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Myanmar consultation shares steps for whole-life transformation for churches and communities

Posted on: August 2, 2019 12:01 PM
Photo Credit: Anglican Alliance

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] Representatives from 10 different countries across Asia have taken part in a consultation affirming a new approach to whole-life transformation for local churches and communities, based on biblical principles and using local assets and talents to help bring about change.

Participants from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, as well as Australia and the UK, gathered in July to share their experiences and look at next steps.

One facilitator from a church in Myanmar who has been trained in the Church and Community Mobilisation Process, described how the church wanted to grow spiritually and physically in unity with their community. Paul said after mobilising resources the church had decided to build a footpath and work was starting on a community hall and guest house.

"We started with Bible study. Then we realised that through the Bible we can live our lives and overcome our problems,” he said. “One family gave the money in thanksgiving and we organised 20 people to help build the footpath together."

An elderly lady from the Myanmar church said: "For a long time I have prayed for paving on our road as I am old and the muddy road is difficult. Then one member put in resources and the rest of the community contributed. You have to trust God. Change will come at the right time.”

The consultation in Yangon, Myanmar was hosted by the Church of the Province of Myanmar, and organised by the Anglican Alliance, in partnership with Tearfund, Episcopal Relief & Development and the Anglican Board of Mission, Australia.  Its aim was to enable the various countries to learn from each other and see how these approaches are shaped by their unique context.

In addition to sharing their experiences the group identified the common principles underlying their work. They all agreed that it was not a project, but rather a process leading to a mindset change towards recognising the community's own gifts and assets. Other shared principles included being inspired through biblical reflection to embrace whole-life discipleship; church and community working together for the common good; facilitating, not teaching, through participation and building self-reliance through mobilising local resources.

A church leader from Uganda said: "The process told us we cannot wait for someone to come. We are to be salt and light in the world . . .  and it helped us to understand that we had many resources to help ourselves."

The consultation followed a study tour to Philippines in 2017 in which Anglican delegates from across Asia, the Pacific and Africa visited the Episcopal Church of the Philippines to learn about their approach to Asset-Based Community Development. In the Philippines, the group experienced E-CARE’s ‘Receivers to Givers’ approach where local communities use a grant to build their livelihoods and then save to pass the grant forward to benefit another community.

Rachel Carnegie, Anglican Alliance Executive Director, said: "This was a very inspiring meeting. It was wonderful to be in Myanmar, where the Church has fine examples of transformation in local churches and communities. Despite the different contexts, participants discovered shared principles as well as new inspiration to take home and try out. We learned from each other - and we also learned from the community who modelled such profound growth through studying scripture."

She added: "We now have a wonderful regional group - a community of practice in the region - from the churches and the agencies. We have committed to sharing the journey together, learning from one another, sharing the challenges and celebrating the fruits of this transformational work."

The consultation report will be available shortly on the Anglican Alliance website with further details on the case studies and discussions. The group has committed to continue learning together and aims to meet in two years' time in the Philippines, at the invitation of the Episcopal Church.