I’ve just spent a month in Africa teaching the TCT program. One of the big things we look at during trainings are the beliefs that keep people locked in poverty. There are many. The South Sudanese team shared some really powerful lies that keep them in poverty, such as, “We are a baby country, so everyone should just give to us” and “We are the land of Cush that was cursed in Isaiah 18; we are cursed.” While these lies and their impact are incredibly sad, it was fun to watch the team search scripture to find the truth to counter each of those lies and recognise it isn’t what God says about them at all.
For years the church members of Tu Pi village had waited for someone to come help them. They were extremely poor—at least three months a year they had to scavenge for food. The village was a three-hour walk from the nearest road, meaning that they had little contact with anyone outside their community. The village had no school, no medical facilities, no market, no electricity, no toilets or wells. Gathering water required a two-kilometer walk. With little discipleship, the church members lived much the same way as the rest of the community— growing tobacco and rice to make rice wine. It made life bearable at least.
Then they heard a rumor that there was a program for churches that was causing communities to move out of poverty. They sent representatives to try to find someone to come and teach them the program. However, when they found the trainer, he refused to come—he was doubtful that if he left his motorbike on the side of the road for three days while he did the training that it would still be there when he got back. However, God convicted the trainer, so he agreed to go to Tu Pi and teach Module 1 of the TCT program.
As we travel around sharing about the amazing way God transformed hundreds of communities out of poverty, the response is most often, “How can my church/ministry/program see transformation like that?” We regularly lead TCT orientations in Asia and Africa to answer that question. But those of you in the U.S. have been left wondering. We’re excited to let you know that this year at the International Wholistic Missions Conference (IWMC) we will run a track that covers exactly that—a slightly shortened version of the orientation that we run in other nations.
While the Truth Centered Transformation (TCT) program is primarily designed for rural churches in the majority world, the transformational principles that undergird the program are universal. Those principles, what we call the Framework for Transformation, can apply to any program anywhere. Our track at the IWMC will focus on some of the elements of this framework, as well as giving practical “how to” information for getting started with TCT in the majority world.
Just a couple of days ago I had the honor of sitting down with some brothers from South Sudan while they shared about their nation. One of the stories that still haunts me is of how soldiers are renting out their weapons from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. so that people can go looting. The soldiers haven’t been paid for five to six months and are literally starving, so the offer of a month’s salary just for renting out their weapon is hard to resist. Even if money makes it into the system it is taken by corrupt generals and officers, thus making the soldiers even angrier and more likely to make poor decisions. It’s a tragic scenario that leaves me asking myself what hope there is for the world. I think many of us are feeling that way right now.
Last week we held the TCT East Africa Forum. We had 32 participants from seven countries. I shared about how against all odds, God turned up through the TCT program and communities moved out of poverty. On paper there was no hope. The work was illegal (the government didn’t allow church training). I wasn’t exactly what the church was looking for—young, white and female. Everyone said it was foolish and wouldn’t work. In fact even I didn’t believe it would. But it did. Because of God.
Poverty is complex. How we address poverty is tricky. To wildly over-simplify things, we can think of poverty in two categories:
- generational poverty—poverty that you see around much of the majority world; poverty that you are born into and never seem to get out of, and
- situational poverty—poverty that comes from an outside event, like a natural disaster or a health crisis.
The causes of each are different and so, naturally, the solutions are different. For now we will just look at the first—generational poverty.
Imagine a poor rural village in the majority world. What do you think are the best ways to help them? For years I would have said give resources and train them in the basic life skills that they are missing. Today I would argue that one of the most important things that we can do to address poverty is pray. Why? Well there are a few reasons.
Christmas is approaching. It’s a season when Christians all over the world love to share about their faith. Unfortunately, that also means that it’s a time when persecution increases.
I live in what is labelled a ‘closed’ or ‘creative access’ country. Basically that means the church here faces persecution, and while it’s definitely not as bad as it once was, it’s been a constant theme for me for the past 20 years. People are chased by the police, forced to hide or disguise themselves. People are beaten, their homes and fields are burnt, their families reject them, and they are thrown out of their villages. These are real, painful things. I know what it means to be scared, and I certainly don’t want to minimize it. Thinking back on some of my own experiences still makes me shudder. BUT, it’s not the whole story. Those snapshots are true. But I think too often we don’t tell the whole story, so we end up painting a picture of persecution that leaves God out.
Here are a few more snapshots of persecution.
It’s #GivingTuesday, the day when we all plead with you to send us any spare pennies that remain after the joys of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We’re changing it up a bit this year, though. We aren’t asking for your pennies, but rather something that probably feels even more scarce to you—your time. But before you click off to read something else, let me at least say—we’re just looking for you to commit an hour a month for the next 12 months—that’s all. You can breathe easier now.
Wow, phew, it’s been quite the month so far. The USA is still reeling from elections and New Zealand (my home country) was rocked by earthquakes. India, where I have a number of friends and we have lots of partners, fell into confusion when the government suddenly banned 80 percent of the paper money in circulation. For me personally, someone I knew passed on to heaven, and I had to jump into meetings when I really needed time to get my head around everything. All in all, the second week of November felt completely overwhelming.
When we are feeling exhausted, anxious, or off-balance, it’s important to focus on What is True. Here are a few grounding truths that I have learned in 20 years of working with the Church around the world:
In July I visited the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have a great team there, working on implementing the TCT program amongst more than 1000 churches. As I was leaving, they told me that I wouldn’t be able to come again until February, because from November to January they would be having riots. While one of the things that I admire about the Congolese is their fantastic strategic planning skills, I was slightly amused that they had already blocked calendar dates for a riot.
It turns out there are supposed to be elections in December but the current President (who has completed his maximum of two terms) is refusing to step down or organize elections. As a result, people are expecting violence. As we drove through the city to the airport, our leaders pointed out areas where there were likely to be lives lost. It was a strange and sobering reality.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b
Here in the wonderful world of Reconciled World we are getting more focused on prayer. As we arrive at the grand age of three years old, we have learned a few things. For one, the incredible importance of prayer and how much we need you (yes YOU, reader), and your church and friends to join us in praying.
As Nam shared last week, the gospel is a partnership. It’s not something one person, even the apostle Paul, can do alone. It takes the whole body of Christ. We are designed for unity. We need people to do the hard work of praying.
There are two key reasons why we need your prayers: