Tag Archives: CHE

A training approach that seeks to redefine missions – one person at a time

Summers provoke a burst of interest in missions, both here in Alaska and abroad. Some provide demonstrable good, others may target faith groups who differ from the sponsoring mission organization’s ideals, and yet others may insinuate themselves into native communities in culturally insensitive ways. We should not ignore local missions by preferring foreign missions. All missions could benefit from changes in approach.

In my June 10 column, “Africa is showing Alaska how to do missions,” I focused on the training Faith Christian Community has offered our community for years through Community Health Evangelism. Faith’s CHE trainer, Larry Kingry, has trained over 100 people during this time, providing them with tools to approach missions insightfully. Many trainees do not take expensive trips to foreign destinations; some do, but a goodly number employ those skills in everyday interactions with people here and in other parts of Alaska.

Kingry was helpful connecting me with CHE-trained individuals. One of them was Heidi Navarro of Community Pregnancy Center.

“We had six of our people trained in CHE,” Navarro said, “and now we not only include our clients in the design of services in the very beginning, but we stop and think through our strategies in helping. We want to build the dignity of those we help and for them to take ownership of the solutions.”

Heidi offered an example of a time where CHE training was useful. She’d started planning a Christmastime “birthday party for Jesus” for kids of clients. “I was all pumped up,” she said.”I would like to do this party for the kids but I stopped myself. I thought, wait! CHE talks about ownership.” She asked a client to take the lead, and own it. The client enlisted her friends, “reaching a whole new people group than before.” The event, held at University Baptist Church was a great success. Heidi says they also use the training day-to-day to encourage a team atmosphere, asking “Is this CHE?”

Joyce Matthews can be found most days working at Downtown Soup Kitchen. CHE-trained in 2014, she talked about her mission experience before CHE. “I have been going to Uganda on short-term missions for years,” Matthews said. “After taking CHE, training and education has been my focus versus taking huge suitcases of gifts. I have been promoting CHE as a strategy for development.

Previously, during twice-yearly trips to Uganda, Joyce noticed whatever she brought or did, or her actions on behalf of other people subsequently became “expected,” establishing a dependency in the Ugandans. Now, she only takes books, using them to share the Gospel.

If needs are expressed to her, she poses the question, “What resources do you have here to solve this problem?” an important key in development as taught by CHE. At DSK, clients also take meaningful responsibility for their actions, consistent with CHE principles. For instance, when a client uses a shower but leaves it messy, they’re called back to clean it if they expect to use it again.

Local real estate agent Fred Owen said, “I was a field coordinator for our church for missions in the Philippines. For years we have poured many thousands of dollars in relief efforts (that were not relief) and created huge dependencies on our church. We destroyed initiative. We then trained 30 pastors in three levels of CHE hoping to turn them away from dependency from outside funds. It still hasn’t happened; it is so hard to break the cycle of long-term dependency. They see Western culture as having unlimited money. Good intent gets lost.” He admits CHE is changing this mindset, but it takes time.

Fred encourages those considering CHE training to “Come with a very open mind if you are considering CHE training. If you have that open mindset, the lightning bolt will come to you. It’s about becoming disciples, not fixing everything.”

A clinical professional from Fairbanks, Jo Miller, took her CHE training last fall. “I started traveling overseas with mission groups as early as 2005, and although I enjoyed the work, I always felt like something was ‘missing’ from the end result after each mission. CHE has provided the missing key with the concepts of sustainability and a clear, measurable long-lasting effect on every community touched. After the CHE training, my entire view on both local and foreign missions has drastically changed along with the choice in what organization I may choose to travel. I am so much clearer on my mission goals and truly feel my efforts are directed by a spiritual basis of love and compassion while providing a solid foundation for those I have the honor and privilege to work alongside in every community.”

Amanda McKinley, a Kenai Peninsula nurse recently returned from Ghana after working with CHE-related programs for two years. I first met Mandy, at my May interview of Dayo Obaweya, regional coordinator of West Africa Community Health Evangelism. Her parents are the directors of Child Evangelism Fellowship; Mandy clearly has a passion for ministry.

“Through the ministry of my parents,” she said, “I have had a passion to help others become their own teachers so that they become less dependent on outside resources. Through nursing work I have seen that not just spiritual needs must be addressed. I think that often the Western Church completely separates spiritual and physical. But when we look at the life of Christ he did not ignore the physical needs around him nor did he ignore the spiritual, he addressed both.”

In Ghana, Mandy helped start Children’s CHE and Women’s Cycle of Life. Children’s CHE introduces children to learn through Bible and physical health prevention stories. They learn how to purify water, make fly and mosquito traps, prevent malaria, and make latrines to prevent disease. Beadwork was taught to help children make jewelry to sell to help their families or pay school fees. Parents become more interested in adult CHE programs as they are taught by their children.

