Community Development: Meeting Felt Needs
Go to the people, live among them, learn from them, love them. Start with what they know, build on what they have: But of the best leaders, when their task is accomplished, their work is done, the people all remark, “We have done it ourselves.
- attributed to Chinese sage, Lao Zi
Wycliffe’s focus is life transformation through God’s Word. However, in cases where a community is not yet interested in Bible translation, or the language team needs a valid reason to live among the minority people in a closed country, a gateway project can help raise awareness and open closed doors. Community development (CD) projects which offer practical help are tangible ways to demonstrate love and build relationships with a community and local officials. When they experience such care, they are more likely to be open to God’s love and eventually desire to have His word in their language.
Language teams may start CD projects to address specific community needs such as health education, agricultural improvement and income generation. This type of work requires many skills and specialties in a wide range of areas such as health, agriculture, water purification, education and business. As a result, language teams often need the help of other volunteers who can provide such skills.
The aim of the CD specialists is to encourage community members to get involved in the projects along with the foreign volunteers. This also serves to increase their confidence and capacity to work together to reach their own goals and meet their own needs. CD workers hope that community leaders will eventually be able to take over the work, adapt strategies to meet their community needs, and seek outside help only when needed.
Read about the experience of the Jin language project in Asia, illustrating how CD can be closely integrated with translation work.
If you would like to find out more about opportunities to partner language teams to serve such communities, please contact Wycliffe Singapore.
“These people are so kind. They came all the way to our place to help us. They have sponsored one of village girls for a heart operation and now she is well.”
- Jin village head
These words were spoken by the village head at one of the village meetings held to discuss the clean water project for their village. Each family in the village pledged to contribute labour and the smaller pipes for the water project while financial resources and the larger pipes were supplied by believers overseas. This glimpse of the love of Christ through meeting their felt needs marked the beginning of a good relationship with the community.
A few years later, a few villagers accepted the Lord and a small house church was formed. Later, when government officials warned the villagers not to associate with us, the villagers fearlessly told the government officials, “Without them, we would not have clean water to drink.” And, the local believers continued in their faith in the Lord. Praise the Lord for His sustaining grace!
Over the years, the CD projects we have worked on include:
- Education: Sponsoring school and living expenses of children from poor families, up to university level if they qualify. Our hope is that higher education will lead to improved living conditions and higher standards of living. From time to time, we also visit their families to care for and encourage them. We also raised funds to build a school dormitory.
- Water: Providing clean water to over 30 families.
- Biogas: Contributing materials to build biogas systems for the individual homes in partnership with the local government. Human and animal manure is converted to fuel for lighting and cooking.
- Medical: providing medical care through the local hospital for the sick, both non-believers and believers, who are poor and in need of help. We bring them for medical checks and treatment, care for them, and pay their medical expenses.
- Handicraft: Purchasing handicrafts from the villagers to provide them with another source of income. The handicrafts are sold overseas and the profits channelled back to help the poor and meet medical needs.
- Micro-enterprise: Helping to start businesses such as rearing animals and selling street food. The current focus is to help local church leaders and believers to earn a living while being involved in ministry.
CD work has helped us build trust relationships with the Jin people and has widened our network among them. Besides giving us the opportunity to share Christ with them, it has greatly helped the progress of the translation project. The medical ministry in particular works closely with the local church leaders and believers. This relationship makes it easier for us to partner with them in checking and improving the translation and the promotion of heart language scripture use. Many of the Jin who have come to know the Lord have been using the translated Bible stories and songs. They need more Scripture and songs in their heart language to grow strong in the faith, and the CD projects have made it possible for us to live among them and provide such materials to them.