Before you embark on a project overseas, no matter how excited you are about it, there are some critical issues to think through
- Is it achievable in the local context?
- Is it an appropriate response to the situation or need?
- Will it bring about lasting change?
- Will it strengthen the church’s Christian witness in the local community or weaken it?
- Is it an authentic expression of the kingdom of God, or just a good idea?
- Is it based on a clear understanding of the most significant local needs?
- Has there been good communication with the local community and the proposed beneficiaries of the project?
- Have they been involved in shaping the ideas?
- Will it be possible to measure the impact of the project?
- Have you thought through the possible unintended consequences of your proposed intervention?
The Bible teaches us that God’s desire is for us to be in good relationship with him, with each other and with the world he has made. One of the most valuable things you can do when confronted with poverty is to build relationships, make friends – and let any projects flow from that.
Remember that you’re there to learn as well as to do. Identify local expertise, skills and knowledge and work with it – find out how the local people do things. If you find you and others from your church are the only ones doing the task and the local community isn’t involved, something has gone wrong.
If you’re going to run a project yourselves, you don’t need to spend time and energy reinventing the wheel. We’ve been working with overseas church-based partners for 40 years, actively engaged in all kinds of development projects, and we’ve learnt a lot from our mistakes.
One of the most valuable things you can offer overseas churches engaging with poverty in their local community is written resources. We produce Footsteps, a quarterly magazine in seven languages for grassroots development workers overseas, full of information, ideas and experience in a Christian context. Tell your overseas church partners about it and suggest they get on the mailing list by visiting our International Learning Zone website – there's a wealth of information and advice available and it’s all free.