If you have read books like When Helping Hurts or When Charity Destroys Dignity, you might have felt the quandary of attempting to engage deeply with the under-resourced in our broken world. On the one hand, these books make us aware of the dangers of helping in ways that create dependence, stunt local initiative, or undermine human dignity. These dangers are very real and are often naively ignored by Western Christians engaging in foreign missions. On the other hand, the fear of “doing it wrong” can so cripple us that we fail to engage meaningfully at all. This callouses our own heart and disconnects us from the very people that God intended us to be with in community. As we seek to engage in ministry in under-resourced communities, we try to apply a few key principles as we serve with our national partners, the most important of which can be seen in our partnership with Judy Mbugua and Homecare Spiritual Fellowship.

Come alongside existing local initiatives.

Judy Mbugua has served in a variety of capacities throughout her extensive ministry in Kenya. She currently leads Homecare Spiritual Fellowship (HSF), which serves people in the Kibera slum of Nairobi by providing education for children, a ministry to women with AIDS, and vocational training (sewing certification) for some of the graduates who are not able to pursue further education. Members from Second have visited this ministry over the past years and have donated sewing machines and material, provided some training, and encouraged the students participating in the program. Last year, through our VBS offering and congregational support through world missions, we were able to support HSF’s desire to open a second sewing class in the afternoon, which required hiring an additional instructor and providing additional sewing machines. The initiative for the second section, which doubles their capacity, came from Judy, and Second’s support allowed them to expand their capacity. The new section was launched last fall under the leadership and direction of HSF.

Empower vulnerable people with locally available resources.

Children who grow up in Kibera have little opportunity to complete their education, and even less opportunity to attend vocational school or college. Judy and HSF are able to seek out scholarship assistance for some of the children who graduate from their programs, but many are not able to attain the necessary grades to qualify. This need led her to start the sewing classes. These vocational classes are run by local instructors who equip students to pass government certification exams upon completion of the program. These certificates allow them to have job opportunities that would be closed to them otherwise. Each graduate receives a sewing machine, so that they can launch their own shop or work from their own residence. Thus, rather than simply sending clothes to poor people in Kenya, we are helping Kenyans create clothes (which are frequently the required school uniforms for children) for themselves. Even the sewing machines are purchased locally. Our support is used to hire the instructor and purchase new sewing machines for graduates.

Integrate physical and spiritual development in an authentic way.

HSF integrates Bible study, worship, and prayer into their various ministries in a balanced manner. Children attend Bible clubs, women attend Bible studies and pray for each other, and the life of faith is integrated into their lives in the community. The sewing classes are a part of the whole, whereby the dignity of being able to have a skill and support oneself is taught in conjunction with Bible studies. These studies help each person grow in their understanding of what it means to be created in the image of God and of how they are so deeply loved by God that He redeemed them through the sacrifice of His son. While this attempt is imperfect, it is an example of how we are seeking to engage vulnerable people with words and deeds that reflect the nature, character, and saving work of Christ.