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When Helping Hurts

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10 Item(s)

Outstanding Book
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 go and make disciples.
Review by / (Posted on 11/22/2012)
For some reason I found it...
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.
Review by / (Posted on 5/18/2010)
The reason I wanted to listen...
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 -
Review by / (Posted on 5/8/2010)
Good but not great is how...
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.


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.
Review by / (Posted on 3/27/2010)
Talk about a book that alters...
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.
Review by / (Posted on 3/23/2010)
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