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So Detroit May Flourish | by Jonathan A. Moody

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“Detroit Makes You Sick.”  That is the cover story of the April 8, 2016 edition of Newsweek.  The article that follows states that much of the Motor City region is plagued by unhealthy water and polluted air. “It’s not just Flint. People all over the Motor City are being poisoned while officials look away.”

The current news frenzy only adds to nearly a decade of the media’s “love to hate” relationship with Motown.  By now, most are familiar with the stories: bankruptcy, corruption, crime and the intractable decay of a once powerful American metropolis. However, this is far from a complete portrayal of contemporary Detroit and gives no inkling of what its citizens actually have to offer.

God did not create cities or nations or the U.N. He made individual people, formed in His image, joined into families and called to flourish – to be fruitful and multiply.  The media perspective ignores the simple truth that Metro Detroit is home to 5.3 Million individuals.  Each and every one of them possesses dignity and amazing creative capacity.  When seen from that vantage, no challenge is too big.

My recent conversation with Detroit based Pastor Aaron Richardson, who leads both the Evangel Ministries’ Economic Restoration Group (E.M.E.R.G) and the Urban Enterprise Project (UEP) provided more than ample proof that Detroit can rise again.

Over the course of our conversation he pointed out that one harmful and inaccurate assumption is, “there’s no opportunity in Detroit.”  However, he, and many other pastors, business leaders and active citizens reject that notion out of hand.  And, they are working tireless to prove the negative guesswork wrong.

Informed by Christian tradition, these groups embody the principle of subsidiarity – the idea that social and economic problems should be solved by those closest to them. They eschew the dangers of institutional, detached and distant bureaucratic assistance, which inevitably breaks down the community bonds that best maintain transparency and accountability. Instead, they promote community based voluntary associations that play a key role in lasting economic and social development.

It’s working. I recently sat in on UEP’s Lion’s Den Business Pitch Competition. Four entrepreneurs competed for a top prize of $10,000. This project started with a group of 10 Pastors throughout the city who went through an intensive training program that equipped them to identify and cultivate entrepreneurs and business leaders in their church communities.  This is only the beginning for them.  They’ll host an employment conference in August 2016 and have every intention of growing from there.

Pastor Richardson also pointed out the striking correlation in the significant downturn in the number of Churches and the failure of the city to thrive economically. Over a 10-year period 50% percent of the churches closed! He credits this decrease to multiple factors – all of which their ministry, think tank, and network of pastors and business leaders are working hard to address.  For Pastor Richardson, the connection is clear.  As the community of God falters, so falters the community at large.  They realize that transformation that endures does not result from a “quick fix” mindset. He points out that, “One of the biggest problems is the unwillingness to stay the course.”

That is precisely why he founded The Urban Enterprise Project.  The UEP is a think tank focused on efficacious, intentional, community based development in Metro Detroit.  Simply put, connect ideas to actions that work!  They promote human flourishing through the integration of faith, work and sound economic principles. They recognize the local church has a key role to play.  They also acknowledge the need to involve leaders from other arenas.  As a result they’ve built strong partnerships that include business coaches, mentors, venture capital investors, and a host of other civic connections.

Their approach is tailored to the specific needs of Detroit’s diverse population pockets. Pastor Richardson describes is best, “We’ll leverage whatever the assets are in that specific community so there’s not cannibalization on this cookie cutter approach.  Every community has its own special, unique assets.”

When asked about the top challenge to their work, Pastor Richardson responded,

“The sentiment of the people is they want to thrive but there are philosophical barriers when it comes to race, and when it comes to education, and when it comes to what is called the ‘shadow economy’ (economic and business activity done outside of legal structures due to significant barriers).”  Therefore, they encourage others throughout the city to focus on more than economic development. The goal is to remove barriers that block any part of an individual’s life – spirit, soul, body, socially or financially.

The task may be daunting, but the case for hope is greater than the case against it.  As Pastor Richardson points out, “Since 2011 up to 2015, there has been a massive effort of people coming together to love on the city of Detroit in special ways… Our asset is people.”

Detroit has a bright future. But, where challenges exist, I’m confident that there are local solutions that can catalyze lasting change.  To quote Pastor Richardson one more time, “People need to know that Detroit has what it takes to be a thriving, world-class city, just as much as any other… There’s hope in this city.”

It inspires me to see the body of Christ in Detroit reach far beyond the Church walls with a holistic view of what the Gospel has to offer.  I am confident that there is a cover story in Detroit’s future that reads “Detroit Makes You Flourish.”

