Five mission leaders react to the relief versus development question raised by Philip Yancey in “The Other Side of Thanksgiving.”

James Plueddemann, former SIM International missionary to Nigeria, now acting dean, Wheaton College Graduate School The article raises two questions. First, Do we feed people if we have no chance or time to tell them about Jesus? It seems crass to say we will not feed the starving unless we can first preach to them. We should refuse to use food as “bait” for evangelism. Our concern for others should automatically result from the love of Christ in our lives. Yet I know also that a person’s deepest need is his relationship to God. So I feel strange if I get torn apart emotionally when I hear of a person dying of starvation but don’t worry much that he will most likely spend eternity in hell. Why is it so easy to give money to the first need, and glibly say, “Go in peace; we’ll pray for you,” for the second? Is it important for people to know they are receiving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name? When this is possible, I think the answer is, Yes.

The second question asks, By giving relief after the crisis is over, do we do long-range harm by making people dependent on us? I feel important when I can do things for people or to people who are in deep need. Yet Yancey’s article properly points out that to continue to help people by doing things for them once they can help themselves makes them less than human.

How can we stimulate this self-development? We must learn to do it by slowly weaning people from our resources after the crisis is over. The process may hurt for a while, but people generally learn to take initiative when they have to face the consequences of lack of initiative. I know that people ...

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