February 15, 2013 — Seven years ago, starting “life teams” in the rugged highlands of northern Mozambique was just an idea in the mind of Rebecca Vander Meulen.
A 1999 graduate of Calvin College who first went to Mozambique as a graduate student, Vander Meulen acted on her idea when she became the director of community development for the Anglican Diocese of Niassa.
Rebecca Vander Meulen (second from right) stands with villagers who have begun a series of life changes in their communities.
“The bishop wanted to launch a more formal response to HIV and AIDS within the church . . . [by] bringing knowledge to local congregations because there was very much an idea that HIV was caused by witchcraft,” she explained.
Their use of the phrase “In Christ there is no positive or negative” caught on, she said.
Vander Meulen’s vision for Mozambican-driven development has evolved into the local life teams.
“I would go to a village congregation and give robust HIV training to anyone interested,” she explained. “Then I would ask, ‘OK, what would you like to do with this?’”
When the villagers realized there were more needs than HIV, they started organizing community projects.
Vander Meulen still visits communities where she equips people to train local teams, helping them see the gifts they have to offer their neighbors.
“This helps them come alive in new ways,” she says.