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Making good use of the Mission Toolkit

Resources abound for churches to end hunger and poverty

by Ellen Sherby, Equipping for Mission Involvement | Mission Crossroads

Emergency food kits delivered to families, like these in Guatemala, are critical for survival. But this kind of aid may also hurt local farmers and economies in the long term. (Photo by CEDEPCA)

Presbyterians want abundance of life for all. We want to help those living in poverty. We like to get our hands dirty to make a difference. We run food programs and build houses on mission trips. We partner with other agencies working to address poverty and hunger in our communities and around the world. The Matthew 25 vision embraces all these ways — and many more — in which we use our time, talents and treasure to feed the hungry and walk alongside the vulnerable.

Engaging in activities to address hunger and end poverty can make a real and lasting difference, especially if we pay attention to how we are doing them.

Begin with these questions:

  • What are the root causes of hunger or poverty in the community you are serving? What is your congregation doing to address those? What local, national or global root causes have you explored to learn the broader, systemic nature of poverty?
  • Whose initiative is the work? Is it the initiative of the community or is it something your congregation wants to do? How is the community involved?
  • Who controls or makes decisions about the work? Is there ongoing discussion and dialogue by those participating?
  • If the community speaks a different language, who controls the translation? Who are the gatekeepers describing and defining the situation to you and your church?
  • Does the work cause harm to communities? For example, providing food to people after a natural disaster can be critical for people’s survival, but this kind of aid can also hurt local farmers. How can emergency aid be designed so that it strengthens communities both short- and long term?

What can we do?

Learn and advocate. Study and reflect on the causes of poverty in your community and the world. Learn how to take actions to address these causes. Look for intersections between poverty and racism in the U.S. like redlining, inequity in access to credit, health care and education. Learn and speak up about U.S. government policies, corporate practices and nonprofit work that cause or contribute to poverty in communities in the U.S. and around the world.

Get personally involved. When invited, find out how to get involved in efforts to address poverty in local and global communities, under the guidance and leadership of local leaders, by putting our faith into a ministry of presence. Don’t let your checkbook do all the work for you.

Network and connect. Connect with others, especially with those who lead and who also know poverty intimately. In the U.S., consider joining the Poor People’s Campaign and other local or national initiatives. Globally, connect with PC(USA) partners who are committed to eradicating systemic poverty.

Pray. Ask God to help you and others become aware of the root causes of poverty. Pray to have the courage and vulnerability to come alongside people living in poverty and to be in community with one another in genuine ways.

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