The fundamental task in laboring in poor communities is spiritual. This doesn't mean it isn't also practical, but it is a measured practicality that is attempting to uncover the curse of 1) alienation from God, 2) coercive and abusive relationships with each other, 3) hostility, ignorance, and apathy towards creation, and 4) an identity of shame. These practical acts are spiritual in so far as they uncover the truth of the curse, and simultaneously uncover and introduce the authority and action of Jesus to break the curse, heal these places of wounding, and tie bonds of love around us and Him, us and each other, us and the world.
The Second Adam is taking on the power of sin and death, defeating it, and re-forming us into His glorious image: favor and freedom with God, table fellowship with our enemies, stewardship of the creation, and walking in our authority and glory as the revealed children of God.
We partner with Him in breaking the power of the curse, healing the wounds, and building the bonds of love.
Charity and relief work are often needed as a precursor to this work, and in deed often constitute this very task. But they can often also serve to inhibit this spiritual task.