why did my short-term mission trips not produce long term change. The authors tackle these questions in a thorough, insightful and compassionate way. The book begins with a shocking story where the author recounts the story of a converted ex-witch doctor who got very sick. The author paid for her treatment and she recovered. However, looking back the author felt he did more harm than good. How is this possible? The rest of the book lays out why most attempts at poverty alleviation hurt the giver and the recipient more than they help. This book should be mandatory reading for anyone desiring to work with the poor. Rich Americans often have a “savior complex” where they feel like the powerful ones who dispense undeserved gifts on the helpless poor. This book will certainly offend some and convict others. Offend some, because they think giving a handout is the most compassionate thing to do. And it will convict others because they will realize they have been doing poverty alleviation all wrong. A repeated phrase in the book is “never do for the poor what they can do for themselves.” This phrase it true, but hard to apply. I would recommend that you buy book on audiobook so you can absorb the content. But you should also buy a hard copy so that you can study and better apply the content in it.

(Posted on 3/23/10)

In all honesty, I thought this... Review by Paul Pilmore
Overall

In all honesty, I thought this would be a very generic book on the topic of helping people when I first picked it up. There are lots of books that have been well written with the purpose of challenging us to do something to help those less fortunate than us. The beginning was a little slow, but it did not take me long to realize that this was a profound book addressing the big questions that arise when people are serious about ministering to the needy. The authors go far deeper than mere surface challenges to the long term ramifications of many different mindsets, methods, ministries, and models. I was so challenged by their deep look at the psychological aspects of poverty; their four stage grid system for determining what the appropriate action plan of help will look like; and their focus on the long-term path of seeing needy people built into solidly equipped people. The concepts found in When Helping Hurts need to be processed by every person involved in missions, locally and globally.

(Posted on 3/16/10)

The classic shortfall in the modern... Review by Sam Isaacson
Overall

The classic shortfall in the modern church is that those on ‘the left’ have no regard for biblical truth, whereas those on ‘the right’ have no desire for social action. This book is thoroughly biblically based, yet speaks clearly and soberly about social action.
The book is spectacularly well-researched, and shows that most traditional methods of serving the poor doesn’t actually do that much to solve the problem – in most cases it actually makes it worse.
In terms of the content this book gets five out of five. It’s well written, addresses real needs in a biblical and logical way, and presents real-life examples of what works in alleviating poverty.
My only concern is that the practical action required after reading this book can’t really be carried out by your average Christian – this book would be best read by church leaders.
In terms of the narration there are two things which jump to mind. Firstly, the narrator’s voice is, I think, a bit of an acquired taste. I didn’t mind it, but it’s certainly got a lot of character in comparison to other audiobooks, which other listeners may not appreciate. Also, there’s something in the recording which is simply odd – when quoting Scripture, the narrator always includes the word ’says’ – e.g. ‘Jesus, while in conversation with Nicodemus, said, John 3:16 says ‘for God…” – and that just adds an almost humorous surrealism to the book, which isn’t really what you need with this subject matter.
Overall then – this is a superb book. Good foundations, good research, good communication, good message…but too little practical application for my personal taste. Nine out of ten!
I got this book for free as part of christianaudio.com’s book reviewer programme. I’m not required to give a positive review.

(Posted on 3/11/10)

When Helping Hurts is a must... Review by Andrew Wencl
Overall

When Helping Hurts is a must read for anyone considering missions involvement, especially those going on short-term missions. First, the authors redefine "poverty" from how we tend to view it. Many times Americans think of poverty as a lack of material goods. Actually poverty is a reality we all face and live in, even those who've been materially blessed.

Though this book has very focused content drawing from economics and sociology, it is very biblically based. The whole explanation of poverty revolves around the first chapters of Genesis, drawing on the creation account and the results of the Fall—poverty of relationship with God, with others, with creation (environment), and with ourselves.

One chapter in particular focuses on short-term mission trips. The authors tackle an unpopular idea—rethinking the way we do and support short-term mission trips. They hit hard on the selfish reasons why we go and the negative consequences of failing to properly address the situation when we go or send people overseas.

