Acting our faith – Welcoming the immigrant

Acting our faith – Welcoming the immigrant

This week, with all the news about refugees and migrants running from dangerous situations and lured by hope, we have an extraordinary opportunity to put our spirit into action.

I have been heart-wrenched after hearing about the monumental journey that families are deciding to take, either together or apart, to search for that hope and that peace that is our right. Sadness and death are all around. Fear keeps people from reaching out a hand.

And yet, there are also promising stories of radical acceptance, of people welcoming strangers, giving encouraging words and nourishing food. Churches and secular communities are coming together saying, “We must do something. We must act to make the world better NOW.” And they are finding ways to act, by pressuring governments to accept more refugees and even sponsoring families to come to live in safety.

Welcoming the Stranger

This act of making space for, and welcoming the stranger, is core to my faith. Three years ago I came to appreciate this on a deeper level. (Reposted from my 2013 blog post):

“It surprised me just how much is in the Bible about the stranger. For example, “When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them. Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34). Over and over again, the Bible makes it pretty clear: treat people fairly, no matter where they come from; welcome them, because you never know when you might find yourself in need of hospitality.

Hospitality builds community, in part, because it is a gift to both the giver and receiver. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2). Both the host and the hosted have the opportunity to meet angels. [blog link]. Eight months ago I came to Canada – an immigrant – and I’ve received so much of the generous hospitality to newcomers. But just last week I was able to help a woman in the grocery store find what she needed, “I’m new in town,” she said by way of explanation. And so, I helped her, because I once was the newest newcomer. Plus, who knows, she might be an angel.”

“respect myself and my brothers and my sisters

In the coming weeks may we get down to pray and then get up off our knees and act to show our true respect for those members of our global family who are courageous enough to leave what they know to seek a better future.

Am I young enough to believe in revolution
Am I strong enough to get on my knees and pray
Am I high enough on the chain of evolution
To respect myself and my brothers and my sisters
And perfect myself in my own peculiar way.
~Kris Kristoferson, from Pilgrim’s Progress

Can I get some encouragement?

Can I get some encouragement?

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” Hebrews 10:24-25.

It is a special call to provoke one another to love and to do good. And considering how to encourage people is part of Spirit in Action’s legacy. There are some places – camps, retreats, church groups, support groups, etc. – where the barriers we build up in everyday life can be broken down, and we can reach out to each other. We allow ourselves to encourage and be encouraged, recognizing the light that is in each of us.

Del Anderson, the founder of Spirit in Action, was very skilled at encouraging people. He had a way of speaking or writing words of encouragement that took away doubt so that you absolutely believed what he was saying. Reading one of his letters in college could relieve my feelings of inadequacy and fill me with a greater sense of worth and purpose. I sensed that he honestly believed the truth of his words as he told me and others, “within you is the power,” and, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Del wrote many inspirational essays, which are freely available on our website. One of my favorites, which I still send out regularly, is Co-Creators with the Divine. In it, he writes:

“It is our joy, privilege and responsibility to transform God’s dream for us into a working, living reality. You are greater than you know. You are of more value to God than you believe possible.”

tanya and family and chicken; Uganda

Giving some encouragement to a SIA Small Business Fund family in Uganda and receiving a gift of gratitude (in the form of a chicken!)

Encouragement, when given honestly and humbly, can have a tremendous, lasting effect. That’s why I often highlight “encouragement” as the third leg of SIA’s programmatic stool. In addition to the Small Business Fund, and our Community Grants, we also are called to listen to and encourage one another.

And the encouragement doesn’t go unnoticed. “I am happy that you are perfectly playing your role of motivating and inspiring me every time we exchange emails,” responded one partner from Kenya. And from Zambia, “Thank you so much for mail. I really appreciate for endless support to WCI.” I receive so many emails with words like these. And I also received emails and notes from SIA supporters who encourage me.

