Development Specialist

South Asia, Community Development, 12-23 months, 2+ years / Job ID: 1464

This is a development project situated in a rural area. It has a training school for midwives nurses and community workers a community development work a research hub an English-speaking school up to age 16 and a 150-bed hospital (with obstetric gynaecology surgical medical and paediatric departments).

The Community Health and Development Program and also its other departments are involved in a large number (usually over ten at any one time) of internationally-funded development projects mainly focused on the projects core expertise in the area of mother and child health.

The project is seeking an experienced development professional with skills in project development donor liaison grant application writing and project analysis monitoring and evaluation.

Social Worker

Central Asia, Community Development, 1-11 months, 12-23 months / Job ID: 333

This organization runs social and educational services for the community specifically helping women in crisis situations.

The social worker will assist in development of social programs working with women in crisis situations and training local staff.

The ideal candidate should have relevant qualifications and experience in social work.

Social Worker

Central Asia, Community Development, 1-11 months, 12-23 months / Job ID: 925

A small NGO in a major city in Central Asia runs a prison ministry a halfway house for women in crisis and small business initiatives to help towards sustainability.

The applicant would assist with running the day-to-day activities of the halfway house for the women from prison and other crisis situations. This would involve practical help around the house basic skills training care for needs and basic English classes.

Some experience in caring for people and social work skills are desirable.

Aerobics / Zumba instructor

Central Asia, Community Development, 1-11 months, 12-23 months / Job ID: 379

A community centre set up in 2003 aims to provide a range of services to the community.

The job involves running aerobics/Zumba fitness classes for young adult to older age groups. The applicant will work alongside a mixed local/expat team. Other community outreach programs include English clubs Chinese classes and family/marriage enrichment courses.

The applicant should have relevant qualifications and experience. The applicant should have a willingness to learn Russian to a basic level.

Thinking about good stewardship

Last week I had a meeting with a business owner in a South East Asian country. I was asked to explain why ‘organic’ foods made business more difficult and how it could be worth it. These are not simple questions so I decided to write it all down as a way to process it all. Until recently for me, caring for creation revolved around natural resources, conservation, waste and pollution. But as I wrote, I realised that food production is indeed part of caring for God’s world and the people in it.

I am a consultant with a number of social businesses which aim to use profit from running a business to achieve social outcomes, rather than wealth for the owners. Some of these businesses produce organic food and offer a range of environmental, economic and social benefits (see diagram).

Two examples of these social businesses are:
• An organic farm producing a range of herbal teas and other healthy products.
• A catering business supplying organic meals for workshops, trainings, events and meetings.

The food is healthy. Some say it is tastier. Both businesses struggle with profitability. There are extra costs involved in organic production since other solutions are needed are needed for pest, weed and disease control. Yield is often lower, too.

Solutions are challenging to find. Instead of chemical fertilisers, organic manure and compost are needed to supply nutrients for plant growth. Manure and compost take time to collect and make. It is expensive to transport and generally requires high quantities to supply enough nutrients. It can cost up to ten times the cost of chemical fertilisers. The options for organically protecting plants from pests take much more time than applying chemical sprays. Farm labour is also becoming scarcer as young people move from rural to urban areas. Being organic and profitable generally requires a higher level of technical expertise and cost.

Does the food need to be organic to be healthy? Not necessarily. However, the one that uses harmful chemicals isn’t usually the one who pays all of the costs. People, wildlife and the environment—sometimes a long way away or without a voice—can bear the suffering.

Living in a city, my own family is increasingly becoming disconnected from production. We shop at markets or supermarkets. We don’t know much about its source or how far it has travelled, and we want it cheap. The reality is that organic production needs at least a 20% price premium to make it work.

Is this good stewardship of the natural resources we have been given? I find myself wanting to support these businesses even though I am not a ‘die-in-the-ditch’ organic consumer. The social, environmental and health outcomes offer an excellent wholistic context in which to minister to the owners, employees, other farmers and customers. Both of these businesses have operated for more than five years, and aim to be at a sufficient scale to make a difference and be sustainable. Relationships are being built and our respect for both people and the environment in which they live demonstrates God’s love for all creation.

Roger has lived in South East Asia for over ten years, working with various social businesses.

Names have been changed.

Green in the home and workplace

My wife and I are from South Asia and have been Interserve Partners for more than 15 years. We supported a university student movement, encouraging students to engage with the mission of God in and through their fields of studies. Alongside that, I’m a mechanical engineer with more than 25 years of experience in the manufacturing industry. There, I promoted the manufacturing of lightweight automotive components that help to reduce emissions. I’ve always been interested in how a Christian care for the environment can be expressed in the workplace.

Several years ago, I decided to take a year off from my engineering career in order to invest more time in a governance role in student mission, and three strands providentially came together to set me in a new direction.

