Helping without hurting -- a case study

Working cross-culturally is never easy. It's even more complicated when there are different economic levels involved. Sometimes we want to help. The quesiton is: How do we help without creating a sense of dependency that winds up hurting?

Though names and places have been changed, this letter in the case study is genuine. It required a response. Imagine that you had to write that response. What would you say?

It does need to be noted that the missionary referenced is not the district superintendent. The superintendent is a Mexican.

Rev. Roswell's church in Texas runs in the mid-20s. She has been pastoring there about 10 years.


I was reading the update on the upcoming trip to Mexico and it sounds exciting.

Last year our church sent two from the congregation with plans to send four this coming year. That plan has changed and I thought perhaps you can help me with fleshing out our new plan.

Maria, one of the two participants from our church, acted as a translator last year. She became good friends with the Mexican Pastor and his wife who cooked and cared for the American team members working at their church. While Maria was with them, she noticed a great need in their home and church for simple things.

Upon returning home, Maria gave a great report to our church. As a result, we decided to partner for a year with this couple. Our plan was to send them financial support and to help with their two boys as we saw a need. We wound up being unable to send them money the traditional way, but we have still communicated in spite of that obstacle.

Recently we had a note from them saying they have been moved to a new place and they are now across from the border at Del Rio. They have been told there is no money available to help them. They are living in one room of the house because it has been flooded and is in terrible condition.

This year, instead of paying for four people to go on the Mexico trip, we, as a congregation, will make a trip to this pastor's home and help them.

I would like to know why there is no money to help them and why they were moved into a place that is in such poor condition. Reaching missionary Baker, the district leader, has not brought results.

If you have any information or advice that would help us, I am thanking you ahead of time for it. Thank you and have a great trip.

   — Pastor Lois Roswell, Seymour, TX


What issues do you tackle in your letter of response? How do you effectively raise the danger of creating an unhealthy economic dependency on the U.S. congregation and its pastor?

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