So let us hear and answer this call to encourage each other and provoke each other to love and do good works for our neighbors and the earth.

I’ll leave you with my latest favorite words of encouragement:

“I have need to be on fire. I have icebergs to melt.” — William Lloyd Garrison

Lord, give us the audacity to live as though we believe our hands and feet are instruments of prayer. Amen. — Common Prayer (via Sojourners)

The Power of Hope

The Power of Hope

Finally! This week there was some great news about aid programs that really alleviate extreme poverty (less than $1.25/day). And – yay! – the programs with this long-term, positive impact are very similar to our Small Business Program. A recent multi-country study evaluated a program with range of interventions, including “cash to meet basic needs, training on how to earn a living, access to health services, and frequent check-ins from field workers.” In the same vein, our Small Business Fund provides business training, regular check-ins from our local coordinators, and start-up funds for a business of the group’s choosing.

Even a year after the program ended, the researchers found improvements in food security, women’s empowerment, and mental health. “But one of the most important effects of the approach,” the Christian Science Monitor article suggested, “could well be its tendency to spring participants from a mind-set that sees little or no hope of breaching the extreme-poverty ceiling.” The power of the program was that afterwards, people felt better about their future; they felt hopeful. And this, in turn, helps them continue to improve their lives.

"We began this work as if we were joking. Now it gives me joy." A Small Business Fund leader in Uganda makes clay pots and then sell them at nearby markets.

“We began this work as if we were joking. Now it gives me joy.” A Small Business Fund leader in Uganda makes clay pots and then sell them at nearby markets.

Del knew well the importance of self-esteem. It came across in our conversations and in the many letters he sent to me. “Within you is the power,” and “use what you already have and, step by step, uncover results that prove that we are greater than we realize,” he wrote. Perhaps we know from our own lives that money troubles can bring stress and make it even hard to get motivated to make a change. We can’t see beyond the immediate challenges or grasp the big picture.

On the other hand, as families in the Small Business Fund begin to see the great changes they have achieved through their own work, they get excited and hopeful. In part this hope comes from what Canaan Gondwe, Small Business Fund (SBF) Coordinator in Malawi, calls “mindset preparation.” He has on-going conversations with group members helping them mentally prepare to make these big changes in their lives, to seize their future, and to put in the many hours necessary to make their business successful. After three months in business, 84% of his groups report feeling better about their future.Our family has really moved from a minus to a plus,” one family proudly wrote.

When we were in Malawi, Theu, who had received a SBF grant to start a restaurant, testified that the business is growing and that he "has bought everything he needs." Other SBF Members in Malawi  cheer him on!

When we were in Malawi, Theu, who had received a SBF grant to start a restaurant, testified that the business was growing and that he “has bought everything he needs.” Other SBF Members cheer him on!

Even our Sharing the Gift initiative, where SBF families are encouraged to pay-it-forward to another family in need, is part of building self-esteem. I have written about how it gives the gift of giving. Groups that have gone through the program and have been successful get to help someone else. They see how far they have come and then there is the opportunity to bring others along with them.

Was I surprised that hope turned out to be a factor in alleviating poverty? Not for a second. Still, it is exciting to have confirmed what I already knew from our Small Business Fund – that encouraging people, meeting people with dignity, and helping them work to realize their own dreams is the way we’re going to make the world a better place for all.

Honoring Del and Lucile Anderson

Honoring Del and Lucile Anderson

With hearts full of gratitude, we extend this invitation to celebrate the life of Lucile Anderson (wife of Spirit in Action’s founder, Del Anderson) on April 25th in Oakland, CA. Please see the invite from Lucile’s family for details and how to RSVP.

Lucile’s son, Rob Hanford, shares that in her last days Lucile was “still growing, still teaching. It was amazing and uplifting to see the genuine love that the staff at Windsor had for mom, and the deep sadness at her passing. When you consider that she couldn’t speak during the six years she was there, her presence was very strong.”

