transformation

"This should not happen to people"

In honor of International Women's Day, our Country Director of Indonesia, Jo Ann de Belen reflects on those close to her heart and why she wants to be part of changing the world. I once knew a leper. He was close to me. Apart from his leprosy, he was just like any one of us. A creation made in the image of God. Without touching me, he taught me music, math, and how to laugh at myself. He contracted this dreaded illness when he was a child, at a time when there was no definite cure for it.

The stigma of the illness was so great, that his own family was ashamed to tell others. And so his parents kept this dark secret to themselves while they can. The teenage boy did not enjoy what others enjoyed. He was kept inside the house, not brought to big family gatherings or to be “displayed” publicly. He wore clothes that would conceal his open lesions.

Even when he was in a crowd, he felt alone. He suffered all this by himself, not understanding what it was. His parents, perhaps not knowing what to do, just pretended to the world that he did not exist. He grew up to be an adult and married and had children and tried to live a normal life. But the world wouldn’t let him. He died a lonely man, alone in a room, visited by only a handful.

As I remember this friend with leprosy and feel his isolation and pain, I remember the people we serve in the highlands of Papua. The ones infected with AIDS. What could they be feeling? Whatever it is, it couldn’t be much different from what the leper felt. Alone, isolated, shunned.

The stigma against AIDS is so strong, the oppression against people with AIDS so overpowering, that I ask…. What can we do? How can we change all this?

This should not happen to people, God’s own creatures made after His image and likeness.

IMG_2573

This is why I feel so strongly about God’s children learning to love those that the world has shunned, ridiculed, thrown away, isolated.

I long to see the church in Papua embrace back those who are afflicted with AIDS, to care for the children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS, and to make sure that this disease is wiped out of Papua.

I pray that God makes this happen soon. So that no one will have to suffer, and suffer alone.

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.

100_1784

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.

100_1786

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.”

100_1776

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.

M. Chey - A Story of Transformation

M. Chey has witnessed Cambodia’s many changes over the past few decades, and his own story of transformation is a powerful witness to what the Lord can do with a committed life. As a young man, Chey says that Buddhist teachings showed him he was a sinner, but even though he prayed to the gods in every season, his life was still filled with worries and emptiness. During the 1970’s, when the Khmer Rouge was in power, Chey survived by being forced into the army. He was treated badly, forced to work hard and only given potatoes to eat twice per day. His wife and children were all separated from him, and forced to work in various camps. Amazingly, they were reunited after the war.

When a World Relief volunteer came to share the Gospel with his family, Chey wasn’t interested in hearing about it. But, he says, they just kept coming back to talk with him, and eventually Chey asked about Jesus. He studied with the volunteers, learning more and more about God.

Finally, Chey realized he could know the real God. He prayed and began following the Lord, asking for blessings in daily life, and desiring to know more about Him. Now, Chey and his whole family follow the Lord.

At age 74, Chey now has nine children, too many grand-children to count, and seven great-grandchildren.  He is a leader of his cell church in Andong village, teaches the Bible, prays for the people in his group, and encourages those living with HIV/AIDS. Even though many of his Buddhist friends tell him he is too old to believe something new, he hopes for many opportunities to share the Gospel in this village of 500 people. “I will not be a backslider,” he says. “I am committed to the Lord forever.”

World Relief celebrates with Chey. We thank God for the volunteers who brought the gospel to Chey and his family.