Lesson 4 - Poverty and Short-Term Missions

WE CAN’T CHANGE THE WORLD IN TWO WEEKS…but these two weeks can change you.

“There are enough resources in the world to take care of every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”  - Mahatma Gandhi

Can we rightly expect people to embrace the Bread of Life, when their stomachs are empty? Should we evangelize the poor? Absolutely. Should we tell them the Good News of Jesus and of His love for them? Of course. But if we evangelize without considering and addressing their basic, physical needs, any message we bring will come off sounding shallow and hypocritical. How can you preach compassion and not SHOW compassion? See 1 John 3:16-18.


If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

  • 57 Asians
  • 21 Europeans
  • 14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south
  • 8 Africans
  • 52 would be female
  • 48 would be male
  • 70 would be non-white
  • 30 would be white
  • 70 would be non-Christian
  • 30 would be Christian
  • 89 would be heterosexual
  • 11 would be homosexual
  • 6 people would possess 59% of the entire world’s wealth and all 6 would be from the US
  • 80 would live in substandard housing
  • 70 would be unable to read
  • 50 would suffer from malnutrition
  • 1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth
  • 1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
  • 1 would own a computer


The following is also something to ponder...

  • If you woke up this morning with more health than illness...you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.
  • If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation…you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
  • If you can attend a place of worship without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death...you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
  • If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep...you are richer than 75% of this world.
  • If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace...you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
  • If your parents are still alive and still married...you are very rare, even in the United States and Canada.
  • If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.



A few of the many causes for poverty in our world today:

MATERIAL POVERTY: A lack of assets – money, food, possessions, property.  

VULNERABILITY: A lack of reserves leave the poor vulnerable to food and water shortages brought on by droughts and disease.

POWERLESSNESS: A lack of influence and social power leave the poor vulnerable to exploitation by others.

ISOLATION: A lack of education and training creates segregation and exclusion of the poor from society.

SPIRITUAL POVERTY: Broken relationships with neighbors, friends and within marriages lead to a broken relationship with God.

SOCIAL INEQUALITY: One of the more entrenched sources of poverty throughout the world is social inequality that stems from cultural ideas about the relative worth of different genders, races, ethnic groups, and social classes.



Before we can determine our “response” to the poor, we need to first recognize that our response, as individuals, as Christians, even as the church – is tied to our “view” of the poor. Scripture gives us a variety of examples and ways of looking at the poor... and our response to them will vary depending upon the way we view them.

Our Christian response should boil down to four things:


Proverbs 19:17 tells us that “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.” We are to be kind to the poor, regardless of how they got that way. We are to recognize that they are people in need and be mindful of the fact that, apart from the grace of God, we could find ourselves in the same situation.


Proverbs 39:9 tells us to “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” We need to stand up and defend those who are treated unfairly, those who are oppressed, those who are taken advantage of because they are weak in body and/or spirit.


Our example is Christ and He is calling us to respond as the “Good Samaritan” did. Are we willing to help them find clothing? Help them receive food, water and shelter? Are we ready to help them receive training and an education? Help teach them to defend themselves and care for their families? Are we willing to help them to find dignity in life?


If we believe that Christ is the “Bread of Life” – then of course, we need to take Him to the poor and starving of the world. If we believe that what is to come is far greater than what we have now -– then of course, we need to share that opportunity and promise with them. And if we believe that He alone can heal & sustain – then yes, we should share the prosperity we have in Christ with those who are suffering.


FYI - In response to these challenges, the mission of the Compassion Department at Eastside is “As Christ followers, we unleash compassion to those in need in our community and around the world.”


Eastside Compassion partners with churches/organizations who have/are:

  • High capacity national leaders committed to the ministry of the local church as they fulfill the great commission and the great commandment
  • Holistic in nature (meet spiritual, physical, emotional and social justice needs) Micah 6:8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy (unleash compassion) and to walk humbly with your God”.
  • Opportunities for Eastside “beyond border” involvement
  • Outreach to children (investing in a child’s life is our best hope for the future)
  • The goal of sustainability.


Plenty – but the key to short-term success is thinking long-term response. In other words, everything we do we must be looking beyond the daily needs of the people and asking ourselves, “Will what I do today, help resolve their issues tomorrow?” We all know the analogy of teaching people to fish, rather than just giving them a fish to eat. That’s what we’re talking about here. The word we use is SUSTAINABILITY.


Our response to the needs of any culture must be in keeping with total respect and reliance on our missionaries and national partners. 




To make certain that we are helping and not hindering the work of our partners, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to follow overseas.


  • DO…offer to pray with people about their needs –- talk to them, show compassion, listen with understanding.

  • DON’T…give money directly to a national in need, no matter how drawn you are to help.

  • DO…make note of a need when you become aware of it and give that information to your team leaders who will get it into the right hands.

  • DON’T…make promises!  It’s not up to us, as short-termers, to make decisions concerning the ministry .

  • DO…consider “non-cash” responses to the need.

  • DON’T…give out your address, phone number or email to anyone!  This includes even those assisting our missionaries and national partners, be it staff or volunteers.  

  • DO…remember that you have been “blessed to be a blessing.”

  • DON’T…forget that it is our partners who are the experts, not us, and that it is our job to encourage and empower them – partnering with them in all God has called them to do.


The face of the poor are always before us. Jesus, Himself, told us that they will always be with us (Matt. 26:11). While the task seems overwhelming, daunting even – we must remember the admonishment found in Galatians 6:9 and trust that God will see justice done and needs met if we “Do not grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”


1. Share an example of a time you were approached by a poor individual seeking assistance. What was your initial response? How do you feel about that response today? Is there something you wish you could have changed about the way you responded?


2. Why is it not enough to present the Gospel message to the poor?


3. Consider the following scenario. What “non-cash” solutions might you come up with to create “sustainability” – an impact that will continue to be a blessing once we’ve left the country? (Remember: Teach them to fish, don’t merely give them a fish.)


4. What does “Interdependence” look like in your family? How does “Interdependence” look and feel different than “Dependence?” How might it look on the field with our national partners and those they are serving?



Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:9