Anyone familiar with Edify could tell you that the book When Helping Hurts played a significant role in influencing Edify’s operations. It details where the vast majority of efforts to alleviate poverty go wrong and how both individuals and organizations can go about it in the most constructive manner. During my internship at Edify, When Helping Hurts was the very first book study we did, as the frameworks introduced are crucial to understanding the role Edify plays with the schools it walks alongside.

Through meaningful conversations with my supervisors and peers, I was able to reflect on the summation of my experiences in a new light. From an internship to Family Experience Trips, I have been blessed with the opportunity to experience Edify from a number of different standpoints, each one giving me a new and more developed understanding of the organization and its mission.

As a prerequisite to my experiences, I will first introduce the framework I will be referencing from When Helping Hurts. The authors, Corbett and Fikkert divide our relationships with God’s creation into four parts: God, Self, Others, and the Rest of Creation. After the “fall” of man, each of the four relationships was ruptured in one way or another for every single one of us. The key principle behind these relationships is the understanding that poverty-alleviation needs to address all four aspects and that every person is just as broken as the next, no matter how much “success” or “wealth” they may seem to have.

Dominican Republic Family Experience

 

Growing up in Dallas, Texas, it seemed like everyone went on mission trips, whether with their church or an organization. Although I never went on one myself, the cultural expectations were clear as day. The impact was measured by how many houses you built, how many people you fed, or something of the like. Once the work was done, life returned to normalcy. So, when my parents first proposed taking a trip with Edify to the Dominican Republic, I was a bit taken aback. Staying at a resort? Visiting schools? What was the definitive impact of that?

As a 14-year-old the nuances of When Helping Hurts flew a bit above my head, but my expectations were shattered on our first morning at the school. The school’s proprietor, Kenya, directed my family members to different teachers to assist for the week. I was assigned to the physical education class, more or less a fun recess time for the students. The most distinct memory for me was playing baseball out in the street–water bottles for bases, a lot more than nine players per team, and smiles on every face. How do smiles help break the cycle of poverty? I couldn’t have told you at the time, but looking back I realize that our work there was restoring all of our relationships with others.

All around the world, Americans are seen as barging in, dictating how issues should be solved, and then leaving. By merely taking the time to play baseball with new friends, we fought that stereotype, reinforcing the concept that all of us were created in the image of God–equally invaluable and extraordinary.

Ethiopia Family Experience

 

Thus, when the chance for our family to go on the Family Experience Trip in Ethiopia arose, there was no way we could turn it down. From the moment our group arrived, you would have thought the students had known us for years. In just the first five minutes an impromptu, improvised game of “keep the water bottle in the air” had kicked off, Americans and Ethiopians alike. These friendships only deepened as the week went on, leading to some incredible experiences and conversations.

One of Tiger Dawson’s, Edify’s CEO who was leading our trip, favorite stories to tell involves an ice breaker posing the question: “What are you most afraid of, and what do you enjoy doing?” Tiger casually responded with, “Spiders and beach volleyball.” Tiger’s partner, meanwhile, answered by saying, “An eternity apart from the Lord, and prayer.” I might be fired from my internship now. Jokes aside, the spiritual maturity of the students was astounding, and I still think of them to this day. Despite there not being a concrete impact we could take back to the United States, we were rebuilding broken relationships with God and with others.

Global Staff Conference

 

Fast forward to 2022, the moment I saw that there was an internship available at Edify, I knew I had to apply. The organization and the people had left a huge impact on me, and I wanted to be able to contribute in whatever way I could. Crazily enough, the kick-off to my internship was a trip to Edify’s Global Staff Conference in Kampala, Uganda. What struck me from the beginning was how everyone welcomed me, as though I had been there for years. Each meal meant sitting next to someone new, and there was never a dull or awkward conversation. I was able to organically ascertain a better understanding of Edify as a whole by just sharing in conversation with incredible individuals like Augustine from Liberia or Jason from Peru, on what brought them to Edify and what they did on a daily basis.

One of my many favorite moments from my time at the conference was getting to watch the newest Star Wars show in my free time, alongside a collection of new friends from all over the world. To me, our shared love of Star Wars was a small glimpse into heaven, all of our inner-nerds coming together from all across the world.

Ultimately, this trip greatly impacted my own four relationships. Most notably, I think that our all-staff day of prayer brought me closer to God than I had been in a long time. While leaving the conference was tough, I came home drastically changed and ready to take on my internship in ways I could have never imagined. I’m grateful for the experiences through Edify that led me to restore so many relationships around me.