- Understand that true development is teaching others to do things for themselves.
- Understand when it is good to do something for someone and when it is better to teach them to do it for themselves.
Draw two lines with chalk on the floor to be banks of a river. Draw two circles representing stepping-stones and a larger circle to represent an island. Two men come to the river and want to cross, but do not know how to swim. The current is strong and they are afraid to cross. A third man comes along and sees their difficulty. He offers to help them cross on the stepping-stones, but they are afraid. He agrees to carry one on his back, but only manages to reach the island where he leaves the first man.
He then returns to get the second man, but is now too tired to carry him. The third man refuses to carry the man who is left, but agrees to help him walk across on the stones. Halfway across, the second man feels confident enough to manage on his own. Both men cross the river and the one man is left on the island and shouts for help as the first man walks away.
In a large group discuss:
1. What did you see happening in this play?
2. What different approaches were used to help the two men across?
- One man was carried, while another was taught how to cross the river.
Explain that this is a story that helps us understand how to help people. The first side of the river represents a poor community or person and the side that they want to get to is a developed person or community. The people that want to cross represent the poor that need help and the third man represents us, the one that wants to help.
3. What happened to the first man? Is he better off or worse off than when he started?
- He was left stranded in the middle of the river.
- He is now worse off because he doesn’t have the ability to get off the island.
4. Who learned better—the man who watched or the man who was taught by doing?
- The man who was taught by doing. To learn, people need example and encouragement.
5. What happens if we do something for someone rather than helping them to do it for themselves?
- They never learn to do things for themselves and always need us to help them.
6. What must we do to ensure those we help develop a sense of independence?
- Teach people how to do things for themselves.
- Be willing to walk with someone at their speed until they are able to walk by themselves.
Do second act where the man that was helped across the river goes back to the man who was left on the island and teaches him to do it, so he, in turn, can also teach others.
What do we see in the second act?
- If we teach people, they can teach others and in the end more people are helped.
Mrs. Lee – Real Stories of Transformation
“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, then you feed him for a lifetime.”
- What does this saying mean?
- How does it apply to helping people in our community?
- What are some examples of ways that we could “teach a person to fish” rather than just giving them fish?
Read these stories
Mrs. Lee is a real women, but her name has been changed. She longs to help the poor families in her community, especially those without work. She starts to visit some of the families every month looking for ways to help them make a living. Here are three of the many stories of how she has been able to help families. These stories are all true.
Story 1 – Mrs. Lee and the flower garden
In her area, there was a poor family with two children. Both mother and father were unemployed. Mrs. Lee stopped by to visit and noticed there was a small piece of land with soil in front of their home. “Why don’t you plant some flowers,” she asked. “You can make your home more beautiful and also sell them in the market nearby.”
The mother in this family did just that, and began taking the flowers she grew to the market where she sold them. She soon found that buyers were asking for other types of flowers as well, but she only had a small piece of land and couldn’t plant any other types. This mother, however, began purchasing flowers from other growers and selling them, alongside hers, for a profit. Now that she had a small space in the market to sell her flowers, she thought to herself, “I could sell other things as well!” She wakes up early every morning to buy bananas and coconuts to sell at the market at her flower stand.
Story 2 – Mrs. Lee and the sweet potatoes
Another family that needed help wanted to work, but didn’t know what to do and didn’t have any special skills. They did work as daily laborers, but they often weren’t able to find work. Mrs. Lee could see that this family was hard working and really did want to work, so she went to visit another family in the church that were sweet potato farmers. She asked them whether sweet potato farming was profitable, if there was a good market, and what you need to start sweet potato farming.
When she learned that it was a good job, she explained to the family that God has called us to love our neighbors and look after the poor. She asked them if they would be willing to teach the poor family how to be sweet potato farmers. They agreed. Mrs. Lee introduced the two families. The poor family was excited that now they would be able to do something and quickly went and rented a small piece of land and everything that was necessary to start. At the end of the year, they had a good harvest and were able to pay the rent on the land, the money for the seed, and still have a good profit for the family.