We honor the beautiful spirit in Lucile and the kindness, love, and generosity she shared with the world!


Marsha Johnson, SIA Advisory Board member and former SIA Administrator, remembers: “I could always count on Lucile to thoughtfully speak her truth, whether in a meeting or in a private conversation together. I knew that this “truth” was preceded by prayerful pondering, and then Lucile would say something like:  “My guidance is……””

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Spirit in Action. You can make a donation in Lucile’s memory online or by mail.


Del and Lucile had quiet time together every morning. Perhaps these words from Del (from 2006) might have been thoughts they pondered during these prayerful times together.

Wisdom from Del: The Path of Transformation

  • Begin right where you are with what you have.
  • Give thanks to God for the gift of your own special life.
  • Thank God for family, friends, community and for all that has brought you to this present, holy moment.
  • Each day, spend time with God in the silence, sensing God’s Spirit of love within YOU.
  • Let go of all that binds and limits you, and sense God’s empowering Spirit coming forth within you more and more fully, day by day.
  • Open to gratitude, expectation and wonder.
  • Recognize that you are a Spiritual being with God’s indwelling Spirit activating you.
  • In the quiet, sense the true needs of yourself, your family, your community.
  • Lay these true needs before God, opening to God’s guidance and empowerment, letting God come forth in every aspect of your life.

Fostering dignity in myself and others

Brown Ngoma is expanding his family's store, building a home, and now "when his family is sick he can pay for a private hospital." (Manyamula, Malawi)

Brown Ngoma is expanding his family’s store, building a home, and now “when his family is sick he can pay for a private hospital.” (Manyamula, Malawi)

“If I fail to treat someone with dignity, it is me, not them, who is undignified.” In other words, to keep my own dignity – that sense of self-respect and pride in oneself – I must honor everyone else’s dignity. Just because someone is poor it doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t have self-respect. In fact, as an article in the Guardian about international aid and dignity pointed out, “some of the poorest people are the most dignified. And some of the richest lack dignity.”

Luckily, Spirit in Action is a good place to work to practice honoring the dignity in each person. Our work is not just about numbers and outcomes, it’s about seeing the world and our fellow human beings as inherently filled with potential and self-respect.

Founded with Dignity

Even before Del Anderson founded Spirit in Action, he was enthusiastic about affirming the dignity of each person he wrote to. In the stuffed envelopes he sent out Del included simple self-help projects and encouraging messages.

Messages like: “Within you is the power. Within you is the power to face life and all that lies before you with unshakable assurance that the Lord your God is in the midst of you.”

And, “[The glory of God] is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Does this enhance our dignity and that of others?

The Yuba family shows us that they have enough food - good bread and chicken - from their pottery and kiosk business successes. (Kasozi, Uganda)

The Yuba family shows us that they have enough food – good bread and chicken – from their pottery and kiosk business successes. (Kasozi, Uganda)

Imagine, the Guardian article mused, if before we implemented a program we asked, “is this dignified? Does this enhance our dignity and that of others?” In fact, this is something that the SIA Board already does!

Small Business Fund groups and community grant projects are led by capable and empowered local leaders. They are taking charge of their own success – and that’s dignity. We’re used to seeing that dignity. And so we’re wary when grant applicants seem to play on our emotions by presenting themselves as inherently lacking or desperate.

Dignity is not about SIA buying and sending cooking pots to Africa. It’s about helping a family build steady income through their own business. Then it’s their own hard work that foster their hope in the future.

Last summer, I saw the bright glow of self-respect in the faces of the Small Business Fund members. They were all so proud of how far they’d come – the pots they could buy on their own, the medical care they could afford. They wanted to show me that they were the means of their success. To prove that they were able to tap into and channel that power within that Del talked about. And with dignity I affirmed their success. I drank the tea they offered to me and admired the new chairs. In these exchanges we were each letting our own light shine, and giving the other person space to shine too!

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