Archives For international development

Almost from infancy, our parents teach us to share. If we have two cookies and our friend has none, we’re instructed to give one away. This idea is reinforced in classrooms, on sports teams, and especially in church, where we learn that a faith that fails to actively care for those in need is no faith at all.

Since this lesson has been drilled into us since childhood, it’s understandable (and admirable) that when a video of a hungry-looking, barefoot child appears in our news feed, our immediate impulse is to send them the food and shoes that we perceive them to be lacking. After all, sharing’s a good thing, right?

TOMS shoesIn 2006, TOMS almost single-handedly created the easiest way for us to “share” with those in need around the world. Taking the concept of “buy one, get one,” and turning it on its head, they invented a totally new paradigm: “buy one, give one.”

Suddenly, we had a way to use our purchasing power not only to buy a pair of shoes for ourselves, but to create a ripple effect of good around the world by also providing a pair for someone else. We experienced firsthand how interconnected the global economy is and how our actions as consumers in the U.S. can impact people around the world.

TOMS taught us something important: Our purchases matter.

But as the new critically-acclaimed film Poverty, Inc., reveals, for all the good that buy one, give one  accomplished on the consumer end, it had consequences on the receivers.

The film highlights how some sometimes good intentions unintentionally deepen dependency, impact local markets, and paint an inaccurate picture of poverty. Intuitively, we know that aid has never offered the lasting or dignified pathway out of poverty.

In the film, Michael Fairbanks describes this disparity between doing good and unintended negative impact, stating, “Having a heart for the poor isn’t hard, we all have that, but having a mind for the poor—that’s the challenge.”

Poverty, Inc., highlights the significant transformation that’s underway in the “industry of charity”, as it seeks to exchange aid for enterprise, paternalism for partnership.

Looking through the enterprise lens of TOMS, I wonder if the emphasis on the free shoes they give away has caused us to miss the seemingly hidden benefit of creating a thriving company. Perhaps it’s time to stop just focusing on the free boxes of shoes and broaden our understanding of impact, and celebrate other aspects of TOMS. Primarily, they are a thriving company providing jobs, delivering an excellent product, modeling corporate generosity, and constantly seeking to expand in their global impact.

1. Job Creation

TOMS seeks to create jobs, establishing over 700 manufacturing and sourcing jobs in 6 different countries and effectively empowering parents to purchase shoes for their own children. No parent wants to stand in line for charity for the rest of their lives—just like us, parents want the dignity of providing for themselves and their families. The jobs that TOMS creates are most likely far more effective at alleviating poverty than a box of free shoes could ever be.

2. Excellent Products

I love my TOMS. Even without the BOGO model, they’re a great shoe. TOMS doesn’t use their social mission as an excuse to peddle inferior products, but remains committed to offering excellent, high quality, and desirable merchandise.

3. Skills Training

TOMS has invested in the futures of thousands of men and women by offering job skills training. They’ve also initiated health training, including skilled birth attendant training. A company that cares about training and long-term empowerment of those it employs is to be celebrated.

4. Greater Generosity

While the buy one, give one model has been replicated across products and innovations, the greater impact might be on organizations that have looked to TOMS and discovered that they, too, can actively unlock both talent and funds to have a global impact. It’s both intrinsically good and good business to be known as a company that cares about responding to need, and there has been a recent resurgence of creative corporate generosity. They key is to continue to ask tough questions about what models accomplish the most positive outcomes—for all involved.

TOMS has captured the hearts of a generation well aware of the needs of the world and itching to share. Disproportionately, we’ve celebrated the free shoes and missed the positive impact of the core business.

As Poverty, Inc., shows through over 200 interviews in 20 countries, there is movement underway to shift from aid to enterprise.

At their core, both Poverty, Inc., and TOMS Shoes prove one thing: Our parents were right that sharing is good—but nobody wants to be a charity case for life.

Poverty, Inc.


Poverty, Inc., released this month.

Watch the trailer, preorder the film, or learn about hosting a screening event at

Perederiy Nataliya

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to celebrate HOPE’s 15th anniversary in Ukraine. It was a period of rejoicing. But I was amazed to look back and see the significant issues HOPE Ukraine overcame during its first year.

It all started in 1997 when a homebuilder and a chiropractor joined forces to start a microfinance institution in Ukraine.

They were an unlikely pair for such an endeavor – and it almost sounds like the start of a joke.

