We are community development workers with Justice Water. We are also missionaries in the sense that the work we do, we believe, is eternal, because of the unseen things we are a part of, as well. Honestly, though it has been a stretch and a challenge for us to understand community development through both of our lenes- especially with Haiti as one of our target nations. So many non profits and missionaries go in and out of Haiti- and there appears to be little change. This has, of course, called us to look at what it must really mean to work in the area of community development as a Christian who truly wants to build communities up instead of leaving communities worse than we found them. Yikes.
We are a far way from understanding all that the Bible and the triune God say about community development. But, we wanted to share with you some of the key pieces we are learning along the way:
–God is the ultimate community developer. He is ahead of any community development trend and He loves people more than we do. Look at the more…”boring” books of the Bible. Perhaps the books filled with Old law are totally irrelevant to us in the West, but they are not irrelevant to most of the world which is living in a developing country. God is ahead of time, telling His people living in a tent city to use the restroom outside of the camp in a hole (Deut. 23:12-14) and other ways to practice good hygiene.
–Jesus has shown us that discipleship is at the center of community development. Meaning this: developing communities means developing people within those communities. He taught His disciples how to meet the needs of others by first doing and then allowing them to try. And fail. And try again. Throughout the life of Jesus, God shows us that He is a God who extends opportunities to learn as an effort to develop the person as well as the community. In doing this, He is not correcting JUST behavior, but also the belief system.
–God relates. In today’s society, we have shoved Him into a box that He is infinately bigger than. We think, somehow, that He is only interested in churchy things, angels and judgements. However true we might think that is, God is interested in much more. He is interested in creativity, taking care of the earth, culture and family. He’s totally into food. He also really gets the basic needs we have. The needs that have been determined as the most basic of all society are: healthcare, food, water, clothing and a shelter. It is no coincidence then that He is constantly comparing Himself to those needs. Living water to a woman who is fetching water from a well. A house builder to those who want a home. Bread of life to those who are hungry. Clothing us in righteousness. He meets the physical needs often, but He is also aware of the greater need of His people: Himself.
Wow! That’s a lot and yet there is so much more I could write. We have been pondering these things all week (as we have been away at a community development seminar in Mexico). We’d love to hear your thoughts, too! Let’s continue to move into community development as developing people first- teaching them, showing them and spurring them on.