Helping the Poor

Christianity Today's recent cover story "Cost-Effective Compassion" sought to delineate the best ways to eliminate poverty. All the strategies listed have merit and value, but the reality is much more complicated.

Without broadening the poor's understanding of the "why," the proposed solutions do not help much. The head of our nonprofit told me to forgo physical development. He could get plenty of groups to focus on clean water, nets, child sponsors, and so on. Instead, he suggested I focus on what we call "human resource development": long-term investment in working directly with the people. Often the gains are imperceptible, but without it, physical development quickly becomes what the locals call "monuments" to those who built them.

I was surprised that in your list of the top 10 strategies for poverty alleviation, only one directly relates to job creation. Ward Brehm, author of White Man Walking, wrote, "The best way to help the poor is to help them not be poor anymore." Wouldn't job creation and employment be the most fundamental part of accomplishing this?

Job creation is the engine of economic growth and organizations. There is so much more potential for Christ-centered microfinance (including not just small loans but also entrepreneurship training and savings services) and other employment-based solutions to be embraced by the church as we address a basic component of poverty alleviation: helping the financially poor find jobs.

Editor's Note:For more responses to our February package on poverty, visit

Naming the Blame

I appreciated the article about the rising sea level around Tuvalu and the theological questions it raises for Christian inhabitants ["Natural Theology," Briefing]. However, ...

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