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Should There Be Hope?

Zach Powell asks the big question after 28 years in urban ministry

Photo by Joshua Oluwagbemiga

Zach Powell, Servant Partners regional director for Middle East and North Africa, shares reflections from his 28 years of urban ministry.



Should there be hope when faced with urban poverty?


I’m still asking this big question. This summer marks 28 years of attempts at making a lasting impact among the world’s urban poor. After the youthful energy of the early years, the dream somewhat settled into a long season of natural skepticism. Yet, we continued to plod along in pursuit of this crazy idea: that transforming communities alongside our urban marginalized neighbors is awesome. There has been much growth, lessons learned, and a few well-placed encouragements from God. Yet there is still a nagging sense that the situation on the ground continues to be a Goliath.


The normal trajectory for those seeking to impact urban poverty is to eventually succumb to “reality.” After fighting the beast (poverty), being repeatedly exposed to trauma, failure, one’s own weakness, and even times of deep silence from God, one would expect the normal outcome of jaded bitterness—even despair. This is the stereotype of what inevitably happens to most seasoned humanitarian colleagues and even faith-based workers.


I often say that we are a few crises away from closing shop, and also a few miracles away from changing the world. The world still has the need for a movement seeking a humble, Christ-centered, justice-oriented, relationally driven, and deeply spiritual response to a world in pain.


It’s just the reality that recruiting, funding, and seeing “success” in community transformation is still a hard, daunting call. There is understandable skepticism at the idea of how meaningful, blessed, and even fun this path can be. So, there is reason to keep moving, learning, and seeking Jesus on the journey. Miracles, some not so minor, have already helped lay this foundation. But really, the fact that there is still hope—even increased hope—in the face of all that remains to be done, is a miracle in itself.


This is a shout out to God’s faithfulness. We have wavered, but God has not. The cliché that ministry success cannot be our main goal has been tested many times and is now truer than ever. Jesus—his life, death, and resurrection—must remain our main anchor. It’s not a religious statement, it’s the Rock on which the best and healthiest transformation must be built. As we continue down the road, pray we don’t lose this focus, this priority. If it goes, so will our miracle of hope.


We are so grateful for your prayers and partnership in keeping this miracle going in the face of the giant of poverty, where our neighbors need real hope to overcome.

I often say that we are a few crises away from closing shop, and also a few miracles away from changing the world. The world still has the need for a movement seeking a humble, Christ-centered, justice-oriented, relationally driven, and deeply spiritual response to a world in pain.
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