JonathanandFam

Jonathan A. Moody is the Managing Director of PovertyCure, an Acton Institute Initiative.  

From the Margins to the Center: Being With the Poor Who Are With You Always | by Dan Hugger

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“The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.” – Mark 14:7 (NABRE)

Poverty is deeply disturbing. We see others who lack, others in need, and we feel that in a better world this wouldn’t be so. Christ points out, as is his habit, an uncomfortable truth. The poor will always be with us and, by extension, that poverty is an insoluble problem. Judas, as was his wont, was not pleased.

Poverty is an insoluble problem because it is a human problem, a social problem, and, as with all social problems, the result of our individual and collective ignorance, neglect, and sin:

Well this side of Paradise! … There’s little comfort in the wise.

In The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith puts his finger on the fundamentally social nature of the problem of human need which is made of, “not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without.”

Many economists attempt to distinguish absolute and relative poverty and this has merit in some contexts (e.g. tracking the effects of public and private reform initiatives), but our concern for the poor is not abstract and strictly material but concrete and relational. As St. John Paul II in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis explains,

We should add here that in today’s world there are many other forms of poverty. The denial or the limitation of human rights as, for example, the right to religious freedom, the right to share in the building of society, the freedom to organize and to form unions, or to take initiatives in economic matters do these not impoverish the human person as much as, if not more than, the deprivation of material goods? And is development which does not take into account the full affirmation of these rights really development on the human level?

Poverty means existing on the margins of a community be it in economic, educational, ethnic, familial, national, or religious spheres. And just as there must always be a center to society so must there be margins. Civilization itself produces its discontents. The poor are with us always. Economic development can, has, and will continue to occur when and where the habits, institutions, and traditions of free societies put down roots but there will be many for whom higher standards of living come more slowly and gradually than those at the centers of development.

This is why the preferential option for the poor is needed. It centers our concern on the human person irrespective of privilege. As Christ tells us:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” (Luke 6:20b NABRE)

This is why Pope Francis tells us in Evangelii gaudium:

Our commitment does not consist exclusively in activities or programmes of promotion and assistance; what the Holy Spirit mobilizes is not an unruly activism, but above all an attentiveness which considers the other “in a certain sense as one with ourselves”. This loving attentiveness is the beginning of a true concern for their person which inspires me effectively to seek their good. This entails appreciating the poor in their goodness, in their experience of life, in their culture, and in their ways of living the faith.

The poor are not a problem to be solved but persons to whom we are called to solidarity. And if this is true of the poor what does this mean for poverty? First, it means that poverty does not compromise the dignity of persons and should not be the measure of men and women. Pope Leo XIII in Rerum novarum rightly observed,

True dignity and excellence in men resides in moral living, that is, in virtue; virtue is the common inheritance of man, attainable equally by the humblest and the mightiest, by the rich and the poor…

Second, it means poverty is best addressed not by planned programs of assistance and development but by breaking down barriers between marginalized groups and peoples and opportunities for personal and social development; shrinking the distance from the margins to the center. St. John Paul II provides both a cautionary tale and an excellent example in Centesimus Annus:

The fact is that many people, perhaps the majority today, do not have the means which would enable them to take their place in an effective and humanly dignified way within a productive system in which work is truly central… Even in recent years it was thought that the poorest countries would develop by isolating themselves from the world market and by depending only on their own resources. Recent experience has shown that countries which did this have suffered stagnation and recession, while the countries which experienced development were those which succeeded in taking part in the general interrelated economic activities at the international level.

The poor may always be with us and poverty may be an insoluble problem but, “whenever we wish we can do good to them” by attentiveness to and solidarity with their struggles. From that place we can seek their good by doing what we can to bring them towards the center of our social and economic lives. Encounter by encounter. Likewise, we can examine our institutions to remove obstacles we’ve erected intentionally or accidentally which keep people at the margins of our society, and bring many closer to the center of our society.

Dan Hugger

Dan Hugger is head librarian at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty

Three Reasons to Stop Focusing on Children | by Peter Greer

 

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Examine the marketing materials for most aid organizations, and you’ll notice that children are prominently featured in everything from clean water to refugee resettlement. Sometimes they’re depicted as desperate, wide-eyed, malnourished, dirty and alone. Other times, images portray children flashing wide grins, full of energy and unbridled hope for the future. The innocence of youth is compelling.

