Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review: Hope Rising

I have seen poverty. I have walked the muddied streets and seen the flooded "homes" of the third world impoverished. I have held a skin and bones child in the sweltering heat of a country who didn't know what to do with him. Poverty makes my stomach church and resolve grow.

Scott C. Todd is a Vice President at Compassion International, an aid and child sponsorship non profit in the poverty stricken world. His book Hope Rising is his vision for ending extreme poverty within the next generation. Todd lays out the facts of how publicity, policies, and programs have led to the near decimation of malaria cases, cut in half the number of child preventable deaths globally, and started irradiating preventable disease with immunizations and clean water all within the past generation. Millions of lives saved within the past 20 or so years! His vision is to eradicate the rest of unnecessary deaths and extreme poverty in the next 20 years. By getting Governments on board with policies to help the situation, getting businesses to use fair trade practices and consumers to understand what they are buying, and then for NGO's and the church to step in and be the hands and feet of Jesus to rid the world of this gut wrenching problem. The plans laid out in Hope Rising are hopeful, enticing, and paint a very black and white answer to this complex problem.

Yes, I believe Jesus wants us to help the poor and that the church needs to step up and live and give generously. Yes, clean water and malaria nets are easy, cheap answers to the problem. Yes, I should probably be more aware of where the products are coming from that I buy. Using His example on Moms saving the world, yes, I think that Moms can make a huge difference in the global poverty crisis. As one reads this book they should be encouraged, engaged, and empowered to start making a difference. It is not a bury your head in the sand issue.

 Where I struggle with Todd's analysis is that it paints a picture that the impoverished have no role in getting themselves out of their situation. I believe an important piece to the poverty puzzle is empowering those who feel they are "too poor" or "unskilled" or "uneducated". It has been done time and time again where a church, NGO, or government has swooped in to save the day with a clean water well and a load of rice. What this does is yes, provide immediate relief, but then creates a cycle of dependency. Speaking first hand with pastors from the third world, their church members (and even themselves) find themselves waiting for the next organization to come in and save the day. They wait on the thresholds of thatched houses for someone to come in and put a band aid on their wounds. It is not a sustainable model.

 To truly end poverty, relief must come as Todd says, but also, the third world must be trained in how to solve their own problems. They must take part in their reconstruction and relief. They must recognize that the same call as the "wealthy west" to live generously, that God gives us everything we need (skills, finances, etc) to live life to the fullest. The widow with one chicken to her name has the same calling as a steward of God's resources as the billionaire business man. The third world church needs to be empowered that God has given them all the resources they need. Just check out this story from Uganda:

 In the end, read Todd's book with caution. First understand (as he points out in chapter 13 in almost rude fashion as if we were suppose to read his mind) that he is not talking about "poor" people. He is not talking about the poor in spirit, relationships, etc. He is not talking about the poor in America who have TV's, cellphones, government assistance, and a land of opportunity. He is talking about ending extreme poverty (poor and poverty are different, but uses the words as if they are not). He is using the filter of those who live on less than a dollar a day, do not know where their next meal is coming from, have no one to help them, who have one change (if that) of clothes, and little access to clean water or health care. Once understanding the global perspective from which he writes, it is more encouraging and empowering.

Be sure to read Chapter 20 on being stewards of power and humility. It is excellent. By far my favorite chapter.   His stories are heartfelt and bring his points alive.  The writing itself is choppy, with short, unorganized chapters.  I struggled with the flow of the book in general.

 Be encouraged to make a difference in the puzzle of poverty. Sponsor a child. Give your tithe. Also look at organizations that go beyond relief like International Steward that will end the cycle of dependency once the bellies are full. Poverty is more complex than raise money, get a program, and build a well. It is building the well and showing those who use it to take ownership in the well and empowering them to make a difference in their own communities.

 As part of BookLook Blogger program, I received a copy of this book for free in return for my honest and unbiased review.