February 5, 2015
In the summer of 2000, my wife and I opened the doors of a small outreach to the poor in downtown Joplin, Missouri. Over the next fifteen years the mission grew to a 23,000 square foot facility that shelters, feeds, clothes and does much more for people who are hurting, addicted, homeless and poor. It’s been our joy to be a part of a growing work that expands its reach every year to help those in need and share Christ’s transforming message.
Countless tears have been shed for people who have lost everything, suffer great pain, endure continuing shame and see no hope for the future. This empathetic pain generates a compassionate energy that causes many to pour themselves out in the name of mercy and for God’s justice to be established. Unfortunately, this energy is often misdirected resulting in blind charity that fosters oppressive dependency in the very people for which we give our lives to love and empower.
We reached a point within the first few years of ministry when we realized our good intentions may actually be part of perpetuating a problem rather than yielding the fruit of poverty resolution. We recognized the need for the development of online tools so charities and help organizations could connect and work together as seamlessly as possible. As the use of those tools began to grow, “double dipping” became less frequent by the poor who were used to abusing charity or for those who were simply stuck in a dependent cycle. The tools were empowering our community to love people through accountability and personal challenge instead of the common hand-out!
Our progress in this vein met a hurdle when it came to state welfare. Even though a welfare office was in our local community and helping the same people we were helping through our established, connected and growing network, state officials said they were unable to release information about those receiving help such as SNAP, TANF, and LIHEAP (food, cash and utility) assistance.
It became clearer that the presence of welfare was hurting the poor more than helping them. It’s been said that dependency is merely slavery with a smiling mask. Today, that mask is the continued distribution of resource in the way of food stamps, housing assistance, and even private forms of charity lacking insight to outcomes. The oppression I see so frequently in the welfare dependent poor compelled me to consider that more was necessary than just community connection, but education and policy reform, as well. The True Charity Initiative formed in the Fall of 2012.
From the looming deficit in Washington to the poor who remain dependent on Washington, the growing welfare state is hurting more than it’s helping. Now is the time for a grassroots movement of community leaders to join in an initiative that calls communities to effective charity and freedom from welfare. There has never been so important a moment in our history for the Church to be both a voice and a force for reform, to provide just and effective alternatives to state welfare, to empower and ennoble the poor, and to take up again the mantle of true and effective charity.
I personally invite you to join the True Charity Initiative.
For the Church and the poor,
James Whitford, Founder