The narrator wasn’t as great as the book, but I did get used to him. His voice is somewhat grandfatherly, though not as smooth as I would have enjoyed for the hours it took to listen to the book. Also, and I don’t know if this was his fault, he read the scripture references before quoting from the Bible, which broke the flow of the sentence. The book was excellent and I wouldn’t let those few quirks influence my decision on getting the book.

(Posted on 3/10/10)

Battling poverty is an important issue... Review by Kyle McDanell
Overall

Battling poverty is an important issue for Christians to think about. Our goal, without a doubt, shoudl be the complete elimination of poverty. However, many have limited the gospel to just the call to eliminate poverty and other social needs. The rise of the social gospel has caused many Christians to forget about the poor. What we need is a complete gospel that keeps our eyes on the cross and at the same time our hands in serving one another, including the poor.

I recently had the opportunity to read "When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . And Ourselves," by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett. The authors lay out the issues, the problems, and possible solutions for fighting poverty. One of their main concerns, as the title suggest, is how Christians, out of their good intentions, try to help but end up hurting the poor. The authors show that just by giving hand outs, many are encouraging the poor to stay in their poverty rather than rise out of it.

The authors do not limit their study to just America, but are concerned with world poverty. With many examples and illustrations, the authors show how many of the common attempts by Christians and Christian organizations actually keep people in their poverty. Our goal should not to be to just simply give to the poor, but help the poor rise out of their poverty.

What I liked most about the book was its theology. The authors take the time walking us through the gospel and redemptive history to show why we have poverty and why many of our attempts to help do not help. There is much discussion on issues like sin, the Fall, and the gospel as the authors lay out their ideas for ending poverty. This is the only book I have ever read on the subject that show how the gospel meets our demand (with practical results) to help the poor. The gospel and Scripture lies at the center of the author's words and for that reason, we should take their ideas and critiques seriously.

I had the opportunity to listen to the book through a digital download through christianaudio.com of which I was blessed with the opportunity to download for free. Though the book was overall very well written, I have to honestly admit that the narrator (Danny Campbell) struggled to keep my attention. Of the books that I have downloaded and listened to through the excellent Christian audio book site, this was probably narrated the worse. No offense to Mr. Campbell.

Overall, the book was well written and I encourage every Christian to take this book seriously. Christians need to reconnect the issue of poverty with right theology. The fight against poverty is first and foremost a gospel issue, not an issue for politicians and bad doctrines. The authors point us in the right direction standing on a firm foundation.

(Posted on 3/4/10)

Helping the poor is increasingly becoming... Review by Joanna Holman
Overall

Helping the poor is increasingly becoming a priority for many Christians. When Helping Hurts is a guide on how Christians can assist the poor in a way that leads to long term positive change.

I appreciate that the authors try to provide a solid theological framework for helping the poor. To call a chapter focusing on Jesus help for the poor "Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?" is maybe a little overstated since there are a lot of important aspects of why he came that don't really get covered. Regardless, there is still a lot of good theological content to be found in this chapter and throughout the book.

The authors talk about how incorrectly conducted attempts at helping can hurt not just the people getting helped but the people doing the helping as well. I found this very thought provoking as I hadn't thought a great deal about how our help could hurt the poor and certainly hadn't thought about how it could hurt the helpers by developing superiority or patriarchal complexes.

Especially worth reading is the section where they talk about how the poor understand poverty as this provides important insights into what help is needed. The authors argue that poverty is not just a lack of material goods but has social and spiritual dimensions as well.

After establishing where things have tended to go wrong, the authors lay out how to helpfully assist the poor in both in our own communities and in the developing world. They do a good job of explaining the approaches without slipping too much into international development jargon. Some of the advice about helping the poor in our own communities was a little America specific but people elsewhere should be able to learn from it too. Of particular use to many churches will be the chapter on short term missions trips as huge numbers of these trips take place and huge amounts of money is poured into them.

Whether you are helping people in your local community, planning a mission trip or just giving money, this is a book you'll find valuable. Considering we all should be doing something to help the poor, this is a book all Christians should read.

(Posted on 2/26/10)

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