Brokenness to Empowerment
Poverty is typically defined as a lack of something, usually material deficit. Although this is true of most people who are poor, it is a narrow focus into the disempowerment that rules the majority of the world.
Living Hope International agrees with Bryant Myers' view of poverty relational. Myers says, "Poverty is a result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings" (86). Opposed to thinking poverty is a lack of resource, Myers and Living Hope International understands poverty to have implications that go deeper into the real issues of human lives and relationships.
Humans live in a world of relationships. Every day we experience the impact of relationships all around us between: self, others, creation, and God. There is no escaping the fact that humans operate in a system of relationships. Seen through this lens poverty manifests through brokenness in the malfunctioning of the above mentioned key relationships. The result is a distortion of life leading away from human flourishing (shalom) and into disempowerment. Sin, the disobedience of man against God, is what twists every relationship away from its original purposes.
Through the redemption of Jesus Christ sin is removed and relationship to others, self, creation, and God, which were initially made good, can be restored. Jesus heals the brokenness that affects everything. Living Hope International sees this transformative relationship to Jesus as the key to healing all brokenness and promoting human flourishing for the individual and the community.
This affects our understanding of poverty because material deficit is only one piece of a very large puzzle and without broken relationships being addressed one never has the image the puzzle is to represent. In other words, the heart issues of poverty are what need to be addressed not the ramifications of those heart issues. Restoring broken relationships result in refreshed identity and empowerment paired with the realization of what a poor individual has always been told about his or her place in life. This does not need to be perpetuated forever. A true transformation takes place in the life of the impoverished person to see what was lacking and the correct tools given to build a sustainable future.
This applies to every human being because we all experience broken relationships and are lacking in different areas of life. For the rural village in Zambia this may be food, clothing, education, medical needs, etc for the businessman in New York City this may be a lack of peace through living in spiritual poverty. Everyone needs to know the restoration of what is broken in their lives, so we exclude no one.
With an understanding of poverty as broken relationships the trajectory of assistance multiplies. Everyone needs to understand and experience right relationships, so our task just got bigger. Living Hope International is here to create a world of difference by partnering with communities to experience hope together.
A Word on Shalom...
"Shalom in the first place incorporates right, harmonious relationships to God and delight in his service. …Secondly, shalom incorporates right harmonious relationships to other human beings and delight in human community. Shalom is absent when a society is a collection of individuals all out to make their own way in the world. …Thirdly, shalom incorporates right, harmonious relationships to nature and delight in our physical surroundings. Shalom comes when we, bodily creatures and not disembodied souls, shape our world with our labor and find fulfillment in so doing and delight in its results."
-Nicholas Wolterstorff, Until Justice and Peace Embrace, 70