Poverty Exists in All Cultures and Communities

For the Love of Missions defines poverty as broken relationships. This expands from the typical definition of material poverty to many other factors. This diagram from When Helping Hurts shows how these broken relationships manifest differently in materially poor settings as opposed to non-materially poor settings. The key point, though, is that the broken relationships of poverty do exist in both the materially poor and the non-materially poor.

For example, under the relationship with the rest of creation, you can see a poverty of stewardship that appears differently in materially poor and non-materially poor cultures. In a materially poor environment, you might see the generational cycle of fatalism – why even try, we will always be worthless, but in a non-materially poor environment, you might see the generational cycle of workaholism or overachieving. Generational cycles of poverty occur in every family and culture. Some are obvious, and some are not. These generational cycles of poverty do not just apply to material poverty. An example that many families can relate to in any culture is alcohol or substance abuse. This addiction becomes a pattern that is passed down through the generations.

The work of Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett in When Helping Hurts has been instrumental in For the Love of Missions’ approach in Guatemala. We have never approached poverty as only a material problem. We continue to learn a lot about poverty, but we hold on to the truth that each of us has poverty at work in our lives, it just manifests differently in every culture and environment.


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