In our training materials we often use the example of a tree. Trees grow and bring shade from the sun and fruit for everyone in the community. A tree must grow in the soil in which it is planted; it cannot wish or hope to grow somewhere else or with resources from elsewhere. We explain that people can be like trees in and for their community.
We believe it is important to give people inspiration about what and how they can contribute to the life that God has for everyone. Practical education and good ideas can make the all-important difference for many people. You can be willing, but not know how to make a difference. However, setting people free from the curse of having ‘hope’ and ‘dependency’ in those outside of their community is very important. Using the talents, relationships, resources and lives that are within the community provide the catalyst for everyone. That is a lesson for each of us, wherever we are. Our ongoing Deeper campaign is about giving everyone the opportunity to take part. We are working towards each existing Life Group being able to plant another Life Group. We want to see a critical mass of active Christians affecting change, leading to thriving communities and lives full of hope! To help make this happen we have taken two key steps.
1. Clusters: Our Impact Teams have gathered Life Group leaders into local clusters. By increasing connection between Life Groups, we are strengthening and building identity within an area and providing a natural network of people working together. Clusters also allow local leadership to arise within each area.
2. Plant: We have written Plant; a short, simple training module that Life Group leaders can work through together. It teaches how to help someone else plant a Life Group. Simple…and powerful! We have translated and produced Plant in English, Bemba and Lunda. We are working on further translations.
Already we are seeing the fruit of our work. We recently heard that 8 new Life Groups had sprung up in the Chinshinki area after clusters were formed and Plant was shared. This is really encouraging and an answer to prayer. Join us in praying for further multiplication!
As we reflect on the last 10 years and look towards the future, we believe there are 2 other key steps we now need to take to help equip many more people.
Digital Access: By 2019 we want to provide our materials digitally, making them easily accessible to those in remote locations wherever they are in the world. This will give the opportunity for Life Groups to spread beyond our reach and at a much quicker pace.
Equipping Others: People have remarked that the simple approach of Life Groups could be used in many other areas. We want to compile an ‘away kit’ that others can use to pass on the idea of Life Groups wherever they may have connections. This could be used on short term mission or by other organisations to raise up the people God has placed in an area they are visiting or working in. We have partnered with 1 church to test run the ‘away kit’ and are excited to see what God does through their work. Contact us if you would like to try it too!
In this world, we need God, we need each other and our society desperately requires what we can achieve together for the good of everyone.
Here are 10 of our favourite stories from the last 10 years. These are a tiny snapshot of the many ways in which Life Groups are impacting their communities with the love of Jesus.
1. Rosemary became a Christian after joining a Life Group. She knew of 2 orphans in her community, left to fend for themselves. As Rosemary came to know Jesus she began to understand that these orphans were God’s children too and that she should help them. She opened her house to them and adopted them into her family.
2. A mysterious disease was claiming the lives of children in a village outside Nchelenge. At a Dignity training event, Life Group leaders in the area prayed for their communities and from that point on no more children died. Many people wanted to know more about Jesus as a result.
3. The Life Group in Lusemfwa meets every week to study the Bible. The 17 adults in the group then work together on a 750m2 farm-garden to aid their community. Their aim is to help the elderly people in their village directly with food, and to work towards paying school fees for disadvantaged children.
4. Two young men in Kabuta joined a Life Group. They used to be found drinking, lounging about and generally not being very productive. Shortly after joining the Life Group they decided that they “needed to get serious about God and about their lives.” They are now useful, active in their community and committed to the message of loving God and those around them. Those who know them are amazed by the change they have seen.
5. Matanga had never been able to walk and had spent most of his life sitting on the floor. Precious & Joffrey and their Life Group realised that they could do something to help him. They applied for a hand pedalled mobility cart and arranged transport to get it to their village. Suddenly Matanga’s quality of life has been vastly improved as everyday tasks like washing, eating and getting around have been made easier.
6. In Kamalamba 3 Life Groups worked together to unite the community and reconstruct a bridge after it was damaged by heavy rainfall. In Chibaia a dangerous river crossing that had claimed a number of lives was made safe when the 8 Life Groups in the area came together to build a bridge. In Mulilima a Life Group created a separate footpath so that people no longer had to walk in the road at a particularly sharp corner where accidents kept happening. Since then there have been no more accidents!
