Ajith Fernando on Partnering with the Poor

At the Global:Church Forum, Ajith Fernando of Youth for Christ (Sri Lanka) discussed partnering with the poor.

I want to focus on one area – partnership with the poor.

Some years ago 46% of the world’s population were poor, and 23% were absolutely poor. Some of the world’s best ministries are run by people who were poor, but there is a great gap between the poor and funders.

All Contributions are Equal

We all have something to contribute, and that contribution may be different. And I think one of the key contributions of the poor is prayer. They pray out of necessity. They may sometimes lie. They may sometimes cheat. But they pray, and prayer is the most powerful force on earth.

When you realize that we have something to offer, there is significance.

When you are working around the poor you must emphasize that their contribution is equally important.

Time builds relationships. Relationships build partnerships.

The key to real partnership is Christian community, and this is forged through hours of relationship.

This concept of Christian community is the major antidote to the lying found in the poor and shame cultures.

Protect the Truth

We much teach the doctrine of the Holy Book and build community that trusts each other. Make it part of your culture that you do not tolerate lying. This can be a hard thing because in some culture, telling the truth is not considered a high value.

Sometimes the most untrustworthy people are the ones that Westerners trust the most because Westerners tend to believe the lies. Many pastors ruined their witness by getting wealthy off of the Western support that was sent as tsunami relief.

Be Transparent About Finances & Rules

Be open about finances with the poor. We have an open salary book. Why? Because we are trying to forge a community, and the poor will not feel like part of the community if they aren’t allowed to be in the know. Of course, sometimes there are very unpleasant questions asked, but it is worth it to have a community that is once.

In our society, the rich don’t have to follow the rules, but the poor do. So these rules make them feel inferior. So we had to make clear how we as leaders have to follow rules. Let them know that even the one who earns the money is bound by rules.

The whole idea is that everyone is under the same.

At first when we did this, the poor were angry because they finally realized how unequally they were treated before. When you wrk with the poor and there is anger, you must act immediately to remind them that they are equals. Often those who get the most angry have the most leadership potential.

Relief & Spiritual Development

As you work with the poor, you discover 2 huge need – (1) poverty is immense and (2) the gospel must be preached. Until you start discipling, you can’t come close to meeting their physical needs. Through discipling you can ultimately have a large organization.

Yest just because one organization doesn’t preach the gospel verbally, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be funded. Often multiple organizations meet the needs of relief and spiritual development in a specific region.

Increasingly we are talking about what God can do in this world. However, we cannot forget to talk about the eternal Kingdom just like Paul did. If our generation neglects it, the next generation will reject it. We must talk about eternity.

The poor need relational and mutual enrichment and not just contextual. Above all, never forget the urgency of the gospel.