But feeling led, Jeff Rutt, CEO of Keystone Custom Homes, commissioned Paul Marty and his wife, Cindy, to serve in Ukraine. It was early fall when Paul and Cindy arrived. By Thanksgiving, the honeymoon phase was over.

“It became evident that we were out of our league,” said Jeff.

Here are a few of the challenges they faced:

  1. No one had done legal microfinance in Ukraine. Legal counsel tried to convince Paul that starting a microfinance institution was impossible: No precedent was laid out for giving loans outside a bank. So HOPE couldn’t be formally registered.
  2. Leadership wasn’t buying in. Jeff’s newly formed nonprofit board wasn’t sold on their mission: “We needed to convince the board that microfinance is what we wanted to do,” said Rutt. “It would be like having a homebuilding company that didn’t want to build houses.”
  3. Corruption. In a post-Soviet state, business and corruption were closely interwoven, and advisors said no one would repay loans.
  4. Business and the Bible? “If everything else failed, we thought the church would be behind us,” said Paul. But across Ukraine and in the U.S., churches wanted nothing to do with microfinance. In their minds, business and the church didn’t mesh.
  5. No community credibility. Even if they did eventually register, where would they find clients?

For Paul, Cindy, Jeff and his wife, Sue, the circumstances were so bleak they could only turn to God. Amid the numerous challenges, the Marty’s adopted a motto: “Just pray anyway.”

And God answered. Finally, one lawyer decided to take on their case. September 1998 they were able to register.

But they didn’t have any families to serve.

And then an opportunity “dropped from the sky,” said Paul. A local radio station began blitzing the local airways with a feature on HOPE, giving them instant standing in the community.

Suddenly, their office phone was ringing nonstop. No longer did they have problems finding clients. Rather they needed to screen the individuals wanting to join HOPE!

HOPE’s first year was a journey of committing plans to the Lord and then witnessing God’s faithfulness.

In their darkest times, Paul and Cindy said supporters kept sharing with them the same verse, one they held onto as God’s word for them: “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

This gave them the courage to continue pursuing the mission. I’m so thankful they never gave up.

After I began hearing again about HOPE’s founding, my appreciation and respect only increased for the humble tenacity of Paul, Cindy, Jeff, and Sue. They obediently followed God’s call to walk alongside those in financial and spiritual poverty in Ukraine.

And I’m even more grateful that “the one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

To learn more about HOPE Ukraine, go here.

To see more about the children’s ministry birthed out of (and continued to be supported by) HOPE Ukraine, see Tomorrow Clubs.




I’m not a surfer. But I’ve secretly always wanted to be. While visiting Point Loma University, San Diego, CA, I was invited by students to try surfing. Early in the morning we donned on wetsuits, grabbed boards, and headed out to the surf.

What I didn’t expect: Riding the waves isn’t the only challenge. Before you stand on your board, you have to recognize the right wave. Being untrained, I spent my time scanning the horizon while my friends were carried away.

It’s also critical to recognize waves in culture. Paul encourages followers of Jesus in Rome to be watchful, “understanding the present time” (Romans 13:11).  We are called to identify trends—to scan the social, economic, and political horizon—to thoughtfully engage those around us.

Otherwise we’ll miss the wave—and with it, our chance to shape and influence culture.

Below are some of the recent waves in how the Church has enthusiastically engaged our global needs.

WAVE 1: Eyes wide open (1995 – 2006)

A few years ago, I would ask a classroom of college students, “How many of you have served in the developing world?”

Only a few students would raise their hands. Today, almost all of them do. In 2006, over $1.6 billion was spent on short-term mission trips. In both the Christian and secular sphere, there has been an awakening to global needs.

The Church is returning to its roots in Acts: to love the poor and needy in their communities and around the world. We understand it’s part of our mandate to address physical and spiritual poverty as we combat human trafficking, provide water, and bring comfort to the hurting and lonely.

WAVE 2: When helping hurts (2006 – 2012)

The second wave has been the recognition that sometimes our passionate responses to the needs of the world have produced poor results. Two landmark books—Dead Aid (2006) and The White Man’s Burden (2009) —written by top economists Dambisa Moyo and William Easterly show good intentions aren’t enough. According to Moyo, over $1 trillion in aid has been spent on the continent of Africa, but many countries are actually worse off.

The knowledge that good intentions aren’t enough has permeated the Church as well. Two excellent books have recently helped change how we as a Church address social, political, and economic issues: Toxic Charity (Bob Lupton) and When Helping Hurts (Brian Fikkert, Steve Corbett).