7. Crime rates in Kambwali dropped after the Life Group there began praying for the known trouble causers in their village. They invited them to join their Life Group when the rest of the community shunned them for their behaviour. Their behaviour has been transformed, as has the reputation of the village!
8. Royd discovered someone had stolen his crop of onions one morning. Martin, the thief, was duly arrested, but when Royd met him he felt strongly that God wanted him to forgive Martin. Royd told Martin this and asked him to attend a Life Group in the area. Martin did and over time has been changing his ways! Since this event Royd has been actively seeking an opening to start Life Groups in prisons.
9. Isaac fled from Lusemfwa after beating his wife when drunk. He ended up in Chibombo 150km away and after some time joined a Life Group there. Over a period of 5 months the Life Group helped Isaac break free from his addiction and brought him to Jesus. As Isaac told more of his story, the group decided to contact a Life Group in his old village, Lusemfwa. The group in Lusemfwa visited Isaac’s wife and explained what had happened. A year later, with the support of both Life Groups, the family has been successfully and peacefully reunited.
10. Precious doubted that she could ever be loved by God because she was working as prostitute. After Dignity visited her village she began to pray to God and she said, “God has changed me.” She no longer works as a prostitute, instead she tells others about Jesus and volunteers as an Impact Team member! She has seen that many people are really happy with the concept of Life Groups because they feel that they are being trusted with the work and given responsibility. Precious described them as “an army in waiting.”
As you have read in our previous articles, we are partnering with thousands of people, inspiring transformed lives and communities and bringing freedom from poverty through relationship with Jesus. The £10 Challenge is a really simple way you can do this too!
Our £10 Challenge is an imaginative way for you to join us in partnering with thousands of people like those whose stories you have read.
How much can you raise using just £10?
1. Start with £10 and an idea!
2. Sign up below so we know you are taking part.
3. Use your imagination to multiply your £10 within 2 weeks.
4. Give 1 or 2 friends £10 from what you raise and ask them to do the challenge!
5. Donate the rest to Dignity at www.totalgiving.co.uk/donate/dignity
6. Tag us and your friends on social media using #£10Challenge
7. Share your challenge with us by emailing email@example.com
Your ideas, energy and time will inspire amazing lives and everyday miracles.
Myombo is a church leader in Kasaba, Samfya. He joined Dignity in 2016 and said at the time that he was not that interested. However that has now changed and he says that he has seen tremendous things in his village through the work of Dignity.
Alcohol had a strong hold over Myombo’s family. Most of his nephews drank regularly causing distress and poverty for their wives and children. Myombo’s sister made and sold local brew to earn a living. When Myombo began a Life Group, he invited them and others from the community.
“As I went through the materials and as I taught them bit by bit my nephews have found peace and received Jesus Christ as their personal saviour and have stopped drinking. This has brought peace to their homes according to their wives. My sister stopped brewing beer.
We are encouraging one another under Dignity to do other businesses that can help us to earn our living. We are trying by all means when it is rainy season to have a farm together, working as community. We tried by all means to donate money and then we bought a pig. And then that pig, we kept it. It started to produce the offspring and we started sharing them with one another in the village.
It’s not normal but because we meet together as a group we learn about spiritual things and physical things. When we came to learn about helping one another materially that’s why we encouraged each other. The pig cost us 250k (£18/$25.50). To have a pig on your own, it’s difficult in our village. But when we donate and start helping one another it’s easy.
The pig will make a very big difference in my village because at the moment people are struggling, especially to pay for their children who are going to school as the cost of school fees are too high. So for them to have money it’s very difficult. But when these pigs grow and they start selling, the money that comes out of that will pay for their children to go to school and then buy other things that are needed for them. So far 4 families have received piglets. Others are waiting. We think maybe after a year or 2 at least 20 people will have benefited from the pig and received a piglet.”
“Where we are living we were almost poor and we were not helping each other. God has helped us a lot as we are bringing a Dignity group into the village. It has even helped me lead my church better.” – Myombo
In Dignity’s 10th year, founder Jon Paul Witt pauses to reflect on where the journey began.