The first strand was a series of intriguing conversations I had with my friend Ruben, an Interserver who served as a professor in Economics in Central Asia. He was writing a book on sustainable development. During our conversations I shared my passion about the importance of stewarding technology, keeping in mind the needy South Asian context. While university students boast of new technologies and discoveries in research, it is sad that these are not reaching rural and underdeveloped areas. If stewarded well, the benefits of these new technologies can percolate deeply into society.

Ruben added another dimension: “Those technologies should be GREEN—for the sustainability of the planet”. Together we also engaged in discussions on this subject with local pastors and church leaders.

The second strand was the work of my wife Beck in our own home. In the hustle of the city, can there be green homes? Yes! Beck, who is a creative and industrious homemaker, has established a rather interesting vegetable garden on our ninth-floor apartment terrace. Our household waste is organically composted and used as manure for our garden, which has produced greens, chillies, capsicum, tomatoes, eggplant, and ginger. Such a welcome variety of fresh vegetables grown in our terrace oasis! Beck has instituted a strict regime of reducing use of plastics at home. She has also ventured into home production of organic washing options to reduce grey water waste—not just dishwashing soap but also organic beauty products.

The third strand was an interesting invitation from a secular financial institution to lead their sustainable banking department. The group already had a deep sustainability-oriented culture but wanted someone from a non-financial background to further grow the sustainability culture and to promote green initiatives among colleagues and clients. This was a department specifically created to harness environmental sustainability through core business functions. What a ministry opportunity!

I prayerfully took up the role and over the last three years God has enabled me to establish a strong creation care policy. This policy mandates that the products and services of our financial institution must create easy access to clean energy, green enterprise for rural development, and climate change risk mitigation technologies throughout all 700 branches across the country. The policy mandates a work culture of environmental stewardship. Meticulous green protocols must be strictly adhered to by each branch, and branches that achieve successful green audits may qualify for green awards.These audits even check whether there are taps leaking in the toilets, not just how much access to clean energy they create. At a micro and macro level, we can see the difference made for communities across the country.

I’m now working on linking our financial institution’s performance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I have a strong conviction that these goals can be a solid foundation for a thriving regenerative economy.

Dee and Beck are South Asian and are long-term Interserve workers. Dee is a vice-president of a government-regulated financial institution in his country, where he leads the sustainable banking department.

Names have been changed.

Tell people about our suffering

"Will you love Muslims the way I love them?" She turned around, to the girl behind her in the pews. But she hadn't said anything. When she heard the voice again, 15-year-old Patricia knew it was God who called her.

It's hard for me to find her. Somewhere in the famous community center on the Chris Lebeaustreet in Amsterdam is the office of Road of Hope, the organization Patricia Silva Barendregt started three years ago to help refugees integrate. After twenty minutes of wandering around I find her hidden in a small, musty office on the top floor. Except for a simple desk and a discarded laser printer, it’s bare and empty. But soon the Brazilian refugee worker colours the room with her cheerful voice and lively anecdotes.

Am I going to die?
Since the moment God spoke to her, the Arab world has had an almost magnetic attraction to her. Even though she had never actually met a Muslim before. "Where I lived, in northern Brazil, there were no Muslims. I was pretty scared, actually. ‘No God, I can't do this. Isn’t there a lot of persecution in those countries?’ But I was also curious. I started writing letters with missionaries in the Middle East. What's it like living there? What's the climate, the food, the people? Is there really a lot of persecution? Am I going to die?"

Hollywood image
There wasn't much room for doubt. Convinced of her vocation, Patricia went to study theology. She immersed herself in the world of Islam and left for Egypt through a missionary organization. She remembers her arrival well. Everything was different. Everywhere she looked, she saw women wearing headscarves. It turned out to be an excellent conversation opener. Not that the passionate Brazilian seems to really need it, during the interview she talks with a flair that Moses would have been jealous of. "Then I sat on the bus next to two girls with a niqab and asked in Arabic: 'This is so different from where I come from, how do you wear it and what do you do with your make-up?' 'We can teach you', they said. That's how I became friends with a lot of women."
"One day I went home with one of those girls. When she had changed, I didn't recognize her at first, without covering. We became good friends. "You're the first Christian in my life I've talked to", she said. Many Muslims have a Hollywood image of Christians, as if they are often drunk and violent. "But you're so quiet," she said to me. "You dress like us, you're almost a Muslim.” I'll take that as a compliment, haha!"

you belong with us
Two years later Patricia came in contact with refugees fort he first time in her life, when she was transferred to war-torn Sudan. She lived and worked in a refugee camp, ate the same food and drank the same water. "I think I've had diseases I don't even know the name of."
Irresponsible, according to the the missionary coordinator, who ordered the team to stay outside the camp. The team refused. "The people in the camp said to us, 'You are the first foreigners who really live with us, you belong with us'. If we left, we wouldn't be much different from other foreigners coming and going."

