What comes to mind when you hear the term “Community Transformation”? Too many people they associate “Community Transformation” with bringing relief to communities around the world who are undeveloped, underdeveloped, hurting, poverty-stricken, etc… so that they can survive and become self-sustaining and self-sufficient. The hearts and intentions of those who try to assist these communities in transformation are in the right place, most of the time, and they truly believe that they are helping to transform these communities.
I used to be one of those who viewed community transformation through those lenses. But, having spent the past 4 years walking alongside and working with our indigenous Sudanese partners and having traveled thousands of miles across South Sudan and into the North the LORD those lenses have changed. That stark reality is that the common world view and model of community transformation (CT) starts out with great intentions and in the beginning appears to be working. Working that is the funding runs out or the organization or ministry leaves, usually caused by once again the funding drying up. What are the immediate and long-term effects and impact upon the community when this approach to CT is taken?
Almost all of the time (in the areas of my work throughout South Sudan and North Sudan) the results, both short and long-term, is the immediate collapse of the CT plan and/or project(s). These results are what I call skeletons and bone yards and are scattered throughout South Sudan and Sudan (the North). Buildings, compounds, vehicles, and equipment are left to rot, be eaten by termites, rust away, and deteriorate. How many billions of dollars, millions of man hours, lives, and relationships are lost and/or destroyed by this approach to CT. This may seem a bit strong and one-sided but it is what I have seen in South Sudan and Sudan (the North) and I have heard from others is rampant all over Africa and many other parts of the world. I know there may be exceptions to this but I have not seen it in Sudan (will use this phrase collectively for the South & North) where the LORD has planned for me to be a part of advancing HIS Kingdom.
I work for the LORD through e3 Partners Ministry. The e3 stands for “Equip GOD’S people, to Evangelize the world, and Establish HIS church”. We desire to Establish HIS church. We do this by partnering with nationals and equipping them through encouragement of the WORD of GOD, teaching, modeling, and assisting them in evangelism, making disciples who will make disciples, and planting self-reproducing churches. We want to empower the nationals to establish the LORD’S church. This establishing of the church will continue JESUS CHRIST our KING returns.
We believe, and I think it is biblical, that only CHRIST can bring about lasting transformation in individual born again believers as well as the entire body of CHRIST (Church or Churches) in a community. CHRIST’S Church should be the example of, and leader, of transformation in our communities. In Acts chapters 2 and 4, we see a glimpse of how the church should transform and meet the needs of the community for the glory of the LORD and what will happen? HE will add to their numbers those who are being saved. This is the Church being established.
During my recent January trip to South Sudan we launched our e3 CT initiative which is the facilitation of a process that reveals GOD’S provision and plans to truly transform a community for HIS glory. We had 28 brothers and sisters in CHRIST representing 12 churches from 6 different denominations.
Immediately we knew that GOD was directing us. This type of unity among denominations in Sudan is unheard. This was the result of many hours in prayer for the past year along with the humility and servant leadership of Pastor Mullai and his disciples who spent many hours going before these churches, building relationships, and preparing the ground for this CT launch.
We spent four and a half days using the book of Nehemiah, small group discussions, and facilitating questions that directed this coalition in developing the first project in GOD’S plan to begin transforming the Yei community. Their plan will be used to help meet the needs of societies outcasts and forgotten ones (just like Acts 2 & 4).
This process revealed to this coalition, for the first time, that GOD has provided them with every resource and asset needed to transform their community. They realized for the first time that they did not need to depend upon outsiders to tell them what they needed nor provide outside resources and assets.
Over and over through the course of the workshop they continually talked about “dependency syndrome” and how they had been cursed with this throughout their history. At the end the area overseer of the denomination whose church we were using was elected to make the closing remarks. He said, and I quote, “Many centuries ago when the first missionaries came to our land they brought only half of the gospel. They did some good things but they also created this dependency syndrome that has never empowered us but only made us dependent upon them. During this week that dependency syndrome has been broken. We now have been given the full gospel and we no longer have to depend upon others. GOD has provided all we need and through HIM we can become who HE wants us to become.” Did you get that? They had been empowered not by us but by CHRIST and through HIS WORD to begin the process and move forward with real transformation.
The first plan and project they chose was a large “maize growing project” as they called it. The hardest part of any plan is getting started. Guess what? They have already started! They formed a board to oversee and direct the project forward and they have begun securing the land which will be used to grow the harvest.
In closing I will leave you with this. One of the last actions that the coalition had to do was to decide on a foundational scripture for the project. This scripture had to be relavent to the project and point the people in the community to CHRIST and HIS love.
This was amazing to watch and listen too. There were many great
scriptures brought forward and discussed but finally they chose John 6:35 “I am the BREAD OF LIFE”. At this point one of the pastors stood up and said this verse was reflected the desire of their heart and that they wanted everyone in the Yei community (over 300K now) to know JESUS CHRIST THE BREAD OF LIFE as their LORD and SAVIOR and that through this project and the ones to come they would preach the Gospel to all.
As Mullai always says at the end of the day, looking back on what CHRIST had done, “WOW!”
There are so many things that the LORD did and revealed through these four and a half days. I could go on and on but for now I will end here. This was just the first part of the 2 weeks we spent in Sudan. I will share more about the second half in the days to come.
Grace and Peace to all!