Helping communities to flourish in Asia

Community projects provide people with access to safe water for everyday tasks like bathing, cleaning, farming and cooking. Photo: Emma Hurrell

Helping communities to flourish is Ping’s* passion. But it is not easy when you live in a world where the voice of the church is largely restrained. Finding the right resources and techniques to interest influential church and community leaders is another challenge. Through a mix of commitment, humility, and his ability to connect with people from diverse backgrounds, including government officials, Ping has managed to take on these challenges.

Training for change

He has adapted materials such as Live Justly, a series of group studies to help people understand how injustice affects those in poverty and what they can do about it. Ping has developed a training curriculum to motivate influential leaders to start NGOs that tackle injustices affecting the poorest in their communities. These are led by business people, and church, NGO and community leaders.  

How does he do it? Ping breaks it down into three stages: 

1. Thought leadership – Ping identifies people who will be influential and able to train others. His workshops target leaders of church networks in order to benefit from their reach.  

He does this using a snowballing approach where each leader reaches out to another and invites them to the training. He also uses encrypted messaging platforms to mobilise potential leaders. At his training centre, these leaders are helped to wrestle with key integral mission issues like caring for creation, disaster response, and sustainable living. This is especially powerful in societies where the church does not see helping people in poverty as one of its priorities. 

‘We use the Bible as a basis to understand why and how leaders need to love people and their communities. If they’ve grown up in the traditional church then they may not be in a position to care about the wider community. The biblical training helps to broaden their perspectives and motivates the leaders to reach a place where they want to do something about the situation,’ says Ping. 

2. Training – Leaders who undergo the thought leadership training then go home to mobilise community leaders in their church networks. Ping provides training materials to support his leaders and in some instances he co-facilitates. At these events grassroots leaders are helped to articulate issues that affect vulnerable people in their communities. 

Ping says: ‘The key question we ask is “How are we going to make a difference?”’ We examine this and challenge the pastors; we encourage them to share with their own church members and help them to find out who has the will and resources to impact the community. The church listens to its leaders. We want to be a lamp for them and give them a model they can use.’ 

3. Leadership action and impacting communities – As part of the training outlined above, community leaders develop work plans based on issues they identify. Where possible, Ping will help them with equipment, especially for those working on disaster risk reduction. He will also link them to funding sources, help them to establish NGOs, and connect them to other peer groups. Projects range from WASH facilitation, such as providing water filters for clean water, to building a community centre. 

‘Many parents go away to work in the city, leaving their children behind,’ says Ping. ‘So there are projects that provide help for these children and their grandparents. They also help those with extra needs. We act like a bridge – we encourage them to run their own projects but we will follow up and help them to improve.’

Photo by ZHENGFAN YANG on Unsplash

‘We encourage pastors to share with their own church members and help them to find out who has the will and resources to impact the community.’

Ping

Doing this kind of community development work gives trained leaders legitimacy to operate as it complements government policy and helps to achieve their objectives. In this way, the leaders bring the complete gospel and healing to society.

Growing network

Each stage has its challenges. Ping says: ‘The first phase is the hardest, but thankfully God prepares the leaders’ hearts in advance.’ Activities include group work and discussion around questions about the meaning of church and its role in the community. ‘We respond to these questions together and refer back to the Bible. We want them to recognise their responsibility.’ They also use resources modelled on the problem tree technique, a popular visual mapping tool that Tearfund has taught them to use. 

A ‘huge and growing network’ of leaders have now been to the training centre, where Ping has a team of ten people helping him. So, what next? They are already supporting Tearfund partners in Nepal with disaster risk reduction equipment and training. ‘We want to build a bigger network, though,’ says Ping, ‘to improve our resources and move into other countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia. This is just the beginning.’ 

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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