Dear friends and partners in ministry,
I want to let you know how we are doing as well as give you some highlights from our work in Thailand, Rwanda, DR Congo, and some encouraging news from Cambodia.
First, from our family, here are some pictures of us celebrating our youngest daughter Alandra’s senior prom party. She is 18 and a 2020 high school graduate. We dressed up, danced, walked to the park, and took lots of pictures. It was really fun to celebrate her in this way!
I’ve also enjoyed some gardening with Gwen. I have a wonderful family and it has been a gift to spend this focused time with them! Gwen just finished her Junior year of Nursing at George Fox University. Debby is thriving in her work as a leadership and management professor in the College of Business at GFU, as well as head Leadership Coach (facilitator) for the Professional Development Academy. Aren is working in a biofuel engineering job in Bend, Oregon. Breanna graduates from GFU as a Doctor of Physical Therapy!
As I report on these communities in different countries and different situations, let me give you a framework to think about appropriate ways to partner with friends in these countries.
- Relief: saving lives, urgent, immediate, temporary help in response to a devastating event, outside funding, and direction.
- Rehabilitation: restoring and rebuilding what has been lost, largely directed and funded by outsiders, intermediate term.
- Development: empowered communities moving beyond the status quo toward God-centered wholistic improvement. Long-term. The people of a community direct the process (with Discipling for Development we mentor communities in this process).[i]
Thailand-Lahu, May 2020
Chiang Rai, Thailand, The Way Foundation working with the Lahu people:
Our team is doing well. Chiang Rai started social distancing early and kept the Coronavirus from spreading. For many hill tribe peoples including the Lahu, living secluded in their villages is not a problem. They had a good rice harvest last November, and the bountiful forests are close by. April is Thailand’s New Year, and so it is always a slower month. Village chiefs are also careful to quarantine anyone coming back to their village from the outside.
Rwanda, Africa, Discipling for Development through the Friends churches and beyond:
I’m impressed with our Northern Regional leader, Gerard, and his encouragement of all the leaders in his region, among many of whom are our D4D leaders. He has assigned each leader to give an encouraging devotional for every day of the month on their WhatsApp group. Our Rwanda D4D leader, Tertullien, has developed some great goals for our D4D leaders to focus on discipling their families using all the D4D training they have received during this time they are at home with their families. Tertullien says they will finish this quarantine time with more experience in discipling and over 100 more people discipled using our D4D lessons.
Many in Rwanda are hungry and some organizations are doing relief work. Tertullien and team are working on a “Rehabilitation” plan to help people in our small groups to get back on their feet economically.
Uvira, DR Congo, Discipling for Development team with their Friends churches:
Devastating floods ripped through Uvira the weekend of the 16th, 17th, and 19th of April resulting in two neighborhoods wiped out, many homes destroyed, many people displaced, and many people killed and or missing. It is still the rainy season and they have had some more floods. All roads from within Congo and from Burundi were destroyed with four major bridges washed out. The local UN Pakistani troops worked tirelessly with local leaders rescuing people and trying to save the town from further destruction. Our Friends church leaders on the ground Lusungu and Manasseh have been involved with rescuing people, identifying bodies, housing refugees in believers’ homes and in schools, etc. EFM raised some funds and was able to help with a small food distribution our leaders carried out. The Mayor is presenting his plan for rehabilitating Uvira this coming Monday. We are praying we can find a useful project that EFM, CEEACO can partner in that will benefit the town of Uvira and build relationships. Two months ago the Mayor hosted our three main D4D leaders from Rwanda who did a three-day vision casting workshop. The Mayor is a Christian man who wants to see his town of Uvira develop in an empowering, non-dependent way. He has invited our D4D team to mentor his town through this process. Pray we can steward this opportunity, these relationships, and this present crisis well.
Stung Treng, Cambodia (northern province, on the Laos border), Scott Sward a Friends missionary partnering with YWAM (Youth With A Mission).
Even though this is not a D4D ministry project yet, Scott’s work is so encouraging I want you to know about it. I visited his team in February and am hoping to partner with them soon using D4D to help them disciple the Kavet people. In late March and early April Scott said, “Christians in the province of Stung Treng joined together to educate the public about COVID-19, distributing more than 10,000 leaflets.” Last week Scott wrote, “These last two weeks I’ve had the chance to be part of an amazing team that has assisted the Provincial Health Department of Stung Treng in educating village chiefs and police officers about COVID-19. Tomorrow the adventure continues.” I love the way they are coming together as Christians to help their government in a tangible, needed way working together for the kingdom goal of protecting Cambodians from COVID-19. They are empowering leaders and building important relationships throughout the province. I can’t wait to see what further blessing comes out of their being faithful to steward well these opportunities!
God is on the move during this unprecedented time in history. Instead of a crown (corona) of death we will see Jesus’ crown of life. We have been focused on the exponential curves of infections and deaths from the coronavirus in countries throughout the earth, but instead I believe God will bring an exponential growth of people coming to faith in Jesus, of disciple-making movements and churches multiplying and thriving throughout the earth. Almost the whole earth has heard of the Coronavirus by now, but there are still areas and even whole people groups who do not know the good news that their Creator loves them, that Jesus lived and died and lives now to save us and to reconcile us back to right relationship with God, with each other, and with the world around us. Jesus says in John 10:10, “the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy (COVID-19), but I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly!” The promise I keep praying as a “now” promise, not just a future promise is Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
I would love to know how you are doing during this crisis time. Write me a note if you would like.
I am grateful for the privilege of partnering with you and working with all these wonderful people.
[i] (D4D Lesson also borrowed from “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself” by Corbett and Fikkert