This weekend I’m at Calvin College in Michigan for their annual Faith and International Development Conference. To keep you all updated on what I’m learning, here’s some raw points that really stuck out to me:
Friday was a pretty big day- three plenary speakers, three workshops and a dinner. The only thing that rivaled the amount of information was the amount of food they gave us!
It would be to much to go through everything, but today there was a lot that sort of fit together. The theme of the conference is “Healthy Humility; Learning to learn”. We started with Ravi Jayakaran again, who asked us if we had been in the place of the powerless; overlooked, neglected, taken advantage of and insulted. He looked at the example of Jesus, who gave up all his power in order to relate to us. Ravi told us our vision is 20/20 when we are powerless, because we recognise the need for God’s power in us.
Next, World Renew’s Susan Weaver Van Lopik told us about her experience using participatory appraisal techniques, and how asking questions changes the practitioner as much as the beneficiaries.
One unexpected highlight was Scott Sabin from Plant with Purpose. I was kind of skeptical of an NGO that goes around planting trees, but Scott’s talk was entitled “We don’t need another hero”. He talked about his journey from enlightened expert to fellow learner. He told brilliant stories; from getting his pants ripped open on a Haitian minibus to facing a community member who asked “What makes you different than the last three NGOs that were here?”. Crucial to his work is the belief that every single person has incredible talent and purpose. His work is not to help, but to allow that talent to flourish.
In the afternoon, I went to some workshops, one on attitude change with Ravi, where he had us stand on chairs to explore power relationships. Another was on how to use PLA, and the last was a conversation on the Biblical mandate for caring for orphans and widows. In the last, I was particularly impressed with an Eastern University professor named Lindy Backues, and got to talk to him afterwords about his work of doing microfinance and church planting at the same time. For him, the two were inseparable, based on the idea that church is a community of called people, and development happens through community action.
There’s lots more: I got to eat dinner with a a Compassion alumni, a woman from Brazil who had been a sponsored child and now did work in Brazil. I also met the guy who had been in charge of Samaritan’s Purse’s response to the Japanese earthquake. We had a bunch of mutual friends, and he laughed at how I accepted his card with the honour that only the Japanese ascribe to business cards.
Last day today, a little tired, but so thankful for the opportunity!