Written and edited by: Jojo Poon
I enjoy hearing stories and sharing of different development workers very much. If we put their sharing together, then we would get a complete picture of God’s purposes for the poor and the world. For this issue’s “Taking Action”, we invited CEDAR’s staff from different eras to share about their learnings and experiences along the way to put together a blueprint for CEDAR.
“We were in Gansu’s Hui village working on the project… When we conducted home visits, we would ask: ‘Is anyone home?’, and if there were only women in the house, they would answered: ‘No!’” shares Alice, who served in Gansu, China. “We spent half a year to build relationship with the locals. After we have gain trust from the village ladies, they said they would like to raise chickens… As a result, children had eggs for meals, the families’ income increased, and women were recognised.” Alice believes that community development is to enable the struggling poor to uncover their God-given potentials, break free from worldly chains, just like the Hui women she encountered in Gansu.
Rebecca, who spent four years monitoring African projects, shares what she learned about development work, “We often came across results that are different from our expectations…We had implemented a development programme in a village for over a decade. Though we couldn’t see any much differences from our perspective, the little grocery stores made of mud were actually important achievements by the villagers, after forming self-help groups, setting up small loans, and learning to run businesses.” Rebecca stresses, “We need to look at development from the perspective of the locals and recognise their struggles and needs.”
Bonnie and our former colleague Cee Foong had been serving at CEDAR for over 20 years. Although they worked in the supporting role at the office, through sharing and stories brought back by programme colleagues, they witnessed the beauty of development. “We often find God’s light in the lives of the beneficiaries,” Bonnie shares, “Their stories are ever encouraging—they are the living testimonies of God’s miraculous work.” Cee Foong was very impressed by the concerted and committed effort community members put in responding to the needs of their communities, a difference both Bonnie and her saw when comparing to traditional charitable acts. Grace, who previously worked in the field, explains that development work is not just all home visits and distribution of material aid, but helping the poor to learn about their rights and helping them to actively participate in changing their lives.
“How does development relate to missionary work?” This is a question we are often asked. Our programme colleague, Fountain, says, “In John 20, it says: As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. This is The Mission. How the Father has sent the Son to live among the poor, full of grace and truth. The Son also sends us, the Church, to live among the poor, bringing transformation. This is development.”