Dignity is about the value of each person
This session helps us all understand the importance of WHY WE SERVE and HOW WE SERVE. It also challenges us to think about what it's like to live in poverty, and the effects this has on personal worth and social value.
Can we enter a cross-cultural setting with a desire to help others, but in the end, make those we've come to serve feel "small" while we leave feeling proud and big?
Excerpt from "When We Give, A Story About Dignity"
"The truth is, our world is divided—split down the middle and gaping. And we are often all too content to let the chasms grow.
Rich and poor.
Black and white.
Local and foreigner.
Young and old.
Educated and uneducated.
Big and small.
Everyone has been assigned a value.
Some give, some get.
Some are important, some are disposable.
And I don't think I even recognized the seriousness of the disparity until my host brother asked his question—why do white people always smell so good?
The truth is, I am no more valuable than my brother or sister in rural Africa. But there is a deep-rooted belief in the culture that perpetuates their feelings of inferiority, and it goes all the way back to Biblical times—the African people are supposedly cursed because of Noah's son, Ham. They believe that somehow, because of this ancient curse, they are inferior to everyone else. Destined to be poor and helpless.
And unfortunately, sometimes in our eagerness to give, we reinforce the lie.
Instead of being upheld as the kind, hardworking, and faithful people that they are, they believe that they can't survive without the handout, without the help of someone from somewhere beyond their own borders.
And the lie lives on.
When my Basotho family wore the well-intentioned gifts of donors, they might have appreciated the gift for it's usefulness, but they didn't feel bigger in the receiving. If anything, they were reminded by even the smell of the fabric that they are second in life. And although they received a new t-shirt or a new sweater, something much more valuable was taken from them."
Full story available when you download this session!
Scripture: Looking to Jesus
Our human tendency is to live in levels, assigning people value and treating them according to their "status." Not only did Jesus pursue relationships with those outside his group, but his interactions made them feel valuable. Although it's important who we love, it's equally important how we love. This session includes time to read through a story from the book of John, chapter 4:
John 4:1-26 — The Woman at the Well
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John—although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?"
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."
He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back."
"I have no husband," she replied.
Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true."
"Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
"Woman," Jesus replied, "believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."
Then Jesus declared, "I, the one speaking to you—I am he."
Each EM Training Resource includes times of discussion among the group. Here is a sampling of a few questions included in this particular training:
Can you identify any patronizing relationships in your own life?
Do you think it is possible, while serving, to do more harm than good in the way you relate to or interact with someone? What makes the difference?
If you're honest with yourself, do you think there have been times when you have forgotten to uphold the dignity of others and accidentally made them feel small?
What are some practical ways to serve others while still being sensitive to their personal dignity?