|Hmmm.. what kind of mission did you think it was Luke?|
I have been aware of Tearfund for many years, as have probably most people reading this. My first direct encounter came when I was 20 years old and went on a month long trip to visit the Masai Mara in Kenya.
|The Great Rift Valley|
It was my first experience of Africa; of children running after out jeep shouting "mzungu" ('white man'), of bucket showers (with water kindly heated over a fire by the caretaker!), of breathtaking night skies that revealed the Milky Way in all its grandeur, of mieliepap and cabbage (fare that, I'm ashamed to say, was, on its own, insufficient for my newly converted vegetarianism to cope with), of the delight balloons can bring, of men who talked casually of encounters with lions, of strong women in bright fabrics and beads balancing goods on their heads, and of congregations breaking into spontaneous song and holding the most fun FUNdraiser I've ever been to. (Forgive the grainy shots, but this was back before digital).
|A different way of life|
|A different landscape|
|Adolescent Masai men are sent out into the bush to tackle lions and become men|
Our host was an engaging and committed Pastor who on one occasion, whilst talking to a village community under a tree, lifted a man up on to his shoulders and drew the following analogy. He said that Community Development was not about relying on overseas donors to carry you, as he was carrying the man. This approach would only lead to the man becoming increasingly dependent on help to the point where his legs would eventually be wasted, he was no longer familiar with his surroundings and would never be able to walk on his own.
|Community development on the side of a 4x4|
He put the man down, held his hand and explained that it was rather about someone who loved you choosing to walk alongside you until you no longer needed their support. I never forgot the powerful image.
|When helping hurts|
I loved Wycliffe's ethos because by giving minority language groups God's word in the their own tongue, it was enabling them to develop an indigenous theology. A knowledge and understanding of God that was unique, authentic, and vibrant. Tearfund are enabling communities in a similarly indigenous way, empowering them to take charge of their own context.
|Nairobi - is CocaCola the best promise of life in its fullness?|
They start with the premise that there is more to poverty than just material poverty...
We are all broken, in different ways, and Tearfund aims to help us in our brokenness reach out to others in their brokenness. It's about more than humanitarian aid. It's about releasing people from a cycle of poverty through courageous giving, determined connectedness and long-term commitments to desperately vulnerable communities.
Having as your tagline, 'Following Jesus where the need is greatest' is quite a statement! But I honestly believe Tearfund are qualified to use it. If you want to be encouraged today, I'd advise you to check them out and seeing some of the great things God is doing through them and their local church partners. Whether that be the fact that in the last two years, across six countries they are working in, there has been a reduction of one million children being trafficked (which goes against the trend of it being the fastest growing crime worldwide). Or the fact that in the 11 years they have been working in the context of HIV/ AIDS, there has been a reduction in the incidence of babies born with HIV from 1 in 3 to 1 in 100 across 10 countries. Or the fact that they are enabling communities across the Sahel in the midst of terrible drought and famine, (the worst to hit N. Africa for 50 years), to reclaim their farmland and produce a harvest, even a surplus in their harvest!
Of course, there are many great charities out there, and this type of transformative work, delivered through the local church, tackles the root causes of problems rather than merely their symptoms, helping release communities from poverty. And in doing so, those very communities come to understand that God hasn't set them up to fail, their lot is not hopeless, and their only hope is not simply to rely on aid, but to appreciate that God has given them skills, resources, and brothers and sisters to help them walk into the future with hope and confidence.
|Local care for babies|
|Helping local people with their priorities|