Second Quarter, 2001
Faith in development
In it for the long haul

When the church helps the hurting, we're living up to the mandate of Christ, who called us to love people. - Clive Calver

WHEN YOU SEE a suffering child, I'm sure your heart breaks. Mine does, too. I feel compelled to do something to help.

For me, it goes deeper than raw emotional response. As a Christian, I believe God wants us to help the poor and needy because that's the example Christ set for us. That's what Christian faith-driven development is all about. When the church helps the hurting,we're living up to the mandate of Christ, who called us to love people and show them his love and his compassion.

Many people are put off by the church's involvement in development because they think it's a covert way of proselytising people. Let's get something straight. We are not scalp hunters in disguise. We simply believe that people are made in the image of God and should not be suffering. We want to see societies that are just. I like what former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple said about the church: "The church is the only society on earth that exists solely for the benefit of its non-members."

I believe the church plays a powerful role in development by offering hurting people hope. Millions of people see no way out of their desperate situations. By contrast, the Christian faith offers meaning and purpose. When the church feeds the hungry, cares for the sick or builds schools or homes, it brings a powerful message of hope and love.

Faith-driven development is wrapped in compassion. Suffering people respond to kindness and tenderness. In many ways, our motivation and attitude are more important than the physical aid we give. People can survive without many things. But they wither without love. I believe that faith-motivated development helps the downtrodden gain a sense of self-worth. There's so much more to helping the needy than filling hungry stomachs or clothing naked bodies. A person is much more than just a biological being. That's where faith comes in. We seek to develop the whole person, body, mind and spirit, not just tackle the adverse circumstances surrounding them.

No doubt you've heard the saying: When the church helps the hurting, we?re living up to the mandate of Christ, who called us to love people. "Change comes from within." Well, I believe faith can bring about dramatic changes in a person's life. Despair is turned to hope. There's purpose in living. When people are changed in this way, their lives take on new meaning.

Not a 'soft touch'

When people understand they have unlimited value in God's eyes, they gain the confidence and motivation to improve their lives. I don't believe in handouts. I believe in helping people help themselves by getting to the root of their problems. I believe in giving impoverished parents the opportunity to earn a decent wage, and equipping farmers to grow crops to feed their children. That way, the church isn't perceived as a 'soft touch'. Rather, the church is seen in its true role: transforming lives.

Of course, when I look at the overwhelming needs and massive problems in our world today, I can get discouraged. I despair sometimes because of the millions of people whom we are not able to help. We could do so much more to save lives and show suffering people unconditional love.

Christian belief in a better future is one of the most powerful forces on earth. The church is in this for the long haul. We will not pull out when the going gets tough. The church is firmly
rooted in communities. It's a permanent fixture that people depend on in crises. 

Clive Calver is president of the Christian development organisation World Relief.

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