It was 2007 and I was sat in Mibila with my friend Mark. Mibila is a small remote community about an hour’s drive south of the Chingola to Solwezi road in Northern Zambia. It’s not an easy drive. Bumps, potholes, ruts and in the rains a sticky mud-bath ensure that you have a difficult passage. Mark and I had been camping there for two days whilst he had been photographing widows in the village to raise money for a clinic that we were helping at the time. I was his hardy, Africa-seasoned guide on this trip.
In one of our many conversations we discussed the nature of what we saw in the village. Many people were very poor and had very difficult lives. In rural African society most people live in a subsistence fashion, a step up from hunter gatherer. They grow their own food, selling any excess to support their family. Any employment is small scale and is very much secondary in importance. Life itself often seems cheap, no doubt fuelled by high mortality rates due to what are in many cases preventable deaths. From a study I did years ago, I learnt that rural life in Africa is defined by survival. If someone has any resources, it is common for others to sue them simply to help themselves. The norm is to prioritise your own needs at the expense of others. Cooperation, entrepreneurship, community, responsibility and love can sometimes seem like distant concepts or luxuries.
Mark could see how vast improvements in the village could be made from cooperation, simple business opportunities and education. In his mind he had it all mapped out. He watched some people walk by struggling to carry a load. “Someone could get a cart and hire it out” he commented. He’s a natural entrepreneur. “These things don’t happen naturally, why not?” I thought aloud. “Finding the cause is the important step. Address that and this village will change!”
Ten years later and I have seen some of that change with my own eyes. I have seen the story of Dignity being written through thousands of amazing lives and everyday miracles.
Read about some of the changes I have seen in our 10 year timeline…
Sadly, we are all too familiar with the plight of refugees fleeing difficult situations. News of people coming to Europe to seek a safer or better life has filled the headlines for some time now. Thousands of miles away in Zambia a tale of stark similarity is unfolding.
The economic decline, unrest and challenging political situation in Zimbabwe over recent decades has led to a large influx of migrants to neighbouring Zambia. Many have ended up in Mukonshi in the hope of building a better life there. Mukonshi is a remote rural area, a typical village with mud huts and burnt brick houses. Dry and dusty until the rain comes, Mukonshi suddenly turns into a lush green area with copious amounts of mud. Many tribes and backgrounds are now represented in Mukonshi from the incoming Shona and Ndebele to the Zambian tribes of Tonga and Bemba who have lived there for many years. Sadly, as we know, the perception that foreigners are coming to take jobs and resources is easily born and often fuels anger and distrust. The mix of people groups within Mukonshi led to a situation where people did not trust one another so kept themselves to themselves and did not really know one another. A strong ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality grew with each people group blaming the others when something went wrong. One lady said, “You couldn’t even borrow a tool from someone. They wouldn’t trust you to bring it back.” This sort of summed up the suspicion of everyday life in the area. In the words of another villager, “There was no community.”
Earlier this year a Dignity Impact Team made up of Gervas, Margaret and Josephine visited Mukonshi to run one of our training events there. According to Gervas, “People in Mukonshi showed a real interest in the programme. As they heard about the life of the early church community, they were inspired to change things where they lived.” One lady who has now become a strong advocate for the Life Group in the community said that she realised that, “Our understanding was wrong. No-one is sure where this lack of trust and selfishness has come from. We need to trust one another.”
A few months later, there are now 3 Life Groups meeting in the Mukonshi area with people from different parts of the community learning and working together. Where people were once very separate, there are signs of togetherness and community. As Gervas says, “Perhaps the most obvious sign of this is that you can now borrow a tool from someone.”
This story is just one of many examples of Life Groups inspiring transformed lives and communities…
Jon, Jude and the family are going back to Zambia today. Let’s stand together in prayer for them, for protection over the whole family, safe journeys and a quick integration back into the community in Zambia.
Over the coming months they will spend times with our existing teams in Zambia, Namibia and Tanzania. They will also be travelling further afield to pioneer the work of Life Groups with people we know in different areas.
As we’ve partnered with people across Zambia, Namibia and Tanzania we have seen them be inspired by Jesus to love and transform their lives, families and communities bringing freedom from poverty in many ways. We hope their stories encourage you!