The Miracle of Empowerment
by Lyndsey Lessner, ZOE Regional Development Associate
“Do you believe in miracles?!”
This line is from one of my favorite movies Miracle and real life history moment when the USA hockey team defeated the Soviet Union in the bronze medal round of the 1980 Winter Olympics. This win was a huge upset, totally unexpected, and measuring both teams in every way, never should have happened. But it does. And one of the main reasons why is how hard the coach makes the team work to condition, to prepare, both mentally and physically. The coach requires fervent participation, dedication and commitment.
Some may or may not consider this sporting event to be a true miracle. Some may think miracles need to be completely unexplainable or beyond normal daily life. I used to fall into that category. I don’t anymore. In a world that endures so much hardship, it is essential for me to look for small miracles amongst the tragedies of this life.
The orphans and vulnerable children in ZOE have endured more devastation and heartbreak than anyone should ever have to bear in one lifetime. ZOE means life in Greek. The orphans and vulnerable children ZOE works with are given new starts at life just as Christ was born on earth to do for each of us.
Jesus then showed us how we too should live and treat each other. He was the greatest example of servanthood, caretaking, and selflessness. However, even in Jesus’ miracles, he required something of someone else.
In John 2: 7-8, Jesus first miracle, “Jesus said to the servants, fill the jars with water, so they filled them. Then he told them, draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet. They did so.”
In Luke 5: 4-6, Jesus sits with the fisherman in their boats and teaches them.
When he finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out in deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.
Jesus helped, he encouraged, gave wisdom, corrected, guided, changed how others perceived them as outcasts and therefore gave them new opportunities, but he did not do it for them and he required something of them. I think there are several reasons for this. Often, when others do something for us, we do not learn how to do it for ourselves. We will not be as confident or knowledgeable if we wanted to replicate the same process. We also wouldn’t feel as capable or proud of ourselves, knowing that we needed someone else to always rescue or help us. It is the Chinese proverb, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.
Unfortunately, in our western culture, giving rather than teaching has become the prevailing means of charity. We act with the best of intentions but often because of the way it makes us feel, not fully understanding how our helping can actually hurt a community. We are one of the most generous countries and people, continually giving to help those in need, however, participating in the type of charities we do, we are not utilizing our resources and finances in ways that sustain. We have to continually and repeatedly give because we aren’t creating a long-term effective solution. Thankfully, there is a new wave of re-learning how to be a non-profit and volunteer. Books such as When Helping Hurts, Toxic Charity, and Dead Aid have brought light to models that empower others to do for themselves and create long term sustainability.
ZOE is one of those empowerment models.
Through a local, comprehensive, empowerment program, ZOE recognizes the God-given worth, intelligence and talent of these children to affect change in their own lives and their communities. We equip them with the tools and resources and stand behind supporting them as they learn to help themselves. These children change their own lives and the lives of others in their communities. We get to witness and come alongside them as they fulfill their dreams, fully capable of making miracles along the way.