Transformational Hope

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Guest blog by Rick De Graaf

How long will you continue to support us? One of the students of the Chumpu Prek Village Farmer Field School asked me. I replied, “it is our hope that in two years you would run this field school completely by yourselves — that you will no longer need us or our money to ‘run’ your school. Certainly, we will gladly work with you to bring in trainers and new learning — but that will be up to you.” I then asked the students, “How do you feel about that? Do you think you could run this school on your own by then?” They thought about it for a moment and then the leader and several of students said, “Yes, we think we can!”

That is our hope! That is our challenge.

Community Development or Mission work is not something we do for people — it is something we do with people. So often we think in terms of projects, participants, and measurable results. But really the challenge is to look for transformation in the lives of people. And at best, I believe it is not a one-way process that focuses on the participants, but rather is mutual. It is about the change in the missionary or development worker as well. We are transformed as well when we are committed to each other in a relationship of mutuality that is based on hope for a better future. 

“… Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have …” 1Peter 3:15b

For transformation to last it must be owned by the people. Transformation is a heart/soul thing. It is not something that we provide or sell like some object or an introduction of new technology. The place of anything that we may provide is secondary or it can be a means to assist the transformation process. The interventions we bring or facilitate such as training, skills, and other inputs need to honour the enabling of the transformation process and not create dependency. It is a sincere commitment to enabling people to be all that God meant to them to be: people who are enabled to provide for their own needs both physically and spiritually — people who are able to make their own independent choices.

It means that we are committed to relationships that honour individuals to grow and develop with mutual respect and reciprocity. Given the opportunity, like the woman farmer student at Chumpu Prek, we believe they can. That is the hope we have.

In Cambodia, we are committed to the strengthening of our local partners to develop their capability to do deliver effective and transformative programs of development in the communities we work with. At first, it is a lot of work paired with our partners, helping them to gain the capacity to do so but over time we believe they will be able to do so totally on their own. It is a longer-term commitment, but we believe they can. 

Strengthening our partners to transform communities and people — it is our hope and the challenge that we are committed to in our work in Cambodia. With God’s blessing — we believe we can! 

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Thanks, Steve, for re-visiting this perennial topic in missions/development work.  You write:

"...the challenge is to look for transformation in the lives of people."  My experience is that people necessarily continue in their culture and mileu, and that to think that two years is going to work a significant change is, yes "hope" but not at all that certain. I'd like you to put this piece and the Cambodian project in your 2014 agenda to revisit to see how it is progressing by then.

    I can't say that I have a good notion of what that Field School consists of, which would be a big factor in evaluating the likelihood of your hopes being realized.    One other observation I make: I have not seen many places where "missionary and development worker" are juxtaposed in the way you use those terms; interesting.  To me it betrays in just one more way the separation of Word and deed that has hamstrung our ministry efforts for the last two generations. 

    So at this season  of hope, lets hope and work for the outcome of the re?structure and culture change that is underway.

Hi Lou,

Just a clarification that the writer is Rick De Graaf.  I agree with your concern about the use of terms.  Steve