This wave has opened us up to thoughtful engagement. Now more than ever, the Church is recognizing that misappropriated aid creates long-term dependency and as a result, is truly seeking solutions that work.

WAVE 3: Rise of social entrepreneurship and job creation (2012?)

If we just stop at wave #2 and recognize the challenge in helping, the overwhelming problems can seem discouraging. It can lead to inactivity.

We need to find solutions that truly work.  And we know with clarity that the best way to overcome poverty is through job creation and entrepreneurship, not charity. In The Coming Jobs War, the CEO of Gallup, Jim Clifton, uses over 75 years of Gallup research to make the case that what the world needs now is simple: more quality jobs. The Church is beginning to awaken to the potential of missional entrepreneurship and the key role of business in poverty alleviation.

Faith-based think tank Acton Institute recently launched PovertyCure, an initiative supporting employment-based solutions. The Church is recognizing the way job creation affirms the dignity of those in poverty.

It’s thrilling to see how the Church is beginning to think creatively about using social entrepreneurship and transitioning from hand-outs to a much better way of addressing poverty.

What are the dangers?

In our excitement, we mustn’t lose sight that if poverty is about broken relationships, then all the money in the world can’t fix our problems. It’s only Christ who can restore relationships.

It’s an exciting time. The Church is celebrating the God-given talents and creativity of people in poverty, exploring business-based initiatives, and sharing the unmatched hope of Jesus Christ.

Let’s continue to realize the potential of this wave.


For more on this, see Five Ways the Poor Define Poverty.

See PovertyCure’s video here.

Reposted from When Building Orphanages Isn’t Enough.

In the below Q&A, HOPE’s president, Peter Greer, speaks about international adoption, his new book, and the intersection of microenterprise development and orphan care.

You recently spoke at the Christian Alliance for Orphans’ annual Summit at Saddleback Church. As president of HOPE, how does your work tie to the global orphan crisis?
Adoption has forever changed our family. But as powerful as international adoption is, and as much as it has changed our family, we know that it only reaches a small number of the children globally who need a home. My “day job” at HOPE helps mothers and fathers start or expand small businesses so that they can work their way out of poverty and provide for their children. My hope is that the faith-based adoption community and the faith-based development community will realize how much overlap they have in heart and desired outcomes.

What did you speak about at the conference?
According to UNICEF, there were 132 million orphans living in developing countries in 2008—132 million children dearly loved by God who need a home. But studies have also found that many children in orphanages have a surviving family member who could provide them that home. In Zimbabwe, for example, 40 percent of children in orphanages have a surviving parent, and nearly 60 percent have a contactable relative. The orphan crisis is interconnected with poverty. Parents put their children in institutional care because they don’t have enough money to care for their children. The solution isn’t building more orphanages but rather helping parents earn enough income so that they can care for their children. What parent would prefer for their child to grow up in an orphanage if they had the resources to care for them on their own? We need to broaden the discussion about the orphan crisis to include employment-based solutions that help families work their way out of poverty.

Mama Atiya

What are some examples you’ve seen of access to financial services leading to better care for orphans?
Some of the best examples I’ve seen are HOPE’s clients. I think of Mama Atiya in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who was left with no resources to provide for her six children when her husband died. A $55 loan from HOPE helped Mama Atiya break into the smoked fish business. She buys fish in bulk, enabling her to offer good prices and function as a wholesaler. Two years and seven loans later, she is the proud owner of an apartment and can afford to educate all her school-aged children. But not only is she taking care of her own children, she has also adopted four children from her community. What an amazing example of low-cost, local orphan care!

You also recently published Mommy’s Heart Went POP! An Adoption Story, a children’s book on international adoption. What led you to write this book?
When my wife, Laurel, and I were in the process of adopting our son Myles from Rwanda, our daughter asked why mommy’s belly wasn’t getting bigger like so many other mommies. We used the language that adoption causes mommy’s heart to get bigger. When we finally held our son, all the love that we had been holding came pouring out, and it literally felt like mommy’s heart popped.

We discovered that there are so few resources available for families who adopt internationally. When our friend Christina Kyllonen sent us this story after we brought our son home, we felt that it needed to be shared with many more people. We have had the joy of working with friends to bring the book to life, and our hope is that it will touch many! The funds we raise through this book all go to the rubymyles fund to help other families adopt or to support local initiatives like HOPE that help bring children into homes.