The Women’s Cycle of Life gives women a forum to discuss pregnancy, danger signs in pregnancy, preparing for delivery, nutritious foods for children, and how God values women. Mandy said, “Some of the women told us that they were always arguing and fighting but when they started to meet together for WCL they learned how to get along and work towards a goal. They have worked together to start a market in their area.”

Kingry is offering a CHE training over two weekends in September. For more information and to sign up, visit pixelark.com/registration/signup/?5050.

Africa is showing Alaska how to do missions

Several weeks ago, I wrote about a large local church youth group going to South Africa for a short-term mission trip. Although I purposely did not name them, they were subsequently identified by a member in a recently published letter to the editor as from St. John United Methodist Church. They and other local churches have participated in a number of such missions the last few years, sending groups to Africa despite widespread information such trips usually do more for the participant than those on the other end. In fact, most of such trips, according to the Africans, do more damage than help.

A popular definition of insanity, often attributed to Albert Einstein is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” George Santayana famously wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There has to be a better way to conduct missions and this column describes it.

Recently, I had an opportunity to interview a knowledgeable spokesman from Africa representing a network of churches and nongovernmental organizations that understand the limitations of well-intentioned individuals. That person, Dayo Obaweya, is regional coordinator of West Africa Community Health Evangelism covering an area equivalent to the Lower 48, comprised of 17 countries in which more than 300 million people have a per capita income of $1 to $2 dollars a day.

I was intrigued by a talk he gave at Faith Christian Community’s Sunday service last month in which he said WACHE’s goal was “to bring people out of poverty into the love of Christ.” Contrast that with the goal of so many short-term mission trips we know of. My interview with Dayo was the next day.

WACHE is an affiliate of Community Health Evangelism a Christ-centered educational program used by hundreds of churches and organizations across the globe. Obaweya was visiting U.S. members. Faith Christian Community is a CHE member and has trained over 100 individuals in CHE methods.

CHE’s core strength is in training. The organization describes itself as “a plan for individual and community development through physical and spiritual teaching.” Trained CHE members don’t do development but “teach CHE to local trainers, who teach CHE to their own people in some of the poorest places in the world. These people do development for themselves.”

The CHE website describes how this all happens: “Local people do it for themselves by: Choosing their own people to be in charge; Choosing their own priorities of what to change; Choosing their own people to be trained to teach house to house; Finding their own resources; and accomplishing their own goals when and where they choose. Local people own and manage their CHE plans. We just train their teachers. CHE is big on ownership!” That’s empowerment at its best.

Obaweya described one such venture in West Africa where a village was asking for a multipurpose community center and school. Indigenous CHE trainers went to this village and did a simplified planning process. They asked if the village had sand, stones, gravel, land and water? They were told yes. Would they supply labor to build it? Yes! Wood for the roof? Yes, we’ll cut locally.

Asked if they had concrete, they said they had 10 of the 100 bags needed. The village was encouraged to pool bits of money to buy more concrete, acquiring 10 more bags. CHE asked government officials in to see the progress. Astounded by their initiative, and finding them the 80 bags the project required, they immediately authorized delivery of the needed shortfall. Local financial pooling raised funds for the tin to cover the roof.

The project turned out to be an unqualified success, using the CHE strategy to achieve community transformation, a major goal of CHE leadership. Obaweya said the building is now used as a meeting hall, church and clinic when government medical workers come to give children medical examinations, etc. Obaweya, who visited it recently, said other surrounding villages had asked this village for help planning needed projects.

Health work is an essential part of what CHE does. CHE trainers go into people’s homes and villages teaching proper sanitation and hygiene principles. They address family size issues by training through Women’s Circle of Life and Men’s Matters groups. Larger families in impoverished parts of West Africa sometimes struggle to survive. Individual couples receive training and instruction in family planning.

Another CHE program trains children in practical matters of hygiene, nutrition, gardening and Christianity. Children bring these life-saving principles home, sharing them with their parents.

CHE affiliates also support initiatives that include microfinance and group savings programs.

WACHE tackles water projects but shuns Western technology for drilling and water extraction, instead choosing low-tech approaches that can be made and maintained locally, when repairs are needed. Too many water projects fail when well-meaning groups from developed countries go in and overengineer projects with little local buy-in, and without the knowledge and ability to maintain them.

CHE’s process is holistic, empowering individuals to help themselves, tending to their mind, body, and spiritual needs. It’s transformative. It resurrects people’s lives which have often been destroyed by Western do-gooders with handout methods destroying personal initiative and depersonalizing individuals and families.

When I asked Obaweya his view of short-term mission trips, he responded by saying, “We don’t want to call it short-term missions. We’d rather call them evangelists. I see them as evangelists across the border. The word short-term mission can become a hindrance,” noting that people coming with this label are not thinking of something that is going to last. Rather WACHE involves them in initiating a process such as child or community health screening, an entry exercise. The ongoing process can then be initiated by the local community.

WACHE’s model weans people away from a culture of dependence by teaching people to organize, plan, build, grow food and learn about God’s love.