Posted by: amylamb | July 29, 2013

A Different Way to Change the World

I’m done trying to alleviate poverty.

I’ve spent most of my life in a world where everything is, for the most part, “okay.” But when I went on my first mission trip 11 years ago, my eyes were opened to the reality that the world is bigger than the small suburban one in which I lived. This startling realization was  accompanied by the reality that with a bigger world comes bigger problems.

These problems compelled me — problems induced by poverty, injustice, spiritual disillusionment, and cruelty. Not knowing what else to do with my realization that everything isn’t actually “okay.” I jumped on a plane again and again to catch some semblance of relief in the knowledge that I was doing something to help.

I went to 29 countries. In each, I met people affected by the problems that were forever embedded as thorns within my conscience. I laughed, cried, danced, and worked among the poor, the oppressed, and the sojourners who give their lives to serve them. But still I was unsatisfied.

Sitting back in the comfort of my suburban life, my curiosity turned to cynicism. “The problems are too big,” I thought, “and our efforts are too small. There’s not enough money, manpower, or time to make things well for everyone. It’s just too easy to invest our lives into projects that are easily undone by time.”

Not everything is okay. Not yet, anyway.

We cannot wholeheartedly serve the world by only scratching the surface of the problems it faces. We must go deeper — delving into the minds and hearts of those in the midst of suffering. We must silence the noise of our own entitlement to listen for the faint whispers that lead us to the crux of the issue. I suspect these whispers will lead us to many unexpected variables that could amplify or mitigate our efforts to alleviate suffering. These variables are many and they are powerful: economic infrastructure, the rule of law, cultural characteristics, spiritual disillusionment, and others still unconsidered.

I submit that once our eyes are opened to the true nature of the problems at hand, we will better understand the nature of the solutions they require. Though I am confident that the root of every societal ill is a spiritual problem, we cannot continue seeking to address one without the other.

Poverty, for example, is not the problem. The systems and situations that create poverty, however, are the core of the issue. We can throw millions of dollars of resources at the problem of poverty but if we do not address the economic, legal, and social aspects that create it, then the problem will only recur once the resources are depleted.

That’s why I’m done simply trying to alleviate poverty, and I hope the church will be, too. I hope we go deeper than that. I hope we embrace a different way to change a world — a way that  uses the gifts God has given us  to address the cause rather than the symptoms of the world’s problems, including poverty. These are problems that need holistic, effective solutions that can be developed by people with business acumen, medical training, law enforcement experience, legal and public policy counsel, ministerial gifts, and other skills.

Many churches and organizations are already doing this. In an effort to (put my newly acquired and rather expensive MBA to use and) better understand and develop existing strategies to address both the physical and spiritual needs of the world, I’ll be spending the next few months researching in-depth those who are already doing it and why they’re doing it. I plan to post whatever discoveries I make along the way right here.

Feel free to comment with your own feedback and ideas. I want to know what discoveries you have already made, and I especially want to know how people are developing different ways to change the world.

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Responses

  1. […] to learn how to effectively and practicably meet the needs of a world lacking so much.   I wrote a brief introduction to this topic last month and received numerous responses about people and organizations who are […]


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