However, how we approach this expression needs careful consideration. Rather than adding to feelings of ‘humility’ and ‘futility for those facing poverty’, it must be an empowering and sustainable solution for the people affected by it. It must recognise the whole-life nature of the problem and provide a whole-life solution.
This is the understanding that has led to the development of the Church and Community Transformation (CCT) approach that Tearfund uses.
[Read more about why we love the church and how it’s the answer to poverty here.]
Francis Wamui Njoroge is from Kenya. He’s a consultant and trainer for this process and he has been doing this kind of work for Tearfund for 26 years!
Journey to Church and Community Transformation (an empowering solution)
Francis started out working for another humanitarian organisation where he was an evaluation officer – responsible for monitoring and evaluating the success of its projects. His colleague at the time, whom he also counts as his mentor and friend, was a lady called Judy Hutchinson. She began to challenge the way projects were evaluated.
Francis explains, ‘Because she’s a people person, she said: “Wait a minute! True evaluation should be one where the people themselves are able to say who they are, where they are at, but also to be able to say ‘This is who we would want to become’. And once they have decided that, they begin looking for ways to get there. Otherwise, it has traditionally been what a funder or external person decided for them, rather than them deciding for themselves.”
‘That was very intriguing and transforming!’ Francis says, ‘Because it meant we had to change the whole mode of approach – even the design – so that it ceases being something done from outside, done by an outsider, because an outsider does not quite understand what is on the inside.
‘From there on, we began looking for tools that will help us work with the people to express themselves – to say who they are.’
Through years of reconsidering, retesting and reassessing, Francis and others have built Tearfund’s way of working within communities – through local churches and local Christian partners – that has been shown to be effective in bringing lasting transformation in people’s whole lives and often in their whole communities.
As Francis says, holistic transformation starts with people taking stock of where they find themselves and understanding who they want to be, so that they can start to work towards it. If we believe that each person is created by God with a plan and a purpose, it is completely reasonable then to understand how building and strengthening faith is a natural foundation for every other practical response to issues of poverty that flows out of it.
Joseline’s story of whole-life transformation
‘Because of the difficult life I was living, I had nothing,’ says Joseline. ‘My husband wasn't providing for us, so I felt compelled to engage in sex work – without considering the risks to my life.’
Joseline lives in Rwanda with her husband and their two children. Through help and support from the local church and Tearfund’s partner working in her community, Joseline has managed to change her life, and her family have started to build a new future together – one where Joseline doesn’t feel forced to sell her body to survive. She tells us, 'Our small home felt like it might fall apart, but I believe that God has rescued me from a challenging family situation. I trust that he will continue to provide and to improve our lives.’
Here is her story of transformation.
‘At that time,’ Joseline shares, ‘I was involved in fights, smoking cigarettes, and drinking alcohol. I was living a reckless life.
‘Mwana Ukundwa [Tearfund’s local partner] came to our neighbourhood and began teaching people. At first, I was hostile towards them because of the life I was leading. I didn't believe they could help me. I would run away from them and the neighbours who would try to pray for me. I believe now that if it wasn’t for God's presence in the village, no one else could have changed me.