Beliefs can be powerful. They impact the way that we live, interact with others and see the future. For the students at the Wholistic Development Center (WDC), one of the most common and oppressive misbeliefs is that they have no value. They see themselves as the lowest people in society and believe that they cannot make a difference. They have plenty of life experience to back up this life-stealing belief. Most come from difficult family situations. Many are orphans. Some have illnesses that have affected their appearance.
For many even after two years of school they still struggle to understand the potential that they have. The lies that they have lived with for most of their lives are hard to break. As part of an ongoing program to see the graduating students become nations changers we recently ran a training for staff and past students. (In reality most of the staff are past students).
Glimpses of God are everywhere – in the small actions of churches loving neighbors, speaking out against violence, loving the differently abled. They appear in amazing acts of culture change when one lesson changes the way that a community looks at women. They are also in the stunning miracles that we hear where God turned up and did something that none of us can explain. Sometimes, it is just in the compassion and love that is shared by some of our team.
Last month I visited our Wholistic Development Center (WDC), a vocational and discipleship school. It’s lead by an amazing couple who are models of Christ’s love expressed in everyday life. I can’t name them because they work in a country closed to Christians and I don’t want to be responsible for causing them to lose their visa. It’s probably just as well, they aren’t the type that like being boasted on. For ease of writing I am going to give them the names Joe and Susie.
I remember when I first walked into the doors of the Wholistic Development Center (WDC). It was filled with energy and joy. The students were working on a project and while doing so were smiling, laughing and rapidly talking back and forth to each other. I had no idea what they were doing, but it must have been fun, and the joy was evident. In a nation where fatalism, persecution and poverty is widespread to find a place where young men and women are able to gather, learn a trade and study the Bible is amazing. The WDC is a bright light that shines with God’s love.
Our Wholistic Development Center (WDC) is welcoming a new group of incoming students this month. Every two years, WDC selects twenty-eight young adults to live together on campus, study a vocation and commit to an intensive truth-centered discipleship course. These students often arrive with little education and little knowledge of God. Some come from areas where there are no Christians. Many make the decision to follow Christ while at WDC.
We spent several months this year visiting and interviewing alumni to find out how their time at WDC impacted them and what they are doing now. Here are a few of their stories. As you read them, we hope that you will pray for each of these graduates and for the class of incoming students.
Sitting down with the directors of the Wholistic Development Center (WDC) I could quickly see the passion they have for discipling the staff and students they work with. In the past six months they have seen a lot of growth in the students lives and are so excited to see them continue to grow and become truly on fire for God.
One student in particular has been a real inspiration to them. In January, Anna wrote about this young man, John. He didn’t get to go home at Christmas time for fear that his uncle would burn his house to the ground because of his new faith in God. This summer however, John did go home. Throughout the summer he lived his life in a manner that glorified God despite the harassment that he faced from elders in his community and the local authorities. He was an inspiration to others in the area, and the church has grown fivefold in that area due to his faith, and the testimony of other WDC students in the area. John returned to WDC this semester truly on fire for God. He is ready to serve and love those around him and has become a strong voice of faith at the center.
Six ethnic groups. Four countries. The Wholistic Development Center (WDC) is full of diversity. Any day on campus you can hear conversations in a variety of languages. All of this diversity leads to amazing opportunities for cross-cultural evangelism while also creating some unique challenges.
When students arrive at WDC they come from an array of cultural backgrounds. Some come from Christian homes and others have grown up in villages that are largely animistic and can be very hostile towards outside religions. Then there are the staff. Many of the staff come from backgrounds similar to the students, but some come from completely different contexts having grown up in Europe and North America.
As we focus on the topic of vulnerable children this month, my thoughts turn to the ministry of the Wholistic Development Center (WDC). Students at WDC come from a variety of backgrounds, with many of the same struggles faced by vulnerable teens in the U.S.—broken homes, child abuse, drugs and alcohol, poverty, and spiritual hopelessness.
One student, Sonya, arrived at the center from an especially challenging background. She is the daughter of a shaman (witch doctor) and spent her life in a village obsessed with the spirit world. It is a village where all daily activities revolve around the spirits. When someone enters or leaves the village, when they rise in the morning, and how animals behave all center around their beliefs about the spiritual world. It is a community heavily entrenched in spiritual warfare and resistance to the gospel.
This year, we accepted four students at the school who are from the same ethnic minority area where there are no known Christians. This area is a stronghold of animism and is resistant to the Gospel and even to development assistance. Animism holds the people in fear of so many things. There are certain dates when they believe they can’t leave their village or something bad will happen to them. They fear and respect shamans—witch doctors—who are in touch with the spirits and can both heal and curse. Fear even drives them to kill their own babies if they happen to have twins, as they believe twins are a sign of strong evil.
On September 5, 2013, all four students accepted Christ.
Zhi’s parents died when he was young, leaving only him and his younger brother. He has always taken care of his brother. Relatives have helped them, but for the most part they have been on their own. Zhi never got to be a kid. He dropped out of school after second grade. Coming to SDC is an opportunity to change the course of his life. God used a fellow student to begin to open Zhi’s heart to Him. This fellow student laid hands on Zhi and prayed for him, and his headache went away.
Cheng’s family has been drawn toward Christ for some time, but they fear retaliation from their village. Now that Cheng has taken this step of faith, he believes that his whole family will accept him (many young people feel they must choose between family and Christ) and will become Christians themselves.
Zhen and Min are very young—only fifteen and sixteen years old. We weren’t going to accept them at the school because of their ages, but the missionary who sent them said their fathers were going to marry them off. So what could we do? They are typical fifteen-year-olds—GIGGLY! But behind their childlike exuberance and silliness, there is a dark reality. Both of their fathers are witch doctors. Both of these young girls have many questions about what believing in Christ will mean for them and how their families will respond. Please pray for them as they embrace Christ. We have asked two spiritually-mature students to come alongside them, speak into their lives, and lead them in studying the Bible.