When charity destroys dignity

Jim and I have been reading a book that was given to us while in the States: When Charity Destroys Dignity… Overcoming Unhealthy Dependency in the Christian Movement by Glenn J. Schwartz.

It is a very convicting read. As a missionary it is making me seriously consider what is helpful and what is not, specifically as far as funding is concerned. Certainly there are circumstances that I can’t sit back and watch without stepping in — my desire for the HIV+ orphans hospitalized with secondary illnesses, for example, to have someone visit on a regular basis and provide nutritious supplements to their diet. Like fresh fruit. Juice. I consider it a privilege to pay minimal salaries (thankfully WE didn’t set the price — I think I would have paid way too much!!) to Ukrainians so that they can continue to minister to these children. Our desire is for the funding to return to its original Ukrainian source, but the crisis here has taken its toll on some charities.

Examples of successfully planted churches as well as stories of churches that are still dependent on western funding after even decades of existing are told. Most of the stories revolve around missions in Africa, but several examples come from the former Soviet Union.

One telling story speaks of a church building that was constructed by a short-term team who willingly spent several weeks on the job. They completed the work, gave it to the church leaders, and returned to America. Several years later they received a letter from the church leaders: “The roof on your church is leaking.” They apparently had never taken true ownership of the church building.

Pray that we might all be looking at long-term consequences for our short-term actions. And pray that Nationals might stand up and be counted as laborers for the Lord.



  1. Thank you for sharing this. This is why our organization looks for in country volunteers, etc. who initiate their projects. They know the needs, the community capacity, the cultural mores, etc…and if they are invested…the work will have a chance to be more successful.

  2. Jan: This is a challenge world-wide… Not just finding in-country volunteers, but finding in-country funding!

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