She is one of the most beautiful, little girls I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of beautiful, little girls, including my own. Her sparkling eyes and dazzling smile were captivating. How could she be so happy living in such extreme poverty? With a few other children, she wandered into the hot, humid, open-air church building in remote West Africa where we were setting up for a week of training church leaders among the poorest of the poor in Northern Togo. She and her little friends sat spellbound on the cool floor watching us set up screens the leaders made from bedsheets and wood posts to show our new training videos in French.
They seemed frightened when I first approached them. And why not? I may have been one of the first white people they’ve met. I didn’t see one other white person the entire week. My six-foot four-inch height made matters worse. But when I got down on the floor eye-level with them, my playful antics soon had them giggling at the huge, silly, white man. You can watch the 30-second video of my antics above. This earned me the right to ask them questions through my interpreter. The little girl’s answers broke my heart. She said she was sad because she didn’t have any meat to eat. After she had an extended conversation with my translator, he told me her story while she looked on.
They seemed frightened when I first approached them. And why not? I may have been one of the first white people they’ve met.
He told me she had parents who could provide her with daily food made from grains and fruit, but they could not afford meat. But, once a week, a relief organization provided her, and all the children in her community, with one hot meal that included meat. The translator told me her weekly taste of meat is what created the problem. She had become dissatisfied and discontent with not having meat at home. She didn’t understand why her parents could not afford to buy her meat. As a result, her parents refused to allow her to receive the weekly meals with meat provided by the world relief organization.
At first, I thought how cruel her parents must be. Then, after more conversations with the local leaders, I learned a very valuable, counter-intuitive lesson. It’s not wrong to provide poor children with a weekly hot meal that includes meat. That’s a good solution. But it’s a short-term solution, not long-term. I know it’s an ancient, well-known adage, but it still bears repeating, “Don’t just give someone a fish, teach them how to fish.” It’s wonderful to give a hot meal with meat to a poor child. But it’s even more wonderful to help parents learn how to provide meat for their own children.
It’s wonderful to give a hot meal with meat to a poor child. But it’s even more wonderful to help parents learn how to provide meat for their own children.
Pathway Learning provides seminary-level education to under-resourced church leaders in the remote regions of Northern Togo so they can develop churches that transform lives and communities. That includes equipping church leaders not only in bible and theology, but also in how to help parents of poor children learn how to fish.
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