Are you a banana or a banyan tree? You may think that’s a strange question but it is a question we often use when we do any Dignity training. Perhaps you don’t know how either works. The banyan tree is actually a fig tree that takes root and germinates on other trees. It sends multiple shoots down to the ground, giving the appearance of many tree trunks. It has the nickname “strangler fig” because it grows so thick and dense it kills all around it. It grows large and strong at the cost of other life around it. The banana tree is different though. Actually a plant, it grows and bears fruit, but then it dies. Once this tree has died, its roots will allow a number of other banana trees to grow in its place.
So what? Well, for Dignity, we could either try to be all about “Dignity”. We could try to grow our own name, our own reputation and seek to become well known. This could be with the best intentions. We could reach more areas, raise more money and have more influence. But ultimately it would be about Dignity…it would be rather like a banyan tree. We might grow, but would we allow those around us to grow or would be accidentally squeeze the life out of them?
The alternative is that we actively seek to make sure the work we do is not about us, Dignity. To be banana tree like would mean giving up our own desire to “take the credit” or be the name, and actively allowing those we work amongst to outgrow us.
As you have probably figured by now, we try to be more like a banana tree than a banyan tree. This means we actively seek to grow others around us. We are always looking for those who can step up and lead the work of Dignity in their area. We work hard to equip these men and women to do more than they thought could in their villages. In turn, we encourage them to do the same. We challenge them not to take all the glory for themselves; not to seek to be the one who benefits from what they are doing. We ask them to keep looking for others around them who can also carry the work forward. We encourage them to look for the gifts and skills that others have and seek to bring these to the fore.
To this end, three times a year we run EQUIP training camps, gathering our Impact Team members (local leadership teams) and spending a week learning together. There are now 23 Impact Team members working from the far northwest of Zambia to the very northeast of Zambia and all the way down to Namibia. They are working hard to help others love God and love their neighbour. This means a holistic approach addressing spiritual, emotional and practical needs.
Last Tuesday, our team members gathered, pitched tents and settled in for a three and a half day theology camp. (Other camps include teaching skills, leadership skills and conservation farming skills.) To give us some structure we were exploring the Apostles Creed. We dug deep into the character of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Lots of questions, lots of discussion and lots of learning for us all!
It is always good to catch up with well-established team members and also to meet all new potential team members who have been invited along. We get to hear stories of how Life! Groups are growing and going from strength to strength. As people see the difference they are making in communities they are drawn towards them and discovering Jesus at the heart of them. We heard how those who have learnt conservation farming skills have had successful crops and, despite people laughing at them at first, are now being asked to share what they know. It was fascinating to hear them saying how the discipleship and farming work hand in hand. The discipleship softening peoples’ hearts so they are willing to try something different and the farming showing people that God cares about their practical needs as well as their spiritual needs.
On Saturday lunchtime we waved goodbye to all the team members as they set off home. Some will get home the same day but some won’t get home until Tuesday! The massive geographical area our work is now covering and peoples willingness to travel these distances reflects the real thirst there is here for teaching and for God’s Kingdom. People see it making an impact and want to get equipped to do all they can within God’s big picture.
Dignity runs three EQUIP training events every year. This time 22 team members joined us and have all gone home better equipped to serve God in their community.
There are 3 ways you can help with EQUIP.
1. Pray! We can never have too much prayer. Pray for everyone as they carry on working in their communities. Pray that what we learnt together at EQUIP will be a real help to them as they face the difficult situations and tricky questions about life that come up as part of their work. If you don’t already receive our monthly updates sign up now using the form to the right (or below if you’re reading this on your phone).
2. Join us in November! Our next EQUIP will be in November. We will be exploring “Character” looking at some of the fruits we should be displaying as a result of following Jesus. Find out more here!
3. Give! EQUIP sessions are one of our biggest expenses but we see it as a great investment in those we work with. You can help us cover the cost of this or future EQUIP training events. The biggest cost is the accommodation and food which this time cost in the region of £800. The other big cost is everyone’s bus fares which Dignity covers. The average fare this time £39.40. If you would like to contribute to these you can do so on-line here with a regular or one off gift or find out more about giving off-line here.