Schrock challenges audience of 280 to avoid “toxic charity”

by Austin Braddock, Guest Writer and Kendra Burkey, Horizon Advisor

Hesston Sophomore Lane Shrock spoke to a crowd of nearly 300 last weekend at the annual Mennonite Disaster Service all-unit meeting in Albuquerque, NM. In his speech Schrock urged his audience to evaluate the work of the church in serving others, differentiating between “toxic charity,” a term coined by author Robert D. Lupton, and service that empowers people.

Sophomore Lane Schrock addressing the audience at the Mennonite Disaster Service Annual Meeting. Photo by
Sophomore Lane Schrock addressing the audience at the Mennonite Disaster Service Annual Meeting. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Delly.

Schrock used an example from Lupton’s “Toxic Charity,” one of the texts for Hesston’s Disaster Management Program (DMP). He described a village in Honduras that required clean water. A church responded by building a well for the village. Soon, however, the well broke down and the villagers went back to carrying water long distances.

So the church members fixed the pump and everyone was happy again,” Schrock said. “This happened year after year. When the pump broke, the villagers simply waited for their wealthy friends from America to come back.”

In a contrasting story, a community developer from Chicago assisted a struggling Nicaraguan village in building a well that not only empowered the villagers but actually produced wealth for their community.

Together, they created a plan to get the financing, equipment, and knowledge they needed to do it themselves,” said Schrock. “Villagers did the labor, and when they were done, they had not only a well, but waterlines and 220 water meters connecting to homes. There was such a good water supply that they were able to sell it to a nearby village.”

Schrock represented Hesston’s DMP at the meeting, joining several other speakers from other MDS units and programs. The purpose of the meeting is to “provide education, information and inspiration” to those connected with MDS.

Hesston’s program is led by director Cleo Koop, who took over for Russ Gaeddert this year. Gaeddert helped launch the program in 2005.  

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