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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Growing Community Health Evangelism in Niger through engagement

 

October 28, 2017

“If you ask people, ‘What are your problems?’ they’ll immediately expect you’re going to come in and fix them,” Attahiru told me. Facing village expectations of handouts was his No. 1 concern in moving forward with Community Health Evangelism (CHE). Attahiru is from a village of 300 in Niger, where he is a lay pastor and youth leader. He recently finished the church’s regional CHE training, which introduced 25 pastors to how they can use the CHE strategy to help their communities increase overall health, development and exposure to the gospel.

Pastor Issa (center), Community Health Evangelism trainer for the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger, and mission co-worker Michael Ludwig (second from right) work with pastors at the church’s first regional CHE training. CHE lessons include Bible stories that help people discuss a holistic definition of health and God’s desire for healthy relationships. (Photo by Andrew Bowers)

As Attahiru noted, a difficult step in using CHE is telling stories that get village members discussing root problems. The long history of droughts and nongovernmental organizations coming into Niger with free supplies has often lulled people into a dependency mentality, which masks the root causes of problems. The stories in this introductory stage of CHE move community members into real discussion and engagement. Specifically, the first stories need to help people identify the problems that come from relying on outside help and problems that need to be fixed from the inside. 

The population of Niger is 95 percent Muslim and nearly all are involved in subsistence farming, so most communities are chronically uneducated and fatalistic. One of the biggest issues is getting people to mobilize their own resources and skills to do something about problems that seem to be “how they’ve always been” or “how God wills them to be right now.”

But there’s reason to thank God when we do see things change through the sharing of basic health knowledge or best practices in farming. Himma is another village evangelist who attended our recent CHE training. Because of the simple things he learned about home disease prevention and clinic care, he insisted that a neighbor family go to a regional clinic immediately for their newborn’s extreme diarrhea. The nurse there affirmed the importance of this decision and so now more than just the neighbors have gone from being skeptical of Himma’s presence in the village to being thankful.

Our partner church, the Evangelical Church of the Republic of Niger (EERN), is investing in the long-term development of this training program by building a motorized rickshaw taxi business, in partnership with the PC(USA) and U.S. congregations. The business not only employs youth in the church but also generates income locally for continued CHE training and support. The EERN sees the CHE strategy as a ministry that can help their nation, enhance relationships between Christians and Muslims, and provide a welcomed way of sharing the good news of Christ.

Michael Ludwig, mission co-worker serving to strengthen CHE and other leadership and evangelism training programs at the invitation of the Evangelical Church of the Republic of Niger

Today’s Focus:  Community Health Evangelism in Niger

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Ryan Smith, PMA
Stephen Smith, FDN

Let us pray:

Lord God, we pray that you make a way for the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger to build its health ministry. Multiply their limited resources. Help the men, women and youth of the church recognize the talents and gifts you have given them. May they serve the common good, giving all glory and honor to you. Amen.

Daily Readings

Morning Psalms 122; 149
First Reading Ezra 4:7, 11-24
Or alternate First Reading Jeremiah 44:1-14
Second Reading Philemon 1-25
Gospel Reading Matthew 12:33-42
Evening Psalms 100; 63