We’ve made it to part four of the book. I, for one, am completely thrilled that Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett added this section. If you only have the first edition then it’s worth getting the second edition to get this section. Chapter 10 is on how people change. I first learnt these ideas through Steve Corbett back in the mid 90s and they shaped the way that we developed our programs.
One part of it is principle 3 – Look for early, recognisable success. Or as I would say, small, quick wins. It’s the backbone of our TCT program. Our very first training for poor, rural churches includes challenging them to do Acts of Love – small actions to show God’s love to their communities. It may be something as simple as helping in the field of someone who is sick, repairing a dirt road, cleaning the water system, picking up litter.
The people that we work with live in shacks (and that’s being polite). They have no food for three months a year. Their children rarely attend school past grade four, and commonly die of preventable illnesses. And they have no hope that the future will be different. Spending the first 18 months challenging these churches and communities to do Acts of Love seems a little silly in the face of all these problems. But in reality it’s super powerful.
Here’s some reasons why small, quick wins are so powerful:
1. It changes their whole identity.
I know it seems a little dramatic but it’s true. They see themselves completely differently. Instead of feeling like they are the poorest of the poor, unable to do anything for themselves, waiting for someone to turn up to rescue them and believing that the future can not be changed. They start to see that they can do something that has an impact. They are not helpless. If there is a hole in the road, they can fix it. And when they do, the hole is fixed. No longer are they left waiting for someone else. They can identify a problem and solve it. They can take control of things. And as they do, things change. It starts a glimmer of hope that the future itself could be different.
2. It has positive results.
Whilst many of the things they do are simple, they have a result. If you fix the water system, you have water. If you plant a field for a widow, she and her children eat that year. If you build a roof, a family stays dry and safe. All result in a decrease in illness, which both saves lives and allows people to work more. It’s relatively simplistic but each of these changes makes a difference to the families it impacts. Do enough of these small actions and you start to see significant change in a community.
3. It changes their relationships.
Many of the areas where we first started the program were hostile to Christianity. Christians were seen as dangerous, believing a foreign religion that was going to cause the whole community to suffer under the punishment of the spirits. Christians were largely isolated, keeping to themselves and trying to avoid problems.
Acts of Love changes that. As the church goes out and serves in their community, people start to change their attitude towards Christians. In almost all areas the people in both the community and government recognise that the Christian God is powerful and Christians are good. They begin to appreciate the Christian influence in their area. Instead of trying to stamp out Christianity, we’ve seen local officials trying to promote it in areas with no Christians.
4. God multiplies.
The Acts of love themselves results in changes. Then God often surprises us by multiplying these small efforts. Here’s a story of what this can look like.
In one family the wife became very ill. The family sought all types of medical help from traditional medicine to western medicine; they even went to the witch doctor, but nothing worked. One day they met two evangelists from a neighboring community who had been studying the TCT program. They prayed for the woman and God healed her! The family was amazed, and they all accepted Christ as their Savior.
The community where this family lived was very hostile toward Christianity and suspicious of outsiders. Every time they saw a stranger they would report it to the police or try to scare the person away with knives. A few evangelists had been arrested because of them. When the villagers discovered that this family had become Christians, they were not willing to associate with them any more. At harvest time things became very difficult for the family – no one was willing to come and work with them on their land to help them get the harvest completed.
At that time, the church who had sent the evangelists were trying to decide what to do for an Act of Love – they had seen such radical transformation in their own community that they couldn’t see any needs that they could address. When they heard about the situation with the new Christian family in the neighboring village, they decided to reach out to them to show them God’s love. Twenty people came together to help harvest the field, and they were able to complete the work in one day.
When the people in the village saw strangers coming to help this family, they were amazed. They commented, “Christians have real love! Why would these people come to help even though they are not relatives and are from a different community? We want to know this type of love.” As a result, 17 of the 20 families in this village accepted Christ over the next two months. Praise God that through this small Act of Love, a non-believing anti-Christian community became followers of Christ!
You can find more stories of the way small Acts of Love can bring dramatic change here.
Small acts are powerful. They start the momentum of change. What would a small win look like in a situation you are trying to help with?