His eyes sparkled as he looked me in the eyes and said, “Finally, I am free to be all that God intended: a father (my kids respect me), a husband (my wife is able to go back to school for nursing), and a contributor (I’m making money and paying off debts)!”
Just a few months before, Anthony had been on the streets of Dallas. He had a good job but had exchanged it for a drug addiction... along with the relationships in his life and his freedom, spiritually and physically.
But these days were different – he had come to a faith in Christ, had started to grow in that faith through a discipling relationship, AND had gotten a job with a faith-based business. That meant a chance to - in his own words - "be free."
Better Than Relief
I wrote last week about giving to people through a "resource dump" - like a turkey at Thanksgiving, a toy basket at Christmas, or a $5 bill to the man on the street corner. But in fact, when I gave to people like that in the past, I was actually taking something precious from them – their sense of dignity and worth. And mainly, if I’m honest, that type of giving was often more about me, and the warm feelings that came because I was doing something to (supposedly) help someone else.
But when someone like Anthony connects with development and not simply relief, they're freed to become all that God intended.
The Fruits of a Development Focus
So what does “development” mean for us practically as we each “seek the welfare” of our city?
It means we work to empower people, through the gospel and discipleship, to grow in their faith and make changes in their lives that will free them to be all that God intended (Ephesians 1:3-14). That kind of transformation requires a personal relationship, it’s long term, and it’s messy, which is why we all must fight the temptation to simply give something to someone or otherwise look for a quick fix.
This is why Watermark's work with ministry partners includes early childhood development, literacy training, school partnerships, mentoring, parent preparation, re-entry programs for former prisoners, biblical financial literacy, and jobs.
Development also means addressing systems. So we work with the city and partners to develop safe communities, reduce crime, increase health care and educational opportunities, and reduce neighborhood blight.
Internationally, we focus on biblical leadership, conflict resolution, education, microfinance, and justice.
These are all examples of development efforts, not relief activities. While we certainly do provide some forms of needed relief through our ministry partners, our primary focus continues to be on development.