road of death
Patricia couldn't let go of the distressing situation of the refugees. In 2014 she came to the Netherlands to study International Development Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Focussing on development issues. Her goal: Iraq. To help refugees, especially from Syria, on their way to a new future. It became Amsterdam. Love caused a small change of direction on the missionary route of the young missionary when she met her husband in the capital. That and a probing visit to the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where she did research for her master's thesis.
Patricia remembers very well the first woman she spoke to in the camp. "She had those beautiful green eyes that I will never forget. As I walked out of her tent, she grabbed my hand and said, 'Please, tell people about our suffering, about what it is like to live as a refugee. That's where the idea for Road of Hope was born. Refugees describe their flight as a road of death."

He's there
Back in Amsterdam Patricia refused to be happy for a while. "I had all those images in my head of people suffering from conflict, rape and violence. Then I can't be happy, can I?" After months of crying, bad sleep and intense conversations with a Red Cross staff member, she began to experience some rest again. "That man said: 'All the faces you have seen and keep coming into your thoughts: God knows them all. He is there. Don't forget that.' It gave me peace. I didn't have to be there. I can also help the refugees who are here. But not alone. That's why I started sending letters to churches in Brazil to support me. I noticed that they were praying for me: I could sleep again and I was doing better. In June 2016, Road of Hope was founded."

Patricia started by counseling three refugee families. Now her organization plays an important role in the work of Amsterdam refugees. Since this autumn, Patricia and her organisation have joined Team NL, the work of Interserve in the Netherlands. There she shares her knowledge and experience about working with immigrants. She also offers On Trackers from Interserve, who will be sent out for a short time, the opportunity to gain experience with cross-cultural work in her own country.

A Brazilian woman. Called to show God's love to refugees in Amsterdam. Intrigued I leave Road of Hope: God's roads are indeed higher than our own.

NOTE:
A short documentary about the work of Road of Hope can be watched at http://bit.ly/roadofhope.

STREAMERS:
"Many Muslims have a Hollywood image of Christians, as if they're often drunk and violent."
"I think I've had diseases I don't even know the name of."
"You are the first foreigners who really live with us, you belong with us."
"I had all these images in my head of people suffering from conflict, rape and violence. Then I can't be happy, can I?"

Photos available at the Dutch office.

The work of walking humbly

A friend recently commented that living cross-culturally strips back your identity to its most basic shell. My experience took me on a journey from being a competent, confident adult who was contributing to his community to a place where every aspect of my identity was challenged.

This was partly by my own choosing. Several years ago Marie Clare and I, along with our two children, departed Melbourne (one of the world’s most livable cities) for Bangkok, Thailand. We spent our first year studying Thai. We easily could have moved to Thailand to teach in English or to work in a large international church or school. However, we felt a strong desire to partner with the local church, to be involved in community and to learn to speak Thai.

We have now been in Thailand for three years. A large portion of our time has been dedicated to learning Thai, watching the people and environment around us and attempting to understand a culture that often intrigues us. We are often exhausted, frustrated and at times desire to return to a place where we are understood and are able to clearly articulate our thoughts and feelings.

Thai is a tonal language with 5 distinct tones. The meaning of a word changes based on its tone. Thus far I have yet to master these tones. I have discovered I enjoy getting out and about and speaking to people. In English I love to talk to people about politics and debate the current hot topic. However, in Thai my conversations last 5–10 minutes before I run out of things to say. In meetings I am 5–10 seconds behind the conversation. By the time I have decoded the conversation and translated my thought into Thai, the conversation has well and truly moved on. Thai people are kind and they are always amazed by how much Thai I can speak. But I know how far I have to go before I can think and speak Thai effortlessly. The more I learn, the more I know how much I don’t know.

So is learning Thai worth it? Why can’t I, like many mission workers here in Thailand, just speak English and get someone to translate for me? Then I could get down to doing what I really love: teaching and discipleship.
The answer is yes, it’s worth it! I don’t always feel this way. It is hard living in a place where you can’t express your thoughts clearly and have deep conversations. However, this journey is not about me. I have come to understand that without walking humbly with God, one cannot understand or practice justice, mercy or humility (Micah 6:8). Not being able to speak has provided me with an opportunity to observe, to slow down, to listen and to pray. Language learning has taught me to rely on others and on God.

God often reminds me that I am not walking on this journey alone, nor am I leading the way. I am walking humbly with Him. My identity is not found in my Australian passport, my Persian heritage, my science and teaching degrees. My identity is found in God my father.

Emmanuel is a qualified chemistry and biology teacher. He and his family are in Thailand long-term, partnering with the local church in outreach and discipleship.

