I remember when I was a first time homeowner and I tried to re-caulk my bathtub. I watched a YouTube video and it seemed pretty easy so I figured I would try it myself. Simply remove the caulk with a knife (that part was actually easy), and then gently spread a stream of caulk down the seam and voila! (That part however, wasn’t so easy.) The first thread of caulk I spread down the tub went fine until I got to the end and it all began to clump up in a heap. I gently placed my finger on it (just as the video said) to even it out and it all began to stick to my fingers. Within seconds what looked like an amateur job soon looked like something my four year old had done. I had caulk all over myself, the tub and the tools I was using. It ended up being a disaster of colossal proportions. But it looked so easy in the video!!
For me the same can be said of the picture describing relief, rehabilitation and development. (Figure 4.1 on page 104) Three very simple stages that describe a fluid and distinct process. Do relief for a few days, then do rehabilitation and end with the development stage. It’s that easy. Just like the professional caulker who made the tub job look so simple. But for me the question has always been: When does relief stop and rehabilitation begin? When do you know that development has started and quite frankly what is the difference between rehabilitation and development? Should we never provide relief during stages of rehabilitation and development? How do I do this, and is this actually going to work?? Here are a few of my reflections:
The stages will blend together
First off, I think there are rarely any clear ending or starting points for each stage. They will inevitably blend together to some degree. As you are giving immediate relief you are hopefully helping to create a relationship that will aid you in the development process. As you seek to restore the person or community back to the positive elements of their pre-crisis conditions (rehabilitation) there may very well arise new issues that call for relief. So if you are like me and you want clear points of transition between the stages, you are out of luck.
I remember talking to a friend who was at one point living as a homeless man in a tent in the woods. When talking to him (now years later) and hearing his story he continued to explain the need to be aware of the downfalls of handouts (relief) and to focus on hand-ups (more rehabilitation and development). While I totally agreed with him it was also very clear that for the several months after he was initially being helped there were at times relief activities being given in congruence with rehab and development. The first few days of helping him were about getting him a place to stay, food to eat and off of alcohol; that was relief. The months after were about getting him a job, getting his teeth fixed, and finding him a safe and consistent place to live. However, the transition points were not always clear. Several weeks into his journey of change, while he was being encouraged and equipped in his search for work, and mentored in his ability to stay sober from alcohol (both rehab and development) he was taken to a clothing store to purchase a suit coat. While it wasn’t as clearly “relief” as described in this book it was still definitely a handout that fell in the relief-like category. So we must be aware that the stages are typically not hard set boundaries. At times they will blend together.
It starts easy and gets tougher
Relief is easy, rehab and development is hard. Now that could be a bit of an oversimplification but generally speaking this is the reality, at least as I see it.
If you have raised a child I think you kind of understand this. The first months of a child’s existence into the world reminds me of relief. I remember someone saying, “really all you have to do is to keep them alive.” Now with your lack of sleep and their inability to communicate outside of crying, that can sometimes seem like a tough task, however eventually you get into a routine and you get it down. But once the child reaches about one or two you start realizing that keeping them alive was the easy part! Now you have to learn to discipline them and teach them guiding principles that shape their character. That’s the tough part. And according to most parents that only gets tougher as they get older.
Giving a community or person emergency relief is challenging. Sometimes depending on the situation you could be dealing with life and death issues and the communication, resources or reserves could be depleted, making the relief efforts really stressful and tough. However, more times than not the relief part quickly ends and the rebuild begins. While the relief was challenging the rebuild (rehab and development) is often time-consuming and arduous. Sometimes taking years of healing, alterations and paradigm shifting. There is a reason the book mentions:
“One of the biggest mistakes that North American churches make – by far – is in applying relief in situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention.” (page 105)
Why is that? I think partly because the relief is easier to give. It’s temporary, usually requires the resource that we as Americans have most of (money) and it feels good to see people rescued. Rehab and development however is long-term, requires the resources we have little of to give (time) and is confusing, a little scary, and often times unrewarding. Each stage is wholeheartedly necessary but there is a reason relief is more widely done than the others… it’s typically easier.
It’s about worship
It was briefly touched on here in the book, but our poverty alleviation efforts are really about our worship. How we live, act and respond are acts of worship, therefore making our loving of the poor about worship. One phrase that stuck out to me in this chapter was this: “Development is not done to people or for people, but with people.” When we see the capacity of people to be fully human and able to live healthy and productive lives we will not simply stop with relief. We will work with the people, and by the grace of God we and them will change into who God wants us to be.
It’s about worship because it’s really about what we are willing to give to God. In our worship we are encouraged to give him everything. (Col. 3:17) As we love the poor, serve the vulnerable and care for the widow and orphaned may we do it as if we were doing it for the Lord. Let’s make loving others, and doing it from start to finish truly our act of worship to God.
But be warned… it is not always as easy as the picture makes it look.Image courtesy of andrechinn/ flicker.com