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.
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…
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:
There’s a funny saying we pass around at our office: “People build bridges.” When we face an obstacle that seems too big, a challenge too overwhelming, “people build bridges” reminds us that people are capable of extraordinary things . . .
But we always meant it as a metaphor.
Then this summer, I met some folks who really do build bridges—and no, they’re not engineers, not construction crews, and they don’t have dump-trucks and cranes. Rather, they’re rural farmers, everyday people facing tremendous obstacles, from persecuted churches in impoverished villages.
And their work has made a tremendous impact.
Chittoor is one of the most important districts located in the state of Andhra Pradesh. According to the Indian government census, most of the families live below the poverty line. Poverty in Chittoor district affects most areas of an individual’s life—lack of employment, low income generation and food shortages. This district is one of the most unreached districts, with only 0.8% Christians. This is one of the areas where Operation Saturation has begun the TCT program.
Kanthamma is one individual who was touched by the love of Jesus, portrayed through the church. She comes from a poverty-stricken family. She worshipped 33 million gods and a village deity. In 2006 she was married and then was blessed with two sons, but her dreams were quickly shattered. Her husband was addicted to alcohol, drugs and smoking, dragging the family into poverty. She was physically abused. Her children’s education suffered because she could not send them to school. Kanthamma was very depressed with her life and lost all hope for her future. Just as she felt it couldn’t get worse, her husband passed away as a result of years of excessive drinking. According to the beliefs of the community, widows are bad omens. They are looked down upon and are not respected by anyone in the community, even their own family.
When we think about community transformation in developing countries, what comes to mind is often NGOs, CBOs, INGOs and government work. This belief is strongly rooted in the Christian community as well. In countries like Nepal, India and Bangladesh, where Christianity is considered a minority group, we don’t have much significant influence with our community. We are heavily influenced by the idea that spiritual ministry only reaches as far as the four corners of the church building.
When we introduce TCT to church pastors and leaders, they often think we (RW) are bringing some kind of community transformation program. As they go through our training, they are surprised that we will not provide any money for doing community projects (what we call Acts of Love).