In a world where nearly half the population survives on less than $2 a day and 1 billion people lack access to clean water, causing suffering from easily preventable diseases, it's tempting to believe that God doesn't provide, He's not truly rich and generous, and healing for half the world remains an impossible dream.
But often people simply need to be awakened to solutions that may be close by, according to Carol Young, director of Sustain Hope. This Assemblies of God World Missions ministry is designed to improve lives through community-initiated, sustainable solutions that use local resources in areas of agriculture, alternative fuels, water and sanitation. Of utmost importance to Sustain Hope is the transformation of the individuals they serve through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Networking with AG missionaries, Sustain Hope listens to the needs of the national church and local communities, and, in return, ministers the love of Christ in practical ways that affect everyday lives, says Young. Simple methods, such as providing training in solar water disinfection or improving agricultural techniques, improve quality of life using materials that can be obtained locally.
|Sustain Hope worker, Andy Rogers, displays cooking techniques using a rocket stove in Nicaragua.|
Launched in 2007 by JoAnn Butrin, director of Assemblies of God World Missions International Ministries, Sustain Hope focuses on the assets that individuals already possess. Together, solutions are formulated that will discourage dependency on outside resources.
Prior to joining Sustain Hope, Young served AGWM HealthCare Ministries in the video and information technology department. She connected with missionaries ministering in places where families often were unable to both feed their children and send them to school. Yet Young knew there must be a way to offer assistance that is both Christ-centered and holistic while not fostering dependency.
Sustain Hope is engaged in sharing such methods. Today, Young and five Sustain Hope missionaries travel worldwide at the invitation of AGWM field missionaries to help people address problems that often have simple solutions.
"We get excited about manure tea and compost," Young says, "because we see how much simple, doable methods such as these can change people's everyday lives."
For example, in areas where most people live on less than $2 a day, cooking fuel often costs more than food itself and can be hard and dangerous to obtain. It causes deforestation, which exacerbates water shortages and health problems.
Sustain Hope provides instruction about technologies such as fuel briquettes made from agricultural waste, fuel-efficient stoves, and solar cooking that can greatly reduce fuel use and expense. Some technologies, such as solar ovens, lend themselves to microenterprise by empowering people to generate income through building and selling these ovens.
Container or rooftop gardening techniques can be used in urban settings where there is little land. Sustain Hope teaches food cultivation methods that can even be employed in apartments.
The moringa tree, the world's most nutrient-dense plant, is found in almost every country where Sustain Hope has ministered - and throughout every malnutrition-plagued area of the globe. All parts of the high-protein moringa are nutritious. Moringa tea even soothes coughs.
"These trees are a gift from God to these people," team member Bob Bachman says. "We just need to educate."
"We use Scripture in our materials and presentations, and we share the salvation message," Young says. "Without Christ, one's heart and life can't be truly transformed. When lives and communities are transformed by Christ, an 'other-centeredness' often occurs, and people begin to care more about their neighbor."
Success stories abound
The Christian School for the Deaf in Managua, Nicaragua, where AGWM missionaries Matt and Eva Barlow serve, provides students with three daily meals on a low budget. When the school needed to increase its garden's yield, Sustain Hope workers Frank Mayes and Andy and Robin Rogers shared with students practical gardening and cooking techniques.
"The team was able to show methods of planting and caring for the garden, and introduced some new ideas as well as ways of cooking without gas or electricity," Eva Barlow says. Missions students who may someday minister as missionaries in remote areas were especially keen to glean this knowledge, she says.
Fiji-based missionaries Jerry and Karen Jacob, who minister throughout the Pacific Islands where Jerry is AGWM Pacific Oceania area director, hosted Leann Bachman and Robin Rogers of Sustain Hope. The two presented solar cooking and other methods at a Fiji national 2011 women's conference, as well as at Pacific Oceania's 2012 Biennial School of Missions.
"Sustain Hope gave all the women hands-on projects that could be done at little to no cost, but would bring up the standard of providing for their families," Karen Jacob says.
Sustain Hope workers returning to areas where they've held workshops for pastors, leaders and others in the community typically find that the local people have accepted their methods and shared them with others.
|Bob Bachman demonstrates how to kill bacteria in water, in Burkina Faso.|
In El Salvador, Andy Rogers and Bob Bachman taught a simple, six-hour method of killing bacteria in water by placing water in plastic bottles and putting them in the sun. One Salvadoran mom shared that, thanks to this training, she no longer needed to buy bottled water. The savings would empower her to send her children to school.
Teaching the poor about solar ovens and rocket stoves brings major savings to their incomes and significant health benefits, once they are freed from cooking with wood. AGWM missionary Lynn Diaz describes the effects of wood-burning stoves as comparable to smoking a pack of cigarettes daily for moms and children.
"Just learning one thing can be life-changing," Diaz says.
A year later, a Sustain Hope team discovered that a pastor's wife had spread such methods throughout the country as the couple taught Sunday School. The result was a dramatic reduction in waterborne illness. Simple lessons on composting empowered another Salvadoran to grow 10 tomatoes on a single branch.
"This made the difference in feeding her family," Young says.
When a community shared its need for dehydrators to preserve mango crops, Sustain Hope devised a prototype using black paint and a cardboard box - inexpensive items built with available materials.
Author: Deann Alford, Pentecostal Evangel