Children are incredibly precious, significant, and special. Everyone knows this. Why in the world would I be encouraging us to consider decreasing our emphasis on them?

Before you call me a Grinch and accuse me of possessing a “heart that’s two sizes too small,” here’s why I think it would actually be in the best interest of children if we stopped exclusively focusing our aid efforts on them:

1.     It masks the fact that not all children in poverty are orphans.

Overly simplistic images of children by themselves and out of the context of their surroundings perpetuate a pervasive, damaging picture of poverty that tells us that around the world that all children in poverty are orphans. In truth, the vast majority have a living relative. The Better Care Network points to studies in Cambodia, for example, revealing that 75% of children living in orphanages are not actually orphans but have one or more biological parents still living. And even more have living extended family members.

2.     It can put children at greater risk.

When an organization, particularly a residential care institution, focuses exclusively on providing for children, over-extended parents are more likely to send their children away, assuming that their sons and daughters will have better access to care and opportunities at an institution, rather than in their family’s home. Parents are trying to do what’s best for their children. But studies show a disturbing trend: children in these situations become more, not less, vulnerable. The trauma of being separated from their families and the impersonal attention that they may receive at an institution can make them more likely to experience developmental delays, difficulty forming attachments, exploitation, and abuse.

3.     It can undermine families.

For deep, lasting change to occur, transformation must be experienced not only by children, but by their whole families. I’ve witnessed the gut wrenching reality that when children are returned to families who have not received the support and care that they need as caregivers, children can end up in the same cyclical, heartbreaking situation. For every heartwarming picture that you’ve seen of little hands eagerly holding donated gifts and treats, there’s a second picture that you’re not seeing: their family.

Might it be that by focusing on children we are undermining the role of their family? Why are parents invisible and often forgotten? Perhaps it’s because giving a few toys to a child is far easier than walking alongside a parent who wants to start and grow a small business or become free from addiction. Perhaps it’s because we assume culpability of parents for their situation. Whatever the reason, loving children demands an equal measure of love for the family around them, no matter how difficult it might be.

Please understand me. I am all for helping children! I simply believe that focusing exclusively on children to the exclusion of their families often proves to be less helpful, and possibly even damaging, in the long run.

Let’s seek out organizations and strategic approaches that focus on empowering men and women to provide for themselves and their families. When the family flourishes, children grow up with strength and hope for the future.

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For more, check out When Helping Hurts, The Poor Will Be Glad, or download the free e-book, Stop Helping Us!

 

Peter Greer serves as President and CEO of HOPE International and blogs at peterkgreer.com.

Leading with a Servant Heart and God-Given Call to Business | by Bob Vryhof

Elizabeth_InPostCorruption and violence continue as major obstacles for local job creators in Honduras, and yes, this can often make “success” a lofty goal. However, in the midst of this, the nation—from the bottom to the top—is going through a unique time that inspires much hope.

Two institutions have woven themselves into the fabric of the Honduran communities they serve – MCM and Diaconia Nacional (DN). They serve their communities in various ways, ranging from education, health, church growth and business development. Over the last decade, Partners Worldwide’s partnerships with these two institutions have impacted thousands of small businesses. Supported by their North American partner team – the Honduran Pella Affiliate – they provide access to capital and business skills training in some of the most marginalized urban communities in the country.

Each of these partnerships is essential to fostering prosperous economic environments for all. On their own, they are powerful, but together—as a network – they are life giving. When small business owners can access tools and networks that are normally out of reach, they are able to thrive and bring economic prosperity to their own communities.

Elizabeth is an inspirational example of how access to these tools opens the doors to thriving businesses in unexpected places.

Elizabeth was raised in an orphanage, but her God-given call to business, service, and leadership was evident from an early age. It was during her time as an intern for DN in 2006 that she first developed a heart for serving and helping small businesses grow. Soon after, DN helped Elizabeth open her own business – a souvenir shop in an abandoned building in a touristic site in Honduras – with a US $50 loan!

She bought a small inventory of hammocks, clay decorations, and other souvenirs targeted at tourists. Under her careful management, the business prospered and a few years later, she opened a mini market in a rented building, serving a small neighborhood in the capital city of Tegucigalpa.

Over the years, Elizabeth accessed various loans as well as business training and mentoring through DN. Partners Worldwide has also provided constant encouragement, mentoring, training, and prayer. All-the-while, Elizabeth has mentored and trained countless emerging entrepreneurs in her community. Her life has inspired people far and wide, and she has even received multiple awards as a member of our global network.

