What unique and effective ways can a service team connect with a host community?

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Have you been part of a service team that has discovered some unique and effective ways to connect with your host community?

The group I have been involved (www.carpenteros.ca) with has done a lot of the usual stuff - including visiting and praying with the disabled and elderly in their homes, various activities focused around the children, and meeting with the church community.

Last fall we tried a few new things, and they were quite successful.  In conjunction with the local CRC (in a village in Honduras) we hosted a meeting of community leaders (political, education and community boards); we arranged for the women in our group to meet and discuss privately with the women in the community (don't know anything about the topics they covered, but feedback from both sides was that the meeting was very beneficial and should become a regular part of team visits); and we facilitated a community meeting to discuss community issues -- turned out to be particularly effective opportunity for the youth of the community to express their views and concerns.  One concern from youth was the lack of trash collection and how the older generations too easily litter while the younger generation wants to find a more 'environmental' solution -- so we spontaneously organized a 'Trash Walk' for early the next morning -- dozens of people from the community plus members of our team walked the streets for many blocks picking up trash - and soon there was a small mountain of filled garbage bags in front of the church.

Each of these initiatives helped us to get a better understanding of the people and the issues, and it also helped to connect us with the community - word got around quickly that we wanted to know more about them and their views and opinions, and it helped to send the signal that we were not just strangers who came to do a few work projects, but that we wanted to hear and listen to what the locals had to say.

These three instances helped our group to learn more about connecting with the host community.  I would love to hear from other groups that may have tried similar or totally different things, so that we can use these 'best practices' to improve the effectiveness of our short-term trips.

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I just returned from a trip to Uganda with a church from California that's trying to establish a sister church type of relationship. They had many great ideas; I'll highlight some of them here. It's interesting to note that many of them came from the two high school students that were with the group!

- provide a photo of the church in N.A. to put in the church in Uganda

- make rubber bracelets with the name of both churches and a Bible verse, so each can remember to pray for each other

- distribute letters with photos from one church to the other. This was a big hit, and the community returned the favor and they'll be brought back to the NA church.

- we spent a week meeting with the church leaders. In the evenings the pastors took turns hosting the group. Was a great time for fellowship.

 

Regarding the use of businessmen to strengthen the church.   This should be a natural for us with our concept of the Reformed faith integrating every sphere of society, but very little thought has been developed in this area.  Business is often thought as being to contaminated by “worldliness”, and yet the CRCNA has some of the greatest (and wealthiest) business people in the world.  Profitability when doing business as mission is looked at unfavorably.

 

Our business community should be engaged not simply as mentors, but as angels and investors—doing business as business—using best business practices.  This should always be as profitable a relationship for all the parties involved as possible.  When we do business as charity, or even as developmental aid we do not do business as well as it needs to be done.

What we need to create a  small-cap funds, mission venture funds, and seed money funding (which we have)  that permit Christian US business people and investors to engage hand in hand with the Christian business community in Africa, Asia, and South America---in places where we or others are extending the gospel of the kingdom through church planting, and diaconal ministries.    Mike, if I understand your comment  regarding “our investments” it strikes me that you have a fear of a mutually profitable relationship that should be nurtured between Christian business men from both sides of the equation.  I am guessing that you are not a business person---most development workers are not business people.

Sound business investment practices alongside are Christian brothers in countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria can when done as business bring an end to severe poverty.  When business is done as charity it falters and fails.  What I am saying is known by Christian businessmen in Ethiopia.  They get it immediately.  I am not capable of mentoring them—if they have survived as businessmen in their setting, they are often

We are trying to launch a three wheeled, rural automobile factory in partnership with Ethiopian partners.  We are in the 3rd phase of our development.  As we move to our fourth phase we anticipate being able to attract $3 million.  The 5th phase  $12 million.  And we should have a several models that will work in the rural agricultural setting.   Poverty is the absence of $$$ capital.  Business is the solution to poverty—not development aid.   We hope to undergird the huge Christian community in Ethiopia with the resource of affordable transportation.   We hope to have a program that will permit a church planter to own a rural transport vehicle that will generate enough income to support his family.

We have a partnership and ownership of a 600 acre farm in Southern Ethiopia. If we could attract $300,000 investment to this farm we would be able to establish a partnership model between U.S. investors and the farmers we are working with there.    This are of Southern Ethiopia, and Southern  Sudan is huge—as big as the breadbasket of the Midwest.  Their largely Presbyterian.  They want us to partner with them.  We—the CRCNA with its millionaire farmers could wipe out the cycle of hunger in the horn of Africa.   But we need to move to a totally different paradigm to have this kind of impact.

Dan, I really appreciate your comment on this.