Sunday, March 18, 2007

True Religion is Love-in-Action

As I reflect on our mission trip, my earlier reflection on "breaking the cycle of dependency" became a little clearer to me. CitiHope’s approach to relief and development ministry in Malawi is distinctive, because it is faith-based, collaborative, and inspired by the way Jesus feed hungry people (John 6) and healed those who were sick (John 9), revealing three core values and seven principles of love-in-action.

Here they are in outline form:

1. What we do as staff and volunteers comes out of a heart of compassion:

• “Let your heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.”
• “God looks down with compassion on the arena of human struggle and takes sides.”

2. We show your faith by our actions:

• Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength, and neighbor as self.” (Jesus of Nazareth)
• ‘Salvation is a matter of grace through faith, not of works’ (Paul, a disciple of Jesus)
• Faith without works is dead.” (James, the brother of Jesus)
• “The only Gospel most people will ever read is the Gospel written on your life.” (St Francis)
• You express your love for God by how you treat the least of these (Mother Teresa).
• “Find a need and fill it. Find out what God is doing in the world and join it.” (Bob Pierce)
• “We’re called not to debate words of Jesus but to do the works of Jesus” (Ralph Winter)
• “You will do even greater works than I” (Jesus)
• “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something… Do the thing that is in front of you.” (Mother Teresa)

3. We intentionly call forth faith and resources from those we wish to help, so that ministry is mutual and participatory

• “Little is much when God is in it” is the gospel principle
Available resources can be leveraged and multiplied
7 loaves and 2 fishes = perfect number

These core values lead to seven principles of love-in-action:

1. Many developing countries are aid dependent on NGO resources and International Debt reduction, which in turn encourages social lethargy, civil ineffectiveness and sometimes political corruption.

2. NGOs, like CitiHope, can either reinforce dependency it by further relief work, or move toward sustainable community development through resource mobilization and leveraging.

3. Authentic partnerships (international and domestic) are required to break the cycle of dependency.

4. True partnership requires needs assessment and resource assessment. "I have gifts to offer and receive and you have gifts to offer and receive." When the resources flow one way to meet the needs, it creates an un-level playing field between the 'haves' and the 'have nots.' Jesus did not feed the 5,000 with food aid from his global NGO. He saw that the crowd was hungry and he first asked them: "What do you have to offer?" They were able to find among themselves 'five loaves and two fish' for a total of 7 food products within the community. Seven is the perfect number. It was enough. In the hands of Jesus, the available resources were leveraged and multiplied...enough to feed 5,000 hungry people on the hillside (Mark 6:30-44). "The best partnerships," says Rev. Levi,” is when I don't carry you and you don't carry me."

5. Mutuality in ministry is walking side by side. Jesus sent his disciples out two by two, side by side, without adequate provision, so that they could depend on each other. Mutuality in ministry is evident in how the disciples were sent without a money bag or extra coat. In this way they would make themselves mutually dependent on the hospitality and protection of those they sought to help. This is "reverse mission." (Mark 6:12)

6. Humanitarian assistance and charitable aid programs should be offered to the most vulnerable and at risk, not to the masses. Life and death matters require basic aid and take priority over development programs.

7. Sustainable development requires authenticity, mutuality, transparency and empowerment.