What have the last 6 months meant for the work of Dignity in Zambia? A profound question for our work no doubt. Do our methods, beliefs and principles work when some of our key personnel are not within Africa? Does our work make a difference?
I remember a few years ago, reading about the great missionary exit from China. After years of planting, sowing and working, missionaries were forced by the new communist government out of the country. Many years later, returning, many were astounded to see a vibrant, healthy, living and effective church. A church that was bold in the face of persecution and effective in being Christ to China.
Whilst not quite on the same scale, Jude and I were forced to take longer out of Zambia than we normally would. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t wonder how things would be when we returned. Right from the very outset, our aim has been to craft our work, ministry and organisation in such a way that we do not make it depend upon us personally or Dignity itself. We believe that the peoples of sub saharan Africa given a relationship with God, the right education, inspiration and ideas, can make things work for themselves. That means, it should still work when we are not around……….. the question is did it?
Well I’m very happy to report that it did! The work of Dignity is more of a movement than an organisation, comprising many villagers and some village missionaries that we support organised into what we call, ‘Impact Teams’. These teams have continued leading and planning themselves, training new areas and visiting areas to support and encourage. This for me is a sign that the approach we take is the correct one. In fact, whilst absent the number of groups has grown from around 135 to 145 within Zambia itself.
What has been also encouraging is some of the stories we have heard of what villagers have been up to. Looking after the elderly, paying school fees for orphans, visiting the sick in clinics, new areas being reached and people finding a meaningful relationship with God. Even in some of the most difficult and remote areas this has been the pattern. Of course there are challenges, difficulties and some effort that proves seemingly fruitless. However the general picture is one that sees a growing movement of love and discipleship, a movement of hope for many rural villagers and a structure that is christian, african and resilient which we hope will endure beyond us.
The key is knowing what you are called to do and at what point your work ends. That is how to create opportunity and avoid dependency. To not be pressured by results or funding and to consistently take the right approach with the people you are called to help and reach.
Maybe we should take some more time out?