What would one of Tearfund’s founders think of our work, 50 years on from its humble beginnings? We ask his daughter.
As we’ve marked Tearfund’s 50th anniversary, one name has come up again and again: George Hoffman. George was a Church of England curate, who became the main founder of the Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund in 1968 – soon changed to Tearfund.
Tragically, George died in a road accident in 1992. What would he have made of the Tearfund of today? His daughter Claire has followed in her father’s footsteps, working in a number of development charities around the world. She reflects on the charity that her father set in motion half a century ago.
What do you think George Hoffman would think about Tearfund today, would he be pleased to see how we’ve progressed?
Without question my father would have been hugely and humbly proud of Tearfund today. Whilst I’m tempted to say he may be surprised at the sheer scale of the charity’s growth and its transformational impact, I think he was a man of such faith in Christ’s command to Christians to provide justice and hope for the forgotten that perhaps he wouldn’t be surprised after all!
'Without question my father would have been hugely and humbly proud of Tearfund today.'
He would be thrilled that Tearfund continues to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and for the rights of all who are destitute, as Proverbs calls us to. After all, it was an article that he wrote giving witness to the suffering of the terrible Biafra famine in the 1960s that first motivated Christians to send in cheques with the request that the money go to help those in need there, from which Tearfund was born.
I also think he would hugely respect the emphasis the organisation puts into continuing to work through local churches to help people find their own solutions and discover that the answer to poverty is within themselves and within Christ.
How much and in what ways has Tearfund changed from your memories of the earlier days?
In many ways so much has clearly changed. The sheer size of the organisation is astounding, given its humble beginnings. In the early days Tearfund was very much like a small family – we knew everyone as aunties and uncles. This God-centred family obviously grew in the UK and overseas, but it remained for many years a close family.
The depth of theological and strategic thinking behind the approach to the work of the charity is also something that is obviously very sophisticated today. A real constant seems to be how the staff, supporters and partners of Tearfund continue to rise to God’s call and challenge to give their time, their money and their lives to help care for both the physical and spiritual needs of the world’s most vulnerable.
The vibrancy and personal commitment of the staff I’ve met recently very much reminds me of the team in the early days. That same spirit is clearly present today and is helping drive God’s work throughout the organisation.
'I think he would remind us all that God’s compassion is full of action.'
Supporters were always the lifeblood of Tearfund and clearly that too remains the same today. The loyalty and huge generosity of supporters of all ages seems unwavering, as it was in the early days.
And ultimately the inspirational partners on the ground who through their passion, courage and determination are changing lives every single day. I met many of Tearfund’s first partners from around the world and many of their faces and stories remain with me more than 40 years later. The continued dedication of Tearfund’s partners, as they truly walk the walk even in extreme adversity, is still overwhelming.
What do you think George’s message would be to Tearfund today?
Christ’s compassion, a powerful sense of injustice and the determination to put God’s command to love into action drove Tearfund from the outset. These remain as important today as they were 50 years ago.
I think he would encourage Tearfund to continue to challenge where useful, and be provocative when required, to make sure the world’s poorest are not left behind.
Ultimately I think he would remind us all that God’s compassion is full of action, so let ours be also.