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!

IMG_1114IMG_1113

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!

4 new grants. 4 thank you letters.

4 new grants. 4 thank you letters.

christmas honor ask_2014One of the best parts of my job is when I get to email grant partners and let them know that the Spirit in Action Board of Directors has approved their requests for funds. I work closely with each grassroots organization to understand, prepare, and refine their proposal, so it’s always a joy to tell them that they have SIA’s support to implement their community programs!

In the beginning of December, the Board approved four new Community Grants and I received four very enthusiastic and grateful responses to the good news. It felt only right to share their joy, so that we can all celebrate and pray for this good work!

1. Community Mobilization Against Poverty – Kitale, Kenya

Sustainable agriculture training. Model bio-intensive, organic farm. Seeds. For 200 farmers. ($3,000)

From Moses Mukongo, CMAP director:

On behalf of CMAP I want to thank you and the SIA Board for taking the time to review our grant proposal for the farmer training and education support in sustainable agriculture. We will be helping small farm-holder communities grow plentiful and nutritious food, without depleting natural resources and with sophisticated yet low-technology approaches to farming and marketing.

2. Progressive Volunteers – Nairobi, Kenya

Sewing machines and instructors for a dressmaking and tailoring training center for women living in Ruaraka slum. ($3,731)

Boyd, Tanya, and the PV team meet to discuss the potential of local volunteers to improve Nairobi's schools and environment. (July 2014)

Boyd, Tanya, and the PV team meet to discuss the potential of local volunteers to improve Nairobi’s schools and environment. (July 2014)

From Jeremiah Mzee, PV director:

Wish you could be around to see how happy our team feel after the grant’s award. Receive a word of thank you from my team and volunteers.

On behalf of everyone at Progressive Volunteers I would like to offer my sincerest thanks for the grant from Spirit in Action. Progressive Volunteers is only a small community based organization but it does know its local communities well. In much of the work we do, it is clear that often what local people need most are the skills and economic opportunities to better support themselves. We very much hope that the dressmaking and tailoring training centre funded with the grant goes some way to offering those opportunities for local people.

3. Pastoralist Child Foundation – Samburu, Kenya

Girls Empowerment Workshop for 60 girls. With an alternative rite of passage. Campaign to end female genital mutilation. Education = Empowerment = Equality. ($3,506)

From Sayydah Garrett, PCF Founder and President:

We are so pleased with this exciting news from Spirit in Action!  On behalf of the staff, board, mentors, volunteers, and especially the communities we serve, a most heartfelt thank you! God bless you! We will certainly fill out all the required information in a timely manner and return everything to you. May we take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy holiday season.

4. Samro School and Samro Polytechnic School – Eldoret, Kenya

Tuition for 10 elementary students (including boarding for 4 students). Tuition and boarding for 6 tailoring students.($5,660)

One of the Samro Polytechnic students in the tailoring classroom. With clothing made by students hanging on the wall.

One of the Samro Polytechnic students in the tailoring classroom. With clothing made by students hanging on the wall.

From Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge, Samro Founders:

WAW!!!!!! This is indeed great, great news. Praise God indeed. God bless and keep you.

Merry Christmas!
The SIA blog is taking a break next week.

**For a list of past Community Grants, visit our Grants List.

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