One of the great joys of our work is witnessing community stories of transformation. The interaction of individuals and families is a complex dynamic, but something amazing takes place when a community begins to experience the grace and power of Jesus collectively. As an organization that values effective monitoring and evaluation of our work, it is exciting when we have the opportunity for a rigorous third-party evaluation to study what is happening through Community Health Evangelism (CHE). I’d like to share about a prominent study in MAI history that shows what can happen when Jesus enters a community. This is a story about the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the early 1990’s, MAI began CHE work in the central part of Congo, then known as Zaire. By the mid-90’s many expatriate Christian workers had left the country because of increasing political tensions. In a 50-mile radius where CHE began, there were already two churches. By 1997, local MAI staff helped catalyze an encouraging growth of CHE work in 56 villages and the planting of some 40 churches.Read more
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.”
This wonderful verse came to mind as I flew home from Africa recently. It was a devotional text used during a prior mission trip to Ethiopia in 2007. There I fell in love with Community Health Evangelism (CHE) as a method of reaching communities with both physical and spiritual health. Now, returning from Eastern and Southern Africa, I found myself once again thanking God for raising up good and faithful servants who loved their countrymen and one another because they knew that God first loved them.Read more
For me to talk about measuring the results of Community Health Evangelism (CHE) is perhaps unfair. Missions measure what they do for two reasons:
I fully support reason #1, but #2 is problematic.
First, I am biased in my opinion that Medical Ambassadors is unusually worthy of support. (I am, after all, the president of the organization!) However, MAI did release two of our key staff to form the Global CHE network (see page 17). Now people representing over 650 other missions and organizations have asked to be trained in CHE. They have seen how CHE can cut infant mortality and malnutrition in half while having a spiritual impact that is unusually powerful. Consequently, there are many missions implementing this exceptionally effective strategy, and thus worthy of support.
Second, MAI directly pays approximately 200 nationals worldwide. Many people decide which mission is worthy of support based on productivity: how much work is accomplished per dollar spent. Our 200 paid workers supervise/train/inspire 60,000 volunteers all over the world who implement the work in their own communities. So of course, MAI’s output is tremendous. Therefore, comparing missions that pay all their workers with MAI, which is based on volunteerism, is like comparing apples with oranges.
Third, MAI’s productivity is much higher in places open to the Gospel, just like other missions. A good result in a creative access country is much different from that in a receptive country. Results of CHE depend on where you measure them. Interestingly, many of the missions who have asked for CHE training work in places where results come slowly.
Finally, God measures MAI’s success by our obedience, not by our productivity. Ultimately, we all concede that God is the best evaluator of our obedience.
So, let me focus on #1- Measuring results so MAI can do even better.
In order for volunteers to continue their work, they have to be convinced they are making a significant difference. Therefore, instead of my telling local people what to measure, I have to ask them.
Let me replay a recent conversation one of MAI’s staff had with a volunteer.
MAI staff: “How do you think CHE is making life better in your community?”
Volunteer: “Our children used to be sick all the time, and we had no money for school fees. All that is different now. My wife used to complain about me all the time. Now she is helping me, and praising me to our neighbors.”
MAI staff: “As you look at good changes in your village, are more of them spiritual or physical?”
Volunteer: “Certainly both! We used to be afraid of evil spirits. Now we know Jesus is much stronger than demons. I used to have no hope, and I ignored the needs of my neighbor. Now Jesus gives me so much hope I am willing to help my neighbor, who has come to love Jesus, too. We are praying and studying the Bible together and inviting others to join us.”
MAI staff: “What do you think would happen if CHE only focused on making things better physically?”
Volunteer: “I think I would just focus on myself, and not care about my neighbor at all.”
MAI staff: “You have certainly convinced me. Let’s talk to your CHE committee to see how they want to keep track of the new things that are important to you.”
How can we measure results? The bottom line is that lives are changed, and neighbors are sharing these changes with those around them, thus changing their whole communities for the better.