“There must be a sharp focus on compassion”

Del Anderson, the founder of Spirit in Action, was a prodigious and dedicated journal writer and here in the SIA office I am lucky enough to have many of his actual journals. He seemed to use his writing time as a moment to let his thoughts flow, allowing time to explore his ideas about God, our purpose, love, and anything else that came up. He used regular 1-subject lined notebooks and a four-color pen, wildly switching colors and adding emphasis and extra words to his sentences.

I like to glance at his entries every now and again to be able to reconnect with Del’s strong spirit and passion for service to others. This morning I’d like to share the entry from Del’s journal for this day in 1998.

July 27th, 1998

Beholding as in a mirror the glory (that is the beauty) of Christ we are changed into the same image from one stage of character growth to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

It is a process of contagion, perseverance and growing in the Spirit. For life there must be a plan, a pattern, a purposeful intent. Life must have unity, humanity and purpose – with serenity, and a spirit of adventure with a resolute will. There must be a sharp focus on compassion, mercy, and justice for the common good.

All so often, we have great gratitude for the will to act, even as we often regret our failure to trust and obey. It is as we nurture our souls, we let God come forth: in, for, with, and through us. This living from within out is our passage to victory.

It is in nurturing our heart (intention) actively we grow from sense to soul, from self to Christ. Love, joy, peace, etc. are feelings. To partake of God’s character and nature, we need to feel the heart process of our nature.

If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink. (John 7:37)

A page from Del's journal - July 27, 1998

A space for widows in Zambia

A space for widows in Zambia

An important part of Spirit in Action’s mission is to respond to the real needs of the people and support already existing grassroots community organizations abroad. We start by acknowledging the experience and local knowledge of the community leaders and encourage with them as they hone projects that will work for the their specific community.

One such grassroots organization that Spirit in Action has supported is Welfare Concern International (WCI), in Livingstone, Zambia. Moses Chibanda, the current director, left a job in teaching in 2005 to run WCI full-time because he felt a deep calling to help those around him work their way out of poverty. The organization’s mission, in Moses’ words is “to bring hope and give people life survival skills through training and economic empowerment programs”.

Community members meet to pray and plan for the new WCI building.

Community members meet to pray and plan for the new WCI building.

Most of WCI’s members are widows who have lost their spouses due to the AIDS pandemic, and many are working to have enough money for their children to attend school. Moses explains, “One of the crucial problems faced by guardians is lack of capital to start their own income generating activities to sustain themselves and their families.” WCI provides skills training and small loans for new Income Generating Activities (small businesses) for the widows.

To help WCI in their efforts, the Livingstone City Council, donated an old building (pictured right) that will house a resource center and serve as a place for skills training and other economic empowerment activities. Not wanting to let any space go to waste, the group will use the land around the center to raise chickens and plant a vegetable garden. Spirit in Action will continue to follow their renovation progress and encourage them to reach out to more widows in their community.

Through the challenges of starting to build a center for WCI and seeing the mounting poverty around him, Moses continues on, always expressing dedication to his mission and acting as a strong role model for those who are able to do great works in their community by starting small and dreaming large. Moses shares, “I desire to serve the less privileged people to the best of my ability and take Welfare Concern International to great heights of success. There are moments in my life when I have felt like giving up but because of Spirit in Action’s encouragement and prayer support I have continued to soldier on to drive the work of WCI.”

SIA grant helps prisoners in Ghana

‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ –Matthew 25:40

Part of our mission at SIA is to serve God by empowering others. The passage above clearly states that, indeed, the best way to serve God is to help others, especially those in need. In the Bible parable, those who helped did so by providing clothing, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prison.

Prison officers and their wives enjoy Moringa enriched meat pies.

Prison officers and their wives enjoy Moringa-enriched meat pies.

An inspiring expression of this good action, Newton Amaglo, a SIA grant recipient and professor at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, is now working with over 400 officers and 2,000 inmates at four prisons new Kumasi to help them improve their diets.

