Friday, 24 February 2017

'A place of thugs and thieves' is how Tito* described where I was standing back in 2010. 'When we heard you were visiting we said to ourselves "will they really come?"'. Despite the bad reputation of Owii in Uganda I didn't feel afraid. Instead I felt inspired by the story of this community.

'This place was isolated, there was no education here.  Most children were not going to school – it was too far. We were worried about our children being kidnapped for child sacrifice'.

However as a result of church and community transformation (CCT) the community started to make the most of their own small resources to bring change. 'One of our church members gave some land and we've now made 5 classrooms. Each household contributes 3,500 Ugandan Shillings per term ($1) to pay the teachers. There are 151 children at the school. The children are happy about the school as they do not have to walk so far'.

The classrooms were simple grass-roofed huts but their plans were bigger. ‘We are seeing that we are going to develop more than this.  We plan to have permanent buildings.  We will talk with the government to see if they can help us’.

Now travel in time with me to 2017. The next time I hear about Owii I am standing in a black jacket and yellow tie at the UK Houses of Parliament. It's a rare event, me wearing a tie, but suitable for this event. This time Owii is featured in a film (link to film).

Photo by Andrew Philip, Tearfund

The community now has those brick built classrooms they had dreamed of. The local government has also built teacher's houses, cleared roads, vaccinated children and dug boreholes for water. This has all happened through linking CCT and advocacy. As a result the Owii community has been helped to effectively persuade local government to provide the services they need.

It's a story to celebrate. Could you help the communities you work with to link with their local government and celebrate too?

*Name changed for privacy. 

Thursday, 9 February 2017

'I was burying my head in the sand about climate change just like an ostrich. I knew it was a big problem but didn't want to face it' said my friend Hannah.  I think a lot of us feel like that about climate change and the whole issue of creation care.  I wonder whether you feel that way too.

Yet our calling is to care for God's beautiful creation.

'God saw all that he had made and it was very good' Genesis 1v31

So last Saturday I found myself carrying bricks and cardboard into the grounds of our church.  A passer-by gave me and my family a strange look.  We were there to start building a 'bug hotel', a refuge to encourage rare and not so rare insects to thrive on our church's land. Insects such as bees that are so vital to pollination.

Our church is starting to make some small contributions to caring for the environment. We've been inspired by A Rocha's great initiative Eco Church.  This helps ordinary church congregations to improve their teaching, use of land and lifestyles.

My youngest son got up from our dinner table last week in the middle of supper.  We were about to tell him off but noticed he was just turning off unused lights.  These are small steps, yes, but if everyone does them great things happen.  One third of the planet's population are part of churches so if we all do something the impact could be amazing ... 

So I wonder whether you could try Eco Church with your church and what would happen if you did?

Image result for bug hotel image

Friday, 3 February 2017

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Once when my eldest son was just 2 months old I sang him to sleep with 'Happy Birthday' because I couldn't remember any other tunes!  I can easily remember pictures but can't recall songs at all. How do you like to learn?   Perhaps you learn best when you move, hear words or see the logic.  

I will be using insights from Multiple Intelligences as I prepare to facilitate a workshop on church and development in Asia.  This theory says each of us are intelligent in different ways and categorises intelligence as verbal, visual, intra-personal, inter-personal, physical, musical and logical/ mathematical.  It's good to provide exercises that cater for all these types during an event.

Image result for image footballSo often I think workshops involve small group discussions with notes written on flip charts and then fed back to the wider group.  Eventually I get bored with this.  It is one valid way to draw out learning but I think it is good to bring in more variety and fun.  I'm planning on some drama, songs and games at my workshop.  One game I like is getting everyone to play football with just one person on one team and everyone else on the other.  Often the one person gets close to winning because the rest don't play as a team.  It's a great game for helping people to reflect on the importance of unity.

What would happen if you added more variety to the approaches you use?