Second Presbyterian Church

The same Gospel story

Each summer, US Church Partners take summer ministry trips to Cambodia. Taylor Strickland from Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, TN, a long time Church Partner with World Relief, shares a bit about her experience: On the sixth day of our time in Phnom Penh, I and another member were able to go on a field visit with August and Nareem of World Relief.  We rode out into a village to assist with the HIV/AIDS education and prevention program.

According to World Relief’s statistics, Cambodia has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Asia, with an estimated 75,000 people living with AIDS.  As the moto traveled deeper into the shanty town, the smell of trash and sewage grew strong in the heat, and the terrain looked more and more undeveloped.  As we rode alongside rows of dilapidated homes, crossing sewer pipes lined with rotting garbage, I realized I was in the most impoverished place I had ever been.  Living conditions in the areas surrounding Phnom Penh (the big city) are tolerable at best, from the perspective of a Westerner.

There I was, listening to a blind woman tell her story of being disowned by her family in 2002 when she tested positive for HIV, and all I could think about was how to prevent ants from crawling up my legs.  Then they asked me to share my story.  Talk about a rude awakening; I was overcome by feelings of guilt and inadequacy.  My story does not compare to the story of any of the people in that town in terms of suffering, but what I realized at that moment is that we all experience the same Gospel.  Every believer knows what it’s like when the scales fall off his eyes, revealing both his utter filth and the hope of salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ.  So that’s what I made my story about.

The reason World Relief is able to go out into shanty towns, educate people about HIV/AIDS and build relationships with those people is that the same God that changed us is redeeming the slums of Cambodia.  The work World Relief is doing in Cambodia is only possible because of the Gospel. 

The purpose of this recounting is not to evoke pity for Cambodians, but rather to aid in portraying the power of the gospel to bring hope and peace.  The believers I’ve met in Cambodia know contentment.  They are sustained by Christ and experience him in a way that I don’t understand yet.  I’ve already learned a lot from my new Cambodian friends, and as my story continues to develop, I hope my experience here never ceases to challenge me.

second pres cambodia team

Click here to follow the church teams and their experiences in Cambodia this summer.

Transformation through Savings for Life™

In June, Second Presbyterian Church of Memphis, TN took a Vision Trip with World Relief to Mozambique and Malawi. One team member, Cory Brown, an attorney at Rainey, Kizer Reviere & Bell, PLC reflects on his trip: Our small team traveled to Malawi to explore a potential partnership with World Relief.  On our second day in Malawi, our World Relief hosts led us to a small village in the Ntchisi district to meet with staff members, local leaders, ministry personnel and volunteers.  We were introduced to numerous village program participants, dined with a local pastor and toured a small livestock operation.

However, the initiative that made the greatest impact on me was a small group of village women engaged in micro-finance.

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Gathered around the edges of a large blanket sat about a dozen women of varying ages.  The group’s leader opened a wooden box with multiple locks.  Inside the box were account books belonging to each member that recorded the respective member’s investment.  With the account books was a small stack of cash representing the collective investment from which the group gave out individual loans.

As we watched, the members engaged in a myriad of transactions: applying for loans, granting loans, rejecting loans, inquiring on the status of existing loans, detailing foreclosure rules and discussing interest rates.

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It was not only encouragement or hope that struck me - customary emotions for an outsider witnessing such an event - but humility.

As a transactional attorney, I often spend days drafting complicated agreements between sophisticated parties memorializing complex arrangements, purchases and sales.  The ensuing legal fees incurred by those parties are often substantial.  But here were a dozen parties, unrepresented by counsel, buying and selling shares in a business entity of their own imagination, borrowing funds, and paying back principal and interest all without lengthy contracts or corporate authority.

Fortunately, once back at home I was able to convince myself that business attorneys perform an indispensable service for the companies they represent, but I could not help but think that maybe the ladies of that particular village were better off without “advice of counsel.”

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Savings for Life™ works by educating trainers to mobilize and train groups of community members in how to build and manage their own savings fund.  As the savings fund accumulates, group members access small loans from the fund to finance business or consumption needs.  Loans have fixed terms and are repaid with a service fee, which is retained within the group in order to grow the group’s savings fund and provide a return on their savings.  Groups are self-managed and set their own policies for their operations. To support a Savings Group, click here.