A monthly update from Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission, on the impact of Presbyterian mission in the world and the issues that affect mission co-workers, the people we walk with and assist in service to God, and our partners around the globe.
What Would It Take to Change the World?
You’ve got to admire my children’s generation. As these twenty-something year-olds look at the brokenness of the world my generation is bequeathing them—the growing scourge of human trafficking, the deepening crisis of climate change and ecological destruction, the extreme poverty that laughs in the face of efforts to combat it—they don’t just shrug their shoulders or curse their luck. Increasingly, young adults are committing themselves to change the world: to stop human trafficking, protect the environment, and advocate for justice for the poor—and they’re asking if the Church of Jesus Christ is with them.
So what would it take to change the world, exactly? Based on our church’s 178 years of mission experience—a history that has resulted in the establishment of thousands of schools, universities, churches, seminaries, hospitals and clinics, and brought more than 94 million people around the world to faith in Jesus Christ—I’d like to offer three answers in this column over the coming months. The first component of world change is the identification and empowerment of local leaders.
When Presbyterian mission leaders in Egypt encouraged a young Egyptian pastor, Samuel Habib, to serve as a literacy worker in the village of Herz in 1944, he had some initial successes. But Habib quickly realized that he wasn’t making the most of the decisions that affected the villagers’ development efforts. The Presbyterian Mission provided specialized training for Habib—first at Syracuse University, then at San Francisco Theological Seminary—and he returned to Egypt and transformed the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS) into what would become the largest and, arguably, the most effective Middle Eastern social service agency.
Samuel Habib’s approach to community development was revolutionary:
- Outside support was provided to the community as a whole, not to certain individuals, as was the practice of that era (and is emerging again today in our era of individual micro-loans and individual child sponsorships);
- No distinction was made between Muslim and Christian villagers—all were God’s children and should be helped to reach their potential;
- Development teams were composed of equal numbers of women and men—a radical approach in that context, but necessary to ensure that women’s concerns were addressed;
- No service was provided for free—even if villagers only had the tiniest coin to pay for a training class or access to potable water, they were required to make their contribution, thus transforming development from outsiders’ benevolence to local empowerment.
CEOSS continues its remarkable ministry today, under the able leadership of the Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki—a disciple of Habib’s who also was trained with help from Presbyterian World Mission.
The strategies for our work in Training Leaders for Community Transformation have clearly changed—Egypt in the 1950s had no place for the kind of studies Habib needed, but today almost all of the leaders trained by Presbyterian World Mission are trained in their country of service in their national language, according to their own cultural understandings. But I would argue that the world change my children’s generation is so committed to—and that God’s Spirit so desires—begins with the training of local leaders as agents of transformation in their communities.
My colleague, the Rev. Juan Sarmiento, international evangelism catalyst, is helping Presbyterian congregations across the country to change the world by investing in the training of local leaders like Samuel Habib. I’d encourage you to check out the campaign's website. Contact Juan (email@example.com) to help your congregation in its mission to change the world.
I’m convinced there is no better way to grow the church of Jesus Christ around the world than by training local leaders.
Mission Matters Archives
March 2015 - The Church You Grew Up In No Longer Exists
December 2014 - A Harvest Beyond Our Wildest Dreams
November 2014 - Both Bricks and Mortar
October 2014 - Binding Threads
July 2014 - Abound in Hope: the 221st General Assembly (2014)
May 2014 - Training Leaders for Community Transformation
April 2014 - Ending Violence against Women and Children
March 2014 - 3 Critical Global Issues—#1: Quality education for 1 million children by 2020
February 2014 - CEDEPCA: Caring for God's Creation
January 2014 - Young Adult Volunteers: New YAV Sites Opening
December 2013 - We are truly better together
November 2013 - South Sudanese: Displaced by violence
October 2013 - Haiti: the Presbyterian Church is here to stay
We love to hear ways to engage more young people in mission as a way to draw them closer to the church. they really do seem to have to have something meaningful to do. They do not come to church if there is nothing for them to do. Thanks for your great work.
thanks Hunter for great message!
Thank you my dear Brother for the Work you and the World Mission Board are doing. May the Lord continue to open many new doors for Us. Amen.