Meeting Needs or Meeting People?


Today, I finished a book called "Sub-Merge" that addressed living incarnationally among the poor. In it, the author said something that I have often felt inside, but did not have the language to verbalize. In a part of the book focussed on meeting the felt needs of people. He said this:

Missionaries can spring into action in response to a need, assuming they have an empowering attitude; but in their haste to meet needs, they communicate that getting to the problem is more critical than getting to know people for themselves and working together toward solving the problems. When missionaries start with the need, hoping they will one day get to know the poor people personally, they are likely to be found 10 years later still addressing the same need. They are welcomed, even necessary outsiders, but outsiders nonetheless. On the other hand when mission workers start with poor people in empowering relationships, they are likely to get to the problems, together with the poor. The work typically starts slower and looks less impressive when relationship is prioritized before attention to the need, but it is more likely to be owned and reproduced by the poor themselves and, as a result have a much longer lifespan.

If we believe this, it really changes how we approach our work in poor communities and in many of our relationships. What are your thoughts?