Review of When Helping Hurts

When Helping Hurts

“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. ”

–Matthew Rowley March 23, 2010

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