A letter from Luta and Jeremy Garbat-Welch serving in Malawi
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The Community Health Evangelism (CHE) program in Zambia has struggled in its implementation due to several challenges. The biggest challenge it faces is the model of dependency perpetuated by many non-government organizations (NGOs) within the local community context. As an example, it is common for NGOs to provide trainings for a community, covering the cost of transport to and from the venue, cost of lodging, and cost of food while also providing a daily stipend for attending the training. That’s a lot of incentive. This has created an expectation—individuals must be paid to attend trainings. It is such an expectation that many individuals believe that attending trainings is “part of my job.” I (Luta) have heard over and over from church leaders that this expectation has increased the difficulty of the work of the church, because now people expect the church to deliver these goods as well! Individuals become involved in trainings or programs in order to “get something” from the agency or church for themselves rather than as an opportunity to give to their own communities.
In March I traveled to Zambia to meet with the local CHE Trainers involved in the CHE program started by the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Synod of Zambia. I went to equip the local CHE Trainers with additional training and resources and to encourage them in their work.
Presbyterian World Mission’s “Training Leaders for Community Transformation” campaign states:
“One of the most effective ways to grow the Church around the globe is to train local leaders to address the specific challenges they face in their own community, whether hunger, a natural disaster, injustice or the persecution of the Christian community. Our global partners have challenged U.S. Presbyterians to help equip their leaders to become agents of transformation—not with imported, ‘cookie cutter’ solutions, but with training that enables leaders to reflect theologically and to lead their community toward local solutions. This movement, ‘Train Leaders for Community Transformation,’ will focus on holistic leader training that can lead to life-changing solutions for the world God so loves.”
CHE is a natural method for engaging in this call from our partner churches, seeking to break the cycle of dependency and empower communities to address their needs using their own resources without waiting for outside help. Often this empowerment comes from the discipleship component of CHE—as individuals and communities spend time learning more about God’s love for them, they recognize their worth and transformation begins to take root. The CHE process is a paradigm shift. In places where CHE is implemented there is often difficulty identifying community resources (“We have nothing to offer, we are waiting for you to help us”) or resistance to using one’s own time to volunteer for one’s community (“What will you give me?”). The CHE trainers in Zambia are daily met with these challenges.
The need for health and development in Zambia is real. According to UNICEF the average life expectancy in Zambia is 57 years; 12.7 percent of adults are HIV-positive; Zambia ranks 25th in the world for mortality under the age of 5. One in every 11 children dies before they reach the age of 5, and one in every 18 children dies before they reach the age of 1. Compare this to the U.S. where 1 in every 143 children dies before they reach the age of 5, and 1 in every 164 children dies before they reach the age of 1. In Zambia 40 percent of children under 5 are stunted, 15 percent of children are underweight, and 6 percent are classified as wasting (acute malnutrition).
I have come to believe that two of the crucial components of a successful CHE program are: (1) the presence of a champion, someone in the community who sees the potential of this paradigm shift for communities to lift themselves up, and (2) the importance of grounding the community development and health principles in Christian discipleship. Zambia has both of these. Rev. Happy Mhango, a lead CHE Trainer in Kabwe, has already seen the potential for transformation through the implementation of conservation agriculture principles and is convinced that the biblical lessons provided through CHE will serve to enhance discipleship within his own church. John Kachali, CHE Coordinator, faithfully serves and coordinates activities for the local CHE Trainers. Briget Ngwata, Deputy CHE Coordinator and lead CHE Trainer in Nyimba, beams as she talks about not only the new information she is learning, but also the leadership skills she is developing. At the Synod level, Rev. Dr. Victor Chilenje, Moderator and Projects Coordinator, and Rev. Maleka Kabandama are convinced of the potential for CHE to transform communities across Zambia. In fact, they are so convinced of this that CHE will be introduced as a course of study at the Chasefu Theological College. All pastors attending Chasefu will be able to participate in an in-depth curriculum on CHE led by Rev. Lazarus Chilenje and Rev. Mapopa. After spending a couple of days with these two lecturers, I cannot imagine any better leaders to faithfully and diligently present CHE.
These champions are patiently hopeful, knowing that once the seed of transformation takes hold, change will happen across Zambia. After several days of training, I met with each of the CHE Trainers within their community group. We sat to discuss the individual challenges and hopes they have for the communities they serve. After this individual time with them, I asked if I could pray for them. As anyone who knows me can attest, I am often overcome with tears when I pray—and again I was overcome with tears. I was moved by the challenges that these communities have faced and I thought to myself, I would have given up, I would have walked away, yet here are these trainers faithfully pressing on, committed to being agents for change, because they believe that transformation can happen.
In the coming months, please be in prayer for the CHE Trainers in Zambia as they meet together to develop strategies for deepening their engagement with their communities, as they implement the training curriculum for the Community Health Evangelists (CHEs), and as they themselves are challenged by new ways of thinking and doing.
We are thankful for your prayers, for God’s work in Africa, for us as a family and for the Presbyterian Mission Agency, which embodies our call to walk alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
If you feel led by your prayers to give, Presbyterian World Mission is at a critical juncture, facing the difficult decision of removing up to 40 mission co-worker families by 2017. This is a heavy burden that mission co-workers around the world are feeling. We invite your gifts for our sending and support, or for the general budget for sending mission co-workers.
With gratefulness for your faithfulness,
Luta and Jeremy
The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 156
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