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Experience Another World Without Leaving Yours

By Rob Hueniken

There's a growing movement in Christian organizations to find new and better ways to help the materially poor. At the recent Churches Together London meeting, there were encouraging ideas to meet the challenges of poverty.

Helping others is a strong tradition for Christians, with much good work being done, both locally and globally. What is becoming clear, however, is that solutions based on money and projects aren't enough to lift people out of poverty. Instead, says Ron Burdock, "We need to empower their local resources, and build capacity into families and communities." A phrase that sums up this approach is "Development isn't done to people or for people but with people."

As North Park's director of global outreach, Ron Burdock was one of three speakers at Village Green Community Church ( He was joined by Village Green's pastor, Jon Korkidakis, and Bob Kline, who works with Hope for Rural Children and Orphans ( in Ethiopia. Said Ron: "Bob's work is wonderful because he is humble and compassionate."

Speaking about the poverty challenges facing local churches, Jon Korkidakis said: “We are looking at new ways to deal with immediate and long term needs. We are sensing the tension between the 'what' and the 'how' of helping. It can be easier to write a cheque than doing the time-intensive work of engaging personally with people, but that is what we need to do."

A key component is an in-depth exploration of the true needs, skills and assets of the neighbourhood we’re hoping to help. By encouraging local skills and participation, materially poor communities gain new dignity, and develop their own leaders and confidence. Said Bob Kline: "Right now, people look at the richer countries and think: 'They can do it.' Instead, we need those people to think: 'We can do it!'"

Bob Kline's discussion of Ethiopia was framed by the fact that 70% of people there have no clean water access. By working through NGOs and rural partnerships, HORCO is able to help via indirect ways that invigorate the local communities there. The HORCO Facebook page shows a video of a community's hands-on work to tap into an underground spring. "Seeing them working together, using pots and pans, is an inspiring example of a community in action."

North Park Community Church ( is taking a determined look at how it helps, both locally and globally. Said Ron: "The guideline at the heart of these changes needs to be 'Don't dishonour the poor.'"

The meeting wrapped up with a panel discussion, moderated by David Cottrill. David's good work with new arrivals to Canada has helped develop his perspectives on helping. "If your organization gives things out then you become known for that, and lose opportunities to develop relationships. When you give people the responsibility to help themselves they can show their community to be very resourceful."

In the photos, the speaker in the checked shirt is Bob Kline. The audience member with the microphone is Sue Gowan, of Mission Services of London.

For more information on this community-focused movement, please visit