For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. – Colossians 1:19-20
I feel privileged to serve as a Global Mission Fellow with the GBGM Community Health and Agriculture Development (CHAD) program in Cambodia. This program made me realize the underlying causes of human suffering or poverty around the world. But most importantly I am grateful for realizing my purpose and for understanding the role of the Church and community in order to alleviate human suffering. A good model of development is when we make a deliberate effort to reconcile broken relationships that were initially created to exist in intimacy. This deliberate effort must be biblically based, not something that hurts the poor or yourself.
Cambodia is a country popular for its tourism, amongst other things. The most popular tourist attraction is the Angkor Wat where you would meet a lot of people from different countries. As visitors come to the entrance point they notice a number of children selling books, artifacts, or clothes for tourists. These children are mostly school going age. The question is, “Would you buy anything from these beautiful, innocent kids?” The capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, also reminds me of my home city, Harare. In these two cities I have witnessed a lot of street children begging for money from strangers. The question is, “Would you give them money if they ask you?” Tourist guides normally discourage people buying things from little children. Their reason is – Don’t give kids a reason to run away from school.
According to what I have learnt from CHAD,* the primary cause of poverty is having relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, and that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meaning. In other words we are all poor in one way or the other. We have broken relationships with God, the community, the environment, and ourselves. When we want to make a difference and help others it is also important for us to realize that we are all broken in the sight of God but most importantly that we can lift each other up. As the church we have a responsibility to reconcile these broken relationships.
In CHAD we have initiatives that promote group savings through our health and agriculture programs. These groups are from the church and community. We train local farmers and our partners with skills to increase productivity on their farms. We realize that there are broken systems that have prejudiced the farmer. Our ultimate goal is to reconcile and restore broken relationships. I would suggest that next time when you meet a street child asking for money, ask yourself or even the child why he or she is on the streets in the first place. This work is not easy and sometimes it feels intimidating but if we are paying attention and dare to care, there is more we can do for ourselves and the people.
*courtesy of the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. It is one of the resources that we use at CHAD when planning and implementing our biblically based approaches.
GMF International, Class of 2016-2018
Community Health and Agricultural Development program (CHAD)