Working for transformation

“What do you do?” he asked, by and by.
“Well, I work”, answered I.
“What as?” he continued, with aplomb.
“I do my job …”
“Yes”, he said, “I see,
that this work is why you are here”.
“Yes, indeed”, with much in store,
waiting for a chance to tell him more,
Sharing with him about how much he is loved.

So, our identity is in our work. Rarely are we asked, “Why do you work?” and “What is your motivation?” Usually, it stops at “What do you do?” and that is enough to satisfy the curiosity of our host country, host organisation, local friends and complete strangers.

But isn’t our identity more than work? We are loved and completely accepted—isn’t that our identity? Hence, we often experience a tension in how we share our identity with those around us. What we do is less important than who we are. It’s easy to say that we work; indeed, it is expected. If not, then suspicions are raised—how can they really live here if they do not work? Or, if we say we are doing one thing but in fact are doing something else, we actually have a major problem with integrity. I define integrity as having just one story about who I am and I share the details of my story in a way my hearer will understand. But, what I say is what I do, because it usually is, in terms of my work.

Of course, work is not everything. Family, rest, sharing in communities … we all know the expression that no-one gets to their deathbed and says, “I wish I had spent more time at work”. The reverse is invariably the case. God rested, and so should we.

But identity is not the only function of work. One major function of work is relationship building. We have many opportunities to spend time with the people we work with. Indeed, I have found it easier and more natural than, for example, becoming friends with my local traffic policeman (as I did in my early language-learning days) and this is because we have more in common. Work relationships seem to last longer. And relationships are often key if we want to see transformation.

Transformation—yes, that is what we long for. Often the transformation, physically and spiritually, is through our work. When I see a community being empowered to take their own actions to address some of their limitations for health or education, then I can see transformation—and all this through work. When I see a social business being able to contribute significantly to a social cause through a business model, then I witness transformation.

What about when I don’t see transformation, though? Is my work less successful, or is it even wasted? How do I handle ‘bad days’ or even bad seasons? At various points in time I have thought about what makes success. Going back to the question of identity … if our identity is based on our success, we are setting ourselves up for a big problem.

Perhaps the end of the matter is to have a healthy attitude towards work. For most of us, that will be ordinary work. Ordinary people doing ordinary things. But we are enabled for our ordinary work to be achieving something quite out of the ordinary in kingdom terms. And, if anyone asks—yes, I am here to work; here to see transformation.

Robert has worked in community development in South East Asia for over 10 years.
Names have been changed.

Working for transformation

“What do you do?” he asked, by and by.
“Well, I work”, answered I.
“What as?” he continued, with aplomb.
“I do my job …”
“Yes”, he said, “I see,
that this work is why you are here”.
“Yes, indeed”, with much in store,
waiting for a chance to tell him more,
Sharing with him about how much he is loved.

So, our identity is in our work. Rarely are we asked, “Why do you work?” and “What is your motivation?” Usually, it stops at “What do you do?” and that is enough to satisfy the curiosity of our host country, host organisation, local friends and complete strangers.

But isn’t our identity more than work? We are loved and completely accepted—isn’t that our identity? Hence, we often experience a tension in how we share our identity with those around us. What we do is less important than who we are. It’s easy to say that we work; indeed, it is expected. If not, then suspicions are raised—how can they really live here if they do not work? Or, if we say we are doing one thing but in fact are doing something else, we actually have a major problem with integrity. I define integrity as having just one story about who I am and I share the details of my story in a way my hearer will understand. But, what I say is what I do, because it usually is, in terms of my work.

Of course, work is not everything. Family, rest, sharing in communities … we all know the expression that no-one gets to their deathbed and says, “I wish I had spent more time at work”. The reverse is invariably the case. God rested, and so should we.

But identity is not the only function of work. One major function of work is relationship building. We have many opportunities to spend time with the people we work with. Indeed, I have found it easier and more natural than, for example, becoming friends with my local traffic policeman (as I did in my early language-learning days) and this is because we have more in common. Work relationships seem to last longer. And relationships are often key if we want to see transformation.

Transformation—yes, that is what we long for. Often the transformation, physically and spiritually, is through our work. When I see a community being empowered to take their own actions to address some of their limitations for health or education, then I can see transformation—and all this through work. When I see a social business being able to contribute significantly to a social cause through a business model, then I witness transformation.

What about when I don’t see transformation, though? Is my work less successful, or is it even wasted? How do I handle ‘bad days’ or even bad seasons? At various points in time I have thought about what makes success. Going back to the question of identity … if our identity is based on our success, we are setting ourselves up for a big problem.

Perhaps the end of the matter is to have a healthy attitude towards work. For most of us, that will be ordinary work. Ordinary people doing ordinary things. But we are enabled for our ordinary work to be achieving something quite out of the ordinary in kingdom terms. And, if anyone asks—yes, I am here to work; here to see transformation.

Robert has worked in community development in South East Asia for over 10 years.
Names have been changed.