What Does it Take to Break Someone Out of Poverty, Forever?

We hear a lot about breaking someone out of lifetime of extreme poverty.  Some people make it sound easy; they say “dig a well” or “donate your shoes” or “provide a mosquito net” and lives will be changed forever!

Unfortunately it doesn’t just take clean water, shoes or a mosquito net to break someone permanently out of extreme hopelessness. And just because someone provides for the physical or economic needs of a poor person does it mean that their lives will be improved for the long term.  In fact many of the extreme poor never break out of the impoverished attitudes and the distorted thinking that comes from the chaos of living on the edge of life and death their entire lives.

In a recent scientific study that looked at how the extreme poor fared when their incomes increased, they found that poor families did not spend their additional income on more nutritious or even higher quantities of food.  They spent their increased incomes on TVs and more expensive, LESS nutritious food items.

Why did they do that?  Why didn’t relief aid and economic assistance make a real difference?  The study revealed the answer; poor families did not believe that making wise decisions would bring lasting change.  In essence, they had given up hope of a better future and believed nothing would make a lasting difference.

So, what is the answer to making your contributions permanently change the lives of the extreme poor?  The answer is in providing influential RELATIONSHIPS.  First and foremost is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and second, a relationship with a pastor, church leader, or mature Christian friend.

The impact of a relationship with Jesus is simple to understand.  Belief in a God who has a purpose for your life and spiritual gifts for glorifying Him are powerful concepts, especially to those who see themselves as cursed and good for nothing.  However, the importance of the relationship with a pastor or Christian friend may not be as obvious but I believe is nearly as critical to overcoming the problems of poverty.

The relationships the extreme poor have with church leaders and other Christians are transformational.  They help guide families to make wise choices. When they make home visits the family is asked how the micro loans are working and what they are doing with the increased resources.  They encourage the family to spend their new income on food and education and housing improvements.  They help them make wise choices to care and provide for their family.

The relationship between the extreme poor family and the members of a local indigenous church is the key not only to lasting physical change, but to spiritual change that is eternal.

“Relationships” don’t ring up well on a cash register.  You can’t buy a life-changing relationship off the shelf or on a website.   Unfortunately they don’t come in neat packages.  But for me they are the basis to bringing lasting change; spiritually, physically, and financially.

About C.H. Dyer

I am the CEO of Bright Hope. I am dedicated to helping those who earn less than $1.00 a day. There are one billion people in my target market (the extreme poor) and I could use some help. I am a Christian, father of three (two are internationally adopted), entrepreneur, speaker, improving writer and amateur photographer.

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