A Season of Dependency


It’s one of those buzzwords people involved with our line of work are throwing around a lot these days.

Books like When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity have become staples to any cross-cultural worker’s library. We are all learning, through trial and error, that empowering trumps charity; investment beats handouts; and that long-term solutions don’t often come in short-term packages.

I live in Haiti- a place where dependency reigns. It’s said that we have the highest number of NGOs per captia in the world. The help is helpful, to an extent. But the plethora of easily available aid has some wondering: Are we really helping Haiti or are we just creating a country full of dependent people?

I’ve been a cross-cultural worker for 4 ½ years. My husband and I moved here just a few years into our marriage, now we have a family of five. Our time here has been challenging, but fruitful. We’ve grown a lot and for that I am thankful.

As cross-cultural workers a lot has been given to us. People have helped us with moving costs, travel expenses, medical bills, purchasing a vehicle, daily living expenses, and even the adoption of our two oldest children. The amount of gracious people who have supported my family is numerous. Really, we have been so blessed.

Being on the receiving end of the giving spectrum, however, has never been easy for me. Often, I don’t even know how to look the giver in the eye. It isn’t that I feel ashamed. It isn’t even my pride. What troubles me is fear.

You see, I work with young adults in Haiti for a living. As teens age out of the orphanage system they can come to us where we help them prepare for life as adults. Without family support systems, the youth I work with have no choice but to learn how to be independent and to provide for themselves. Because of this, a majority of our program’s standards are shaped around breaking the dependency cycle.

I spend my days training young Haitians how to be independent. And although I strongly believe in the principles I preach, I have recently begun to question my validity because I, too, am dependent.

And that bothers me, worries me even. My whole life is dependent on the generosity of supporters in the States. My ability to feed my family, pay my rent, and send my kids to school is dependent on the gifts of others. I often find myself questioning:

Am I going to become too accustomed to living off of financial gifts?

How different am I than my Haitian neighbor who depends on foreign aid?

Will I ever be able to not have to ask for help?

A few months back I took a trip home to the States with my youngest son, Jake, who is just shy of six months. While there I ran into a financial bind. As my parents lovingly took out their checkbook to offer assistance I broke down in tears. “I love that you want to help me,” I wept, “But I don’t want to be a charity case.” They persisted and knowing I wouldn’t be able to help myself, I accepted their gift. I was dependent, once more.

Asking for help has never come easy for me. Living as an overseas cross-cultural worker has made it even harder. Regardless, I have to accept that this is my reality right now. This is where God has placed me. This is a season in my life where God wants me to have faith in the church and be reliant on their giving. Ultimately this is a season to be dependent on Him.

I recently received an email from one of our organization’s donors. After thanking him for his generous donation he quickly replied by saying, “We are only passing on the blessings God has given to us.” His message was simple, but it stuck with me all day. The financial gift we were about to receive belonged to God; He was just using this donor as a means to get it to us. This thought gave me peace- peace to know that every dollar I have ever been given has ultimately come from Him.

I am not sure if Haiti will ever be able to stand on its own without the need for foreign aid. Even if they could, I am not sure they will ever be given that chance. As a cross-cultural worker here, I pray to never take our support for granted. With every dollar given to my family, I pray to only become more humble. And I pray, above all, that my attitude will be an example to all my Haitian neighbors.

What about you? Is your family dependent on the support of others? How is God using this season of your life to shape you?


  1. Annalisa August 25, 2015

    I get this.  I get this so much.  I get this so incredibly much because I feel bad accepting financial help from others.  That’s their hard earned money.  I did nothing to earn it.  I moved out of the country.  My college loans were paid off half by graduation presents and half from money my mother inherited from my grandfather when he died after I’d been in the field a year.  My wedding was paid for by a couple people who gave us early gifts knowing that we wouldn’t be able to get married in the States and therefore wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding.  With the new laws in the US regarding health care, I’m on Medicaid.  My only source of support is from my sending church, a small church made up 95% by retirees on fixed incomes.  It’s enough to pay my rent and a meager vegetarian diet.  I make ends meet by picking up translating jobs for a couple weeks every year (which pays incredibly well here and I suggest it to anyone who has flexible time and has become fluent in your host language).  But to ask for more?  I just can’t do it.  I feel like a thief taking hard-earned money from anyone else.

    “We are only passing on the blessings God has given to us.”

    I’m going to try to remember that.  Thanks so much for sharing.  I still don’t think I’m going to ask, but I’m going to work on feeling less bad about receiving.

    (Side note: The husband does have a job, but the income from that was already stretched pretty thin.  Once he and his little brother finish school, we should be able to breathe a little easier.)

    1. Jillian August 26, 2015

      Annalisa- Thanks for sharing your story. So glad to know I am not the only one who struggles with asking. In our seasons of dependency, may God shape us both to be better receivers.

      – Jillian

      1. Jillian August 26, 2015

        Wow! Ladies! I have no idea why/how I put this SUPER LARGE picture of myself here. 🙂 Oh goodness…

        – Jillian

        1. Melissa August 27, 2015

          I did that on accident the first time I commented here too.  Don’t worry, it’s a super cute picture of you and your little guy 🙂

  2. Korinne August 26, 2015

    I think all self-fundraising workers have to find their peace about this issue. I was helped a lot by some good foundational teaching on a Biblical view of “support”. Now that teaching is available, currently for free, online, for anyone. Though I haven’t personally gone through the online version, Module 2 looks to contain the gist of the topic discussed in this article. After all, I think we really shouldn’t live on support at all if we haven’t satisfied our conscience that we are right in receiving donations for the work we do.  I believe it’s worth wrestling through to get to the place of peace and joy in feeling that we are indeed not to be embarrassed or ashamed to live in interdependence with finances. Of course, it goes against human nature (aren’t we all quite proud in our core, honestly?) but humility is a good and Godly thing to attain, after all, and worth the struggle.


