In When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert writes, “Development is not done to people or for people, but with people.” He talks a lot about savings groups as an example of good “with” type development. Our friends John and Kate Marsden at Mustard Seeds Shared established one of our favorite savings group programs in the known universe 🙂 So we asked John to share from their experiences doing development with people in Bangladesh.
My legs were growing stiff from sitting cross legged on a mat in the shade of a mango tree. Sweat trickled down my back from the sticky heat of a South Asian summer. I was sitting in a circle with fifteen Bangladeshi village women who had been conducting their weekly savings group meeting for the last hour. They’d worked through their agenda, finishing a lesson on how to keep their family healthy and depositing their ten taka weekly savings (that’s about US 12 cents).
God is at work through the church. This video tells the story of an Act of Love from a community we work with in Asia. It’s an inspiring example of how their church is being obedient to God and loving their neighbors with joy.
TCT Act of Love – House building from Reconciled World on Vimeo.
This past month I’ve had one of those experiences where one name of God seemed to jump out at me from every direction – when I read my Bible, when our pastor talked on Sunday, when we sang worship songs, when I talked with friends, in blogs I read… sometimes 3-4 times a day…eventually I got the hint that God is wanting to show me something about Himself.
The Sovereign Lord.
I guess I have an issue with authority, control and trite, religious comments. Because I admit that I’ve actually avoided focusing on this attribute and name of God. It seems like people typically say, “God is Sovereign” when they can’t answer the question “why?” or when something bad happens. So, saying “God is Sovereign” felt like an excuse or a “disclaimer”. “God is Sovereign, so oh well” or, “He is in control, you just need more faith.” That doesn’t inspire hope, faith or trust…just resignation to God’s unknowable will and His whims to do whatever He pleases.
The church is able, anywhere and everywhere—even in the most seemingly-impossible places and circumstances!!
As I listen to Rahham’s director recall stories of life in the slums, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by all the hardship and suffering he shares. Stories of the devastation of alcoholism; widows of men taken by AIDS who are left behind with little children; unwanted baby girls; a man who was hit by a train the same night his wife gave birth to two stillborn babies; kids who barely have anything to eat; beggars who spend their lives on the streets. I take time to look into the eyes of each person in the pictures and try to feel the weight they are carrying, try to imagine what life must be like for them. All of this would be almost impossible for me to relate to, except that, living in Delhi, I see people like them day after day—people for whom life is a constant struggle. I see that they are real, that this kind of life is real.
Rahham has been reaching out to these most vulnerable communities with the message of hope. Hope that orphans, widows, scavengers, drug addicts, HIV-infected people, and the LGBTQ community are all welcome in the kingdom of God. A Hope that Christ cares for them—they are not forgotten, not excluded, not worthless and expendable. Rahham has started churches there in the slums, believing that the church is God’s chosen instrument for changing the world. Following the way Christ showed us will expose the lies that keep communities in darkness and sin. Walking in His footsteps will lead to healed, transformed, flourishing communities that in turn can bless those around.
This blog was originally posted in November 2014. We love it so much that we wanted to share it again!
What happens when you arrive at the movie theatre on time? You get the full picture.
Our ‘picture’ starts with Creation and the fact that Adam and Eve were given a task: to be fruitful, fill the earth, and make something of it. This Cultural Mandate is our job description, part of what it means to be human, part of God’s design for us which remains unchanged to this day. Somebody put it this way: “On the last day God created Adam, to pick up where He left off.”
“Your child has a disability”—words that probably no parent would ever like to hear. Being faced with this reality can fill parents with a sense of panic and deep grief at first and can bring with it the fear of the unknown, the difficulties, the struggles and the pain that people generally associate with the word disability.
Even though unofficial statistics in India tell us that 10% of the population has a disability of some kind or another, there is still little guidance here on what to do when one receives such a diagnosis. The devastation and emotional struggle seem even more intense when families do not know where to turn to for encouragement and practical help. As they grapple with this new reality, they often find little support and understanding from extended family members, neighbors, schools, and the larger community.
As a child, I used to spend many weekends and big chunks of my summer vacations at my grandparents’ house in a tiny village in Central Europe. One of their neighbors had a child like I’d never seen before. He couldn’t walk, he always sat in a stroller even though he was around my age, and his limbs looked kind of twisted. We rarely ever saw this family leave their house and there was always an air of secrecy surrounding them. My cousin and I used to peek through the fence to get a glimpse of the little boy soaking up some sun in the yard, mumbling to himself. The father was an alcoholic, and somehow everyone seemed to know the reason. Once they had a second child, the mother would bring her out to play with the other kids, but the boy was always left behind the fence. I remember feeling sad for him and wishing he could come out to join us.
I don’t remember seeing many special needs people in my environment growing up, and it is similar in India. The same sense of shame and secrecy seems to permeate people with disability here today. Society still has a long way to go to accept differently abled people as valuable human beings. According to many people’s opinions and beliefs, disability could be a curse on the family for something they have done or a result of karma, showing that the individual did something punishable in their previous life. This way of thinking leads people to blame the parents and the child, instead of offering help and support.
A small woman in her 50s, Atosi seems like she’s always been a firecracker. She has passionate opinions, a strong sense of determination, and warm, bright, expressive eyes. As I listen to her story, I imagine her as a little baby in a distant town of India, the youngest among four siblings, a daughter not planned. Her mother, one of the only working women in town, went back to her teaching job when Atosi was only 3 months old—a rare phenomenon. A helper, who was taking care of her during the day, kept stealing the milk set aside for little Atosi. The ache of unsatisfied appetite made her develop a habit of thumb sucking for years to come; a habit that brought her much shame and negative attention from her family and others around.
As a little girl, Atosi hated that her mother worked and often compared her with “normal” mothers who stayed at home to take care of their children. She was dead-set on getting married, becoming a housewife and mother, and never working outside the home. She dreamed of a quiet, simple life. But God, having a good sense of humor, made it so that Atosi’s older sisters were not married yet by the time she finished school. Since it would have been culturally inappropriate for her to get married before them, she had to get a job. Her plans for life were not working out as she had imagined.
Of all the different issues we could talk about as we focus on women this month, the one that keeps coming to my mind is the way we women think of ourselves and view other women. The abuse, oppression, objectification and devaluation of women is a priority topic here in India, and most of the time we think about how society in general or specifically men relate to women this way, which, of course, is extremely important. But as I was listening to stories upon stories from the Ending Gendercide team members, the idea that women work against each other kept jumping out at me.
Why is that? Why do we keep undermining each other? Why do we want others to suffer what we have suffered? Why do the different choices or success of other women make us feel threatened and less? Why do women tend to tear each other down instead of building each other up?
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)
When we hear of God as our Shepherd, the very common passage, Psalm 23:1, comes to mind. It is so common…we hear this verse or the reference of it in our homes and at Sunday School, and we see the imagery of it depicted in different forms. Regardless of it being a very common verse, I urge you to ponder and take a deeper look at God our Shepherd—Jehovah Rohi.
David wrote Psalm 23 based on his reflections and experiences as a shepherd. He realized that was exactly the relationship God had with him. The Amplified version reads, ‘The LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me], I shall not want.’ (Psalm 23:1).