So far Newton and his team have contributed free samples, 50 grams for each prisoner, of the highly nutritious Moringa leaf powder to the prisons. That’s a significant supplement to the prison diet, especially considering that just one gram of Moringa has the same nutrients as:

nutrition facts for Moringa

Considering the rumors of poor food in prisons in the US, we could take this as a lesson!

In these Ghanaian prisons, now, the leaves are used in tea and as a supplement in meat pies. Newton and his team have also recommended Moringa for use in the infirmary because of its many know medicinal healing qualities.

This is not just a handout; Newton also knows the importance of training the inmates. When giving aid the best help leaves the recipient with skills they can use long into the future. As such, Newton claims that the greatest success of the project so far is that “the prisoners are learning the technology of Moringa cultivation and processing so that they can live their lives on it even after serving their sentences.”

Not only do we want to care for our brothers and sisters, we also want to care for our earth. Moringa helps with this too. Newton, who also works as Scientific Manager for Moringa Partners, a Moringa discussion forum, recently recorded this podcast about the ways that Morniga can help combat global warming. (His voice is pretty difficult to hear, but the information is very interesting.) Since Moringa grows so quickly, it can help reforest the denuded land. Its green leaves are also high in chlorophyll and in the podcast Newton tells how these trees can absorb carbon dioxide at a faster rate than an average tree. Another interesting fact: there are currently studies being conducted to see if Moringa can reliably used as a biofuel, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. If you want to read more, Trees for Life has a good, reputable resource page about Moringa.

Wow! Every time I read about Moringa, it is a bit clearer why people call it the “Miracle Tree”. And Newton’s work visibly embodies our passion for providing individuals with simple tools that can drastically improve their lives.

50g Moringa samples are handed over to the prison officers

50g Moringa samples are handed over to the prison officers

Children's book about micro-finance

The best part about talking to librarians is that they know about books on almost any topic! It was through a librarian friend that I heard about the children’s book One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway and Eugene Fernandes. This beautifully illustrated book tells the inspiring story of a boy in Ghana, named Kojo, who starts a small business with a loan to buy one chicken.

The book, for children and adults alike, clearly shows how micro-finance works to change the lives of a family, community, town and country. On the grassroots level, people in a community pool their savings together to create a small loan fund. As the story explains “None of the twenty families in the village have very much money, but they do have a good idea. Each family promises to save a bit of money so that one family can borrow all the savings to buy something important” (p.7). The families take turns borrowing the money to start or expand their businesses. When they pay back the loan, another family gets a chance to borrow the funds.

Small business woman with her chickens

SIA small business grant recipient in Kenya with her chickens

This idea is what Spirit in Action calls a “merry-go-round” loan or a micro-savings group. In fact, one of the grant proposals approved at the June 2010 Board meeting helps establish a small-scale chicken project in Malawi, where the profits are added to the micro-savings pot, to be lent to different communities members on a rotating basis.

Giving people a chance to borrow money gives them a chance to make an investment in their future. In the story, which is based on the real life story of Kwabena Darko, Kojo borrows a few coins to buy one chicken. He takes care of the chicken, selling its eggs in the market so that he can pay back the loan and buy more chickens to expand his flock. He and his mom also eat some of the eggs to add more protein to their diets. After a year Kojo has made enough to go to school!

Kojo and his mom also benefit emotionally from the initial loan. “Kojo is proud of his eggs. And his mother is proud of Kojo. Bit by bit, one small hen is making a big difference” (p. 11).

Del Anderson knew just how much a few words of encouragement could bring hope to a person’s life. People who know they are loved and supported are more confident in all their enterprises! That’s why, for SIA, sharing and communicating with all our international partners is an important part of our mission. As Del always reminded people: Don’t let impossibilities intimidate you ~ do let possibilities motivate you.

This women's small poultry business experienced high demand for eggs

If you want to find out about just how successful Kojo is in his chicken enterprise, why not check out One Hen? And then read it to a friend or a child and get them thinking about how one small gift can make a significant difference in our world.

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