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.
Recently, we had friends visiting our place and we had good conversations about ministry and life in general. Somehow the topic of loving your neighbor came up, and one of them said that this is one principle he struggles putting into practice the most. I appreciate that he admitted it publicly and, even though I teach this idea everywhere, I have to say that this is also my struggle.
We define ‘our neighbor’ in different ways, but in general, we agree that they are people we encounter everyday, acquaintances and strangers. Interestingly, in the ‘Sermons on the Mount’ Jesus raised this truth to the next level. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’” (Matthew 5:43).
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?
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.
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).
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.
Last week, Anna blogged about the complexity of generational poverty and the need for prayer. The truth is, we see Him answer these prayers every day. We are so excited about what God is doing amongst those who are experiencing poverty—bringing transformation in their thinking and causing them to flourish. We just finished up our first ever TCT East Africa Forum, with 31 pastors and denominational leaders. So I’m sure that, in the coming year, we’ll be sharing lots of stories of God’s power and faithfulness from that group of dynamic men of God!
Here are a couple of “Praise God” stories from TCT-partner churches in Uganda…
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.
Have you ever come across a person whose name seems to fit them perfectly? Take for example the Olympic gold medalist and fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt. Isn’t “Bolt” the perfect name for him?
Live long and you will notice that the examples are bountiful.
- Race car driver Scott Speed
- Singer Bill Medley
- TV gardener Bob Flowerdew
- Meteorologist Sarah Blizzard
Their names just seem to fit their characteristics perfectly!
Your name is a marker. Sometimes it ironically reflects your talent or job like those mentioned above while other times it simply marks your identity to a family—who you are and whose you are. Either way your name is significant and you will carry it with you for your lifetime.
The following post comes from a guest writer. Nikki was one of the American participants of the 2016 International Artist Residency put on by The Create Commission. This is an annual three-week-long event where local and international artists are invited to Delhi to live together and work around a chosen theme. The days include discussions facilitated by the resident mentor; presentation of each artist’s past work with feedback and critique from peers; chai time (a very important social affair); and lots of free time to work, create, interact, reflect, talk, listen, teach, ask, learn, encourage, and build up. The group also got a chance to go to a couple art shows, to engage with alumni participants, to visit a local artist’s studio, and to dive into the vibrancy of the city. The culmination of the residency is an exhibition of the created works, which was an engaging, moving, and delightful event. Each year the participants describe their experience as deeply meaningful and the community as a family. All of them have very personal and unique stories of the ways the residency has shaped them. Here’s Nikki’s:
Matthew 17:20 New International Version (NIV)
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Small, by definition, means of limited size, not great in amount, degree, or value. Challenged with the task of meditating on the word small as a theme for the artist residency this year, I found myself thinking why small?