Driven by her entrepreneurial spirit and her vision for prosperous communities all over Honduras, Elizabeth continues to innovate. Her newest business ventures include apartments for rent and a tortilla business right next to her mini market. However, even with multiple ventures in hand, she has learned to be a wise steward of the resources God has given her.  Her first business – the souvenir shop – continues to thrive. She has come a long way since her initial $50 loan nine years ago. Following her dream, her mini market now operates on a piece of land just across the street from the original location that she purchased three years ago.

Elizabeth’s use of the entrepreneurial tools at her disposal also shows the maturity of her leadership as a businesswoman – not only has she maintained a stellar repayment rate on all her loans, but today she uses debt largely to finance infrastructure and capital improvements as opposed to the inventory she purchased with that first loan.

So now, Tegucigalpa has one more dynamic business leader that recognizes her role in God’s kingdom as called to business. A businesswoman who employs numerous people in multiple businesses with a servant heart deeply committed to blessing the community and people around her.

 

This article is from the Partners Worldwide blog and written by Bob Vryhof, the Latin America Regional Facilitator.

 

 

5 Actions after your Missions Trip | By Peter Greer

673 resizedOn my recent flight back from Haiti, the plane was full of short-term trippers. It was the matching t-shirts and sunburned skin that gave them away (no judgement from me… my skin color matched theirs, and I’ve worn my share of matching t-shirts).

I wasn’t trying to be nosy, but I overheard one enthusiastic high school-er comment, “I’ll never be the same.” And I sincerely hope she’s right.

Like few other experiences, short-term trips have the potential to help us see our own materialism, grow in our appreciation for other cultures, form paradigm-shifting friendships, and experience the Gospel outside of our cultural blinders.

As ease of travel, income, and global awareness have increased, the number of short-term trip participants in the U.S. has increased from 540 trippers in 1965 to an estimated 1.5 million annually today. And unlike some who are calling for an end to short-term trips, I think the radical jump in those who’ve had these experiences has much positive potential. In fact, I’d be thrilled if, as a modest goal, the number of short-term service trippers matched the number of Americans who go on cruises every year (currently over 20 million).

For short-term service trips to make a lasting impact on our lives, though, it’s crucial for us to ensure we go with greater humility, we serve in a way that doesn’t perpetuate paternalism or dependency, we listen and support local leaders who continue to serve after we leave, and we give thought and attention to our experience after we return. Ironically, what happens after a trip typically receives the least thought and attention, yet it’s an essential part of every experience.

Here are five suggestions for ways to ensure that your short-term trip makes a long-term impact:

  1. Love your neighborsthe ones next door.
    Sometimes, it’s easy to love people who are far away or to give generously and selflessly to others on a short-term basis, while missing the need and hurt that surround us every day. While a week-long service trip in another part of the world can absolutely make a difference, we can often have an even greater impact on those we see every day—our family members, friends, and neighbors. Love your neighbor.
  2. Suspend judgment of others.
    I consider myself a pretty peaceful person, but when I returned from Cambodia on my first longer-term cross-cultural experience, I almost erupted in a grocery store. Having just spent time living with those in poverty, I entered the store and was overwhelmed by the excess of America. I hit my breaking point in the cereal aisle, where I saw a child complaining about wanting a different kind of cereal than her mom was unwilling to buy. People were starving. And she was a selfish, wealthy, and entitled spoiled brat.

In my self-righteousness, I forgot that not everyone had seen what I saw, felt what I felt, experienced what I was privileged to experience with my Cambodian neighbors. As Christ said, “Take the plank out of your own eye”—before judging people in the cereal aisle.

  1. Look for ways to stay connected.
    There are many downsides to social media—but one of its greatest advantages is offering an incredibly easy way of staying in touch with people far away. When you return from a trip, become Facebook friends with the people you met on your trip. Share photos and messages about your time and nurture those new relationships. And make sure your friends globally would be proud of the way you are talking about their country, their friends, and your experience with them. Enter into long-term relationship, and continue to learn through the gift of global friendships.
  2. Simply fast.
    As much as we promise “we’ll never be the same,” the reality is that we will quickly forget the experience unless it’s combined with habits to help us remember. An uncomplicated but powerful way is to start fasting, committing to a complete fast or to eating a simple meal like rice and beans one day a week. Globally and historically, we are living in unparalleled opulence; we must be intentional about remembering just how much we’ve been given.
  3. Share, pray, and give before you go again.
    It sounds modest, but after a trip, invite friends over for a night of sharing about your time, commit to praying daily for those you met, and grow into greater generosity. Don’t allow yourself to go on another short-term trip, if you haven’t spent your time and your money supporting the people and causes you experienced. Become a friend and ambassador to the people and projects which stir your heart and move you to action.

