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!