One aspect of the recent SEED Asia trip that stood out repeatedly was the sense of being welcomed into the community. The reception went beyond gracious and was more warm and family-feeling. It made me think deeply about the idea of partnership.
Sometimes I think we can make the mistake of thinking that we are partnering with the livelihood groups, viewing partnership as more of a one-way relationship. Partnership, of course, implies two ways, but that doesn’t stop us from considering ourselves the stronger, more important partner.
How sad, and how dangerous. When we view ourselves this way we cut ourselves off from the blessings our partners can give us.
In Butuan, the Philippines, I was humbled to hear a very large vision from an amazing woman working in a very humble place. Pastora Tessie Chua is a woman with a degree in agriculture now pursuing a doctorate in child development. She heads up the Philippine General Conference Social Ministries effort.
Pastora Tessie’s vision encompassed a home for abandoned boys, another for abandoned girls, a third for women and children in crisis, and a fourth for retired ministers with nowhere else to go. For over two years she and others prayed that God would provide $35,000US to purchase land for these facilities. Imagine their surprise when God provided $75,000US instead!
The group was able to find land that already had 40 mango trees, one building, chicken coops and pigpens. Another buyer wanted the land but the landowner decided that he would only sell to someone who had cash — which God had already provided to Pastora Tessia and the Social Ministries group. So they got the land and have been renovating the building. In late March the building found its first use as the home for abandoned boys. Now they are finalizing engineering plans with the local government — which provided the site plan for free — for the second building, which will be the longer-term residence for the boys. The current building will become the crisis center.
This effort will become self-sustaining through harvesting mangoes from the existing trees, and from raising pigs and egg-laying chickens. The vision then includes opening a market, a meat shop, and who knows what else. We are in conversation about where — if at all! — SEED might help.
I share this story to highlight the fact that the work we do is not charity, and is not one-sided. The people we partner with recognize that their livelihood, their opportunity to make a better life, is a stake. They do not lack drive. They do not lack motivation. Usually they do not lack a dream or a vision or even a plan. They simply lack a resource — sometimes business skills, sometimes startup capital, sometimes access to market — to make their vision a reality. Such a little investment on our part yields the eternal dividend of seeing God’s kingdom grow in them and in us.