Want more resources on short-term trips? Here are four excellent resources I recommend:

What else do you do to make sure that your international service experiences make a lasting impact?

Written By Peter K. Greer, President of HOPE International

A Hidden Treasure | By Jerry Shannon

A Hidden Treasure 2When working among the poorest of the poor families, it can be very difficult to assess what assets the beneficiaries already have in their hands that will lead to long term success. This is especially true in the case of many of the families we work with in the Kore’ Slum who upon entry into our project are begging on the streets, living in shabby houses, illiterate, unskilled and unknown in the community.

While we can see the tenacious love of Moms for their children that motivates them do whatever it takes to keep their children, we often can still only see that there are too many needs and not enough resources. It is far too easy to want to rescue them out of their situation and ignore the assets that they have to contribute toward poverty alleviation. Fortunately, God used a need among one of these families to show us a hidden asset.

A short time after we started working at preserving families, one Mother in the project had an accident. She was working as a daily laborer when she fell and broke her arm. As the sole provider she was now in a tough situation. There is no worker’s compensation, disability nor sick days in these jobs. Either you show up in the morning and are paid at the end of the day, or you do not work at all. If you do not work, then you and your children do not eat.

The beautiful gift in the middle of this sad situation was found in how the other mothers responded to her. The other mothers learned about her situation before our staff ever did. These are Moms in great need themselves, making about $1 per day and still having their own children to feed. They looked at this Mom and said, “Do not worry. We will take care of you. We will sacrifice to make sure your rent is paid. We will each make sure you have food. We will each help to care for your child until you are better. You have no worries.”

Then, after having made sure that this family’s every need was cared for, a couple of the Mothers came to the Project Leadership and said, “We are helping this family by each one of us sacrificing a little. Now, how can the project also help her?”

Through Moms sacrificing together, this Mom and her child were able to eat, pay their rent, and heal. Their family continues to thrive as do the other families who sacrificed a little during this time.

No matter where we serve, and no matter the depth of poverty, our communities have beautiful people with wonderful assets that at times are hard to see. But when they are given the opportunity to use these assets, no matter how small they might seem, true poverty gets dealt a blow.

May God continue to uncover those assets, in every situation, right before our eyes.

Jerry Shannon Trains and Equips local staff for Embracing Hope Ethiopia.

In this Together: Finding Solutions to Poverty as a Community | By Chad Hayward

The Bible calls us to work together as the body of Christ for His purposes. This is true for Christians as individuals, but also for Christ-centered organizations. The Accord Network works to unite Christ-centered relief and development organizations to serve the world’s poor.

In order to begin to help these odv3c8PVX3j8BfOhUMaaGryTKB9Y0pSqtycGD16b0zmE,UwaR--g6oRF7Ri7mbB5WWp-wJBAC73aC-k-VFRI9OA0rganizations work together this question has to be addressed: What does holistic, Christ-centered, transformational development look like? The Principles of Excellence in Integral Mission serve as the Accord Network members’ answer to this important question.

Over 160 individuals representing more than 20 countries and countless NGOs had a voice in shaping these principles. It was a lengthy process, but the end product is well worth the effort to collaborate and work together. The principles represent the views of many different individuals and organizations. This gives them much more value than if they were created by a single individual or organization.

These principles endeavor to describe holistic Christian relief and development at its finest. They are meant to be an aspirational framework against which organizations can evaluate themselves. They are quickly becoming the standard by which excellent Christian relief and development is known.

Accord Network believes that the sharing of information facilitates learning among the members of our community. We also believe that collaboration is necessary for each organization to have a maximum impact on ending poverty.  This is why we appreciate the conversation that Poverty Cure shepherds.  Shared ideas—and shared best practices—will help us serve the poor most effectively.

Chad Hayward is the Executive Director of the Accord Network.

How We Wrote a Book Together | By Chad Jordan

ReThink Missions: Real Stories, Real Impact. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s a new book that was pre-launched at the Global Leadership Summit. I wrote it on behalf of PovertyCure. It didn’t start out as a book, though.

missions_toolkit_p5_2I was asked to write some content around global missions that could be included in a PovertyCure DVD package. With the help of the PovertyCure team, we asked for input from the global network, we interviewed some of the partners, and we asked some tough questions. The responses were amazing. You had a lot to say.

