Dancing with an Elephant

photo credit: buzzfeed.com

I’m reading the book, When Helping Hurts by Fikkert and Corbett.  The authors work with a non-profit organization called “The Chalmers Center” whose purpose is to alleviate poverty around the world.  I highly recommend this book.  It has really opened my eyes to the good intentions which are so often blown through ignorance.  One prevalent example of well-intentioned waste among Christians is short term mission trips.  Consider the following from the book:

For example, missions expert Miriam Adeney relates a story told to her by an African Christian friend: Elephant and Mouse were best friends. One day Elephant said, “Mouse, let’s have a party!” Animals gathered from far and near. They ate. They drank. They sang. And they danced. And nobody celebrated more and danced harder than Elephant. After the party was over, Elephant exclaimed, “Mouse, did you ever go to a better party? What a blast!” But Mouse did not answer. “Mouse, where are you?” Elephant called. He looked around for his friend, and then shrank back in horror. There at Elephant’s feet lay Mouse. His little body was ground into the dirt. He had been smashed by the big feet of his exuberant friend, Elephant. “Sometimes, that is what it is like to do mission with you Americans,” the African storyteller commented. “It is like dancing with an Elephant.” When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett (Kindle 2315-2320)

Due to our considerable advantages, Christians in the west can easily develop a “god complex” when it comes to helping the disadvantaged.  Our inflated sense of significance can cause untold harm to the people we hope to “save.”  Short term mission trips can do some good, but most believers in the west just don’t know how to dance gently.  If you have a heart for the poor, and I hope that you do, please read this book.