Story 3 – Mrs. Lee and family reconciliation
The third family Mrs. Lee wanted to help had been separated from their parents. The parents believed that this family was useless and wouldn’t amount to anything. Mrs. Lee met with the family to try and reconcile the two sides. Mrs. Lee guaranteed that she would meet regularly with the family and help them to improve their lives if the parents were willing to accept the family back and help them a little. As a result, the parents decided to trust their son again and decided to loan him some money so he could start a scrap metal business. He now buys old, used things which are made of iron and sells them to the local recycling shop. Now he is able to support his family and feels like he has dignity.
In small groups
Think about these stories and discuss the following:
- What did Mrs. Lee do for each of the families?
- Gave advice and encouragement
- Visited others, such as the family who grew sweet potatoes, to learn if it was profitable and if they would be willing to help.
- What was the result of Mrs. Lee’s actions?
- People had jobs and were able to provide for their family.
- People had pride because they were able to do something to help themselves.
- What would have happened if Mrs. Lee had just given money or food to each of these people?
- They wouldn’t have changed.
- If Mrs. Lee had given them money each week for two years and then stopped, do you think that their lives would have improved as much as they did?
- No, they would have gotten used to Mrs. Lee giving them money and would have relied on that rather than working.
- What is the difference between helping with money and the way that Mrs. Lee helped?
- She gave people skills and a practical way to help themselves.
- Imagine if many of us started acting like Mrs. Lee—visiting families and listening, looking and trying to understand their problems, and then looking for solutions. What would be the impact on your community?
Divide the class into groups. Read the following case study and ask them to answer the two questions below. Make sure that the class understands the problem of hopelessness and that the best way to overcome that problem is not giving things but helping the people do something for themselves.
There is a family that lives near your church. The husband is usually gone, but once every month or two he returns for a few days and brings back a little money for the family. The wife looks after their three children and none of them attend school. Usually, the children are running around barefoot and wearing very old clothes. Their house is extremely run down and leaks terribly in the rain. Once when you passed the house, you heard the children crying because they were hungry.
In small groups discuss
What are some of the needs that this family has?
More than anything, this women probably feels hopeless. Many people who aren’t working aren’t necessarily lazy as we might expect. Often they are overwhelmed by the difficulties of life and have trouble believing that they can change anything. Your most important job is to help them see that the situation can change by helping them to start changing. While a small gift of rice to this family is okay, if you do that more than once you are just encouraging them to believe that they are hopeless. What they need is hope that life can change.
In small groups discuss
What is a way that you could help by being like Mrs. Lee to this family?
- Help the wife and younger children to earn some money. Do they have some land or any special skills?
- Help the younger children go to school. Take the mother with you to talk to people at the local government office and see if they can get a free school pass or if there is a literacy program running in your area. Find out what help is available.
- Collect used clothing at the church and try to provide some basic clothing for each of the children.
- Start visiting with the mother on a regular basis and encourage her to see that life can be different.
- Help the family to rebuild the house. Ask a few people from the church to come and help with the work, but use the materials that the family has and the labor of the children. Eight year olds have plenty of energy!
- Encourage the family to start a small garden to grow vegetables so that they have a better diet.
- Offer the family a few chicks and get someone in the church to help them learn about chicken farming. If necessary, keep the chickens at your house so the family isn’t tempted to eat them immediately and ask one of the children to come every day to collect the eggs and look after the chickens. Make sure you teach them how to look after the chickens well.
- Contact the husband and wife’s family. Can they help in any way?
- Help the family to better plan how to use the husband’s money. Can they invest it into something else that will give them more money in the future? How can they better make it last for the whole time?
In pairs, pray and ask God to show you one family that you can help like Mrs. Lee did. If the family is one that you don’t know well, make a plan to start visiting with them. Before you go each time, ask God to open your eyes and ears to understand their real problems and give you ideas on how you can help. Remember to keep praying for them as you help them and they get their businesses established. Be willing to keep visiting once a month and giving advice for a year.