I am also tackling a book called, "When Helping Hurts". It is a book about how best to approach ministering to the poor and oppressed. I have a feeling that it is going to be one of the more insightful books I've ever read and will soften my heart to our time in Kenya with AIDS stricken, poverty and disease riddled people who are made in the Image of God.
One powerful section of the book so far is on understanding poverty. If you were asked how you would define poverty, chances are it would differe greatly from how a grandmother in Africa, suffering with HIV and living on less than $1 a day.
Americans, because we have an abundance of basic and extravagant things, define poverty as lacking basic material things, but for the majority world, poverty is more about shame, about low self worth, about hopelessness than it is about lacking materials.
So if we go in and lavish things upon people without things and do nothing to care for them, love them, encourage them, we have not represented Christ. In fact, we may end up doing more harm than good, to them and to us.