I run a small international consulting firm and a finance platform for emerging entrepreneurs, both of which have been a part of the PovertyCure Network for a while. When the responses from the network started coming in, I was really encouraged. I was proud to be part of a network willing to engage in a sometimes taboo conversation. You didn’t just talk about what was wrong with short-term missions, but you offered valuable perspectives and solutions. You gave me an extra boost to keep going, and you helped turn this book into something so much more than what was originally planned.

At the end of the gathering phase, it became clear that a little content wouldn’t be sufficient. The vision needed to expand, because the information we’d gathered proved so rich. Laying everything out in front of me, the book began to emerge.

In the book, we get to hear perspectives on global missions from people who have been engaged for decades, and people who are just starting to get involved. We get to hear from people who work domestically, and from those who work only internationally. There are opinions, there are facts, and there are unforgettable stories included in the pages.

There are some hard truths and sobering realities discussed in ReThink Missions: Real Stories, Real Impact, but there’s also a great deal of hope. In working to put the information into a coherent form, it was important to me that you were left with a sense of solution, not just confusion. I highlighted organizations that are doing a good job of combining missional attitudes with intentional action. I highlighted your ideas, your insights, and your opinions surrounding how we can do missions in a way that will produce the greatest good while doing the least harm at a local level.

Hopefully when you read the book, you feel empowered to act, not scared to move. By offering a variety of perspectives in one place, I tried to compile a resource that would inspire continued action as we simultaneously ask and process those tough questions.

As I really went through the submissions from PovertyCure’s global network, I was impressed with the sheer number of responses, but also with the thoughtfulness of each person. Clearly, the conversation around global missions is one you are all eager to have. That’s exciting. It means we’re onto something. It means the time is ripe to dive into the topics we discuss in ReThink Missions: Real Stories, Real Impact.

So to everyone who sent in a response from the global network, to all of PovertyCure’s Action Partners, to each person we interviewed, thank you for engaging. Thank you for agreeing to write a book together.

Chad Jordan is the co-founder & CEO of Arrow Global Capital and author of ReThink Missions: Real Stories, Real Impact. 

Things I’ve Learned from the Poor | By Doug Seebeck

When I was 22 years old, I went off to Bangladesh as an Agri-missionary. On fire in my call to Christ, I was going to teach the farmers how to farm. They would be the grateful recipients of the God-given wisdom I had acquired at that ripe age and in short order they would feed their nation.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I ZambiaFarmer.DS.PovertyCureBlog(body2)understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 

1 Corinthians 13:10

I quickly learned that the Bengali farmers were excellent farmers. They were able to survive even though they had no access to things we take for granted: the systems, resources, and models that bring about markets and flourishing economies.

I then did something I never expected to do: I asked those Bengali farmers what they needed to move from subsistence farming to the business of farming. And then I listened. My “know how” from a more developed farm environment partnered with their deep knowledge of their own land and culture fostered a deep and multi-generational transformation in their communities.

That was 37 years ago and Partners Worldwide now asks and listens to small-scale farmers and emerging businesspeople in 25 countries.  Here are a few things they’ve taught me along the way:

  1. They know how to fish! The oft-quoted Chinese proverb tells us that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day but if you teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. People at the margins know how to fish … but they don’t have access to the pond. They aren’t able to engage and participate in the economic systems, markets, relationships, networks of support and collaboration and cooperation, tools, and models many of us take for granted.
  2. They are more resourceful money managers than most people I know. You try living on $2 a day! Yet they pay multiples more for food, water, shelter, electricity, energy and transportation.
  3. They are smart business people. When we take time to understand the decisions they make, they are always the best, given their circumstances, and our partnership with them only magnifies a talent they had to begin with.
  4. They are innovators. Their capacity to “work-around” the obstacles they face reminds me that God created us in Genesis 1 as trusted stewards of the Garden, imbuing in us the knowledge and creative power to tend to Earth and bring forth its bounty.
  5. They are entrepreneurs, intuitively demonstrating the traits associated with successful start-ups: keen observers of behavior, slow to speak and long on listening.
  6. They are servant leaders, they humble themselves to serve, they truly served me, and I realize there is still so much for me to learn about how to best serve them.

 

Doug Seebeck serves as the President of Partners Worldwide