    1. Jillian August 26, 2015

      Korinne- Thanks for sharing. I will be checking that material out for sure.

      – Jillian

  3. Kate August 26, 2015

    Oh how this resonates, I’ve always struggled with this. Dependency was something I thought I’d accepted as needed. As a church youth worker before a m I’d recognized, and come to terms with, the ‘gifts’ of God for things beyond my means, I was once given a car. But, when it comes to it, everyday living costs are hard to ask for. It was made harder by another worker who left the same sending church at a similar time – she asked and asked and asked, complete with the stereotypical m pictures (kids at camp, church services etc), meanwhile I was newly married and floundering, not sure exactly what this phase of my journey would be about. While I was prayed for alongside this other worker much of the church was supporting her financially while my financial supporters fit on one hand. I felt so uncomfortable about the situation and so sure of God’s provision I just stopped asking. It was a tough time and prompted me to take different routes with my work, some of which now help pay the bills. God has provided gifts for the big things, our pushchair, flights etc, and I do now have more regular financial supporters. I also know that if a big project ever came up which needed support I could stand before my sending church and ask knowing they are not jaded to my appeals. I’d love to be totally self sustainable but I know that possibility is a long way from where we sit now, and I believe that depending on for the physical essentials of life God routes me in him spiritually too.

    1. Jillian August 26, 2015

      Kate- My family is trying to become more self-sustaining as well. My husband is a photographer and takes local jobs to help make ends meet so that we don’t have to raise additional support for our living expenses. It has been a great help to our family, and I do believe it is one of the reasons God gave him his talent, but it is also a struggle. Battling time between doing our “work” and “making our money” is rough. Something always has to give just a little, unfortunately.

      – Jillian

  4. Karen August 26, 2015

    Thanks for this post. I initially read it as despondency, but then when I started to read it properly it struck a chord with me. I work full-time in Cambodia as a teacher, and as such I’m paid an adequate salary, however there’s not a lot of room to move when it comes to extras. After teaching for seven and a half years I felt it was time to invest in further study at Masters level, primarily because I was increasingly aware of the gaps in my existing knowledge, especially when it comes to children with special needs. I was accepted into the course I had selected through an Australian, but at a price, in a full-fee-paying place. I then discovered that I’d have to pay those fees up-front (I had hope for a FEE-HELP government loan). My first semester, and this semester I ended up asking if anyone would be willing to help. Each time, God has provided gifts which, combined with savings from my salary, have enabled me to pay the fees on time, although there’s not much money in the bank at the moment. Fortunately pay day is coming soon. Each time I hesitated to ask, but sensed that I should. If I was doing this just to add another piece of paper to my collection, or letters after my name, then I wouldn’t ask, but I’m doing this study so that I can better meet the needs of the students I’m working with, especially those with special needs. I believe God knows my heart, and He has honoured that by providing for me out of His abundance. Asking doesn’t come easy, and it’s not easy being dependent on others, but ultimately we are all dependent on God for every part of our lives. Being a fiercely independent over 50 single makes it challenging to ask for help, but it’s a good thing to do.

    1. Jillian August 26, 2015

      Karen- “Asking doesn’t come easy, and it’s not easy being dependent on others, but ultimately we are all dependent on God for every part of our lives.” LOVE that!

      – Jillian

  5. Ashley Felder August 26, 2015

    “Ultimately this is a season to be dependent on Him.”


    I’ve struggled a lot with asking as well. I’ve learned a lot from my husband, though, who seems to have a great perspective on it. It basically comes down to this: our job is to ask. It’s up to God and that person if they give or not. God has a perfect plan of who he’s going to use. And maybe you’ve found, like us, that more often than not, it’s those that you wouldn’t expect. I thought that rich, retired couple would cut us a fat check. Nope, it was the family on a limited income with 4 kids. And their joy exuded! Yes, it’s still hard to accept sometimes–humbling for sure–but in the end, we know He is behind every dollar. It does all come from him; it’s just our job to keep asking to see who He’s going to use.

    1. Emily August 26, 2015

      Amen. The joy that some of our partners get from giving is amazing. And really, when I remember how much *I* love to give to the overseas workers and ministries we support, how could I steal that joy from others by not asking and allowing them to give as God leads?

  6. Emily August 26, 2015

    Oh my goodness, what a timely word. My husband and I have been in full-time support raising for over a year now (and still going!) Recently, a close friend passed away, and we are both struggling to keep up with the work of raising support with the grief. Now, each day we kneel before the the Lord and say, “You’re going to have to raise this support, because we are just too broken and too grieved to do it by ourselves.”


  7. Cecily August 27, 2015

    Upon whom are we depending? Are we dependent on God to provide for us to do the work He has called us to do?  Or are we dependent on people?  When we have a need, where do we turn?  To God or to people?  Certainly, God provides for us through people, but to whom are we looking?  In whom have we put our faith?  Let us learn to put our complete trust in Him as our provider and then we can live generously, both as givers and receivers.  He is faithful!

    1. Jillian August 27, 2015

      Cecily- EXACTLY! That was beautifully put. I need to keep my eyes focused on him as my provider. If I am doing His will, He will provide my needs. It He chooses to provide through the giving of other people, I should be thankful. Always thankful.

      – Jillian

  8. Jillian August 27, 2015

    Emily- Thanks for the book recommendation. It is officially on my Amazon Wish List!

    – Jillian

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