Living Justice, Loving Mercy

Tsunamis wipe out entire villages. Hurricanes cut a swath of death and destruction. Floods wash away the possessions of a lifetime. When these things happen, God’s people in the Christian Reformed Church instinctively want to reach out. Through the work of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, lives and communities are rebuilt. 

But CRWRC is about more than responding to disasters. In the more than four decades since its founding, CRWRC has moved beyond being a relief agency to becoming a ministry of “holistic transformation.”  To reflect this broader mandate, CRWRC recently adopted the tagline “Living Justice, Loving Mercy.” The vision is that this motto, based on Micah 6:8, will become the heartbeat of the agency, infusing all its activities and partners—from donors and staff to partner organizations and program participants.

A Taste of the Kingdom

The church’s mission is to proclaim the gospel, to be a living example of the kingdom to come, and to help people struggling in poverty to experience a taste of this kingdom.

Luz and Juan, parents of three children, lived as squatters in a stilt shanty along the dike of the Agusan River in Northern Mindanao, Philippines. In collaboration with CRWRC, deacons of the Butuan City CRC had been reaching out to squatters with Bible study, an income generation project, and assistance with school fees. When the local government decided to resettle squatters, the church’s deacons helped to make a new home a reality for Luz and her family.  “I never thought in all my life that I will be living in a house like this,” Luz said later. “Our toilet is inside the house. We have two rooms separated by walls. A living room, a kitchen, and a dining table. I also have a little garden to grow vegetables. Thanks be to God, who in his grace and mercy remembers his people among the poor. These are signs of the new heaven and the new earth. Lord, your kingdom has come!”

CRWRC seeks to bring tastes of the kingdom wherever it serves, and prays fervently that they will lead to transformation. God does the real transforming, but by his grace we can help create the right conditions: open minds, receptive hearts, a commitment to working together for change, and a vision for a better world where people experience and extend Christ’s compassion and live together in hope as God’s community.

Evangelism and Social Involvement

Holistic transformation of people can only happen when ministries address the whole person—both physical and spiritual. 

The villagers in Gulbi, Nigeria, had no drinking water and urgently requested that CRWRC drill a well. But experience had shown CRWRC that providing a well without adequate preparation of and investment by the villagers almost invariably leads to unfair access to water, absence of funds, inability to make repairs, and eventual abandonment of the well.  It took time to bring the community together to raise funds, agree on a site for the borehole, prepare the site, sift sand, and agree on how the water would be used without discrimination. The result? Water for the villagers, and respect for the project’s local leaders.  Next the community organized itself to use local resources to repair the main path into the village. Then some Christians came together and expressed their desire to establish a worship center so they wouldn’t have to walk to another community to worship. Thirty-four people attended the first service. Hausa and English literacy classes are now held in Gulbi twice a week. We praise God for the transformation taking place in this village!

Strategies for Transformation 

CRWRC has hundreds of transformation stories to tell. From long experience, we have learned that transforming people and communities usually requires combining a variety of strategies to address particular needs and make a lasting impact. Here are the seven key strategies that CRWRC uses: 

  1. Relief, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation: providing for and rebuilding disaster-affected communities and helping them to better withstand future disasters
  2. Sectoral/Technical Development: supporting community-based programs in health, agriculture, literacy, and income generation
  3. Leadership Development: training local people to be leaders in their own communities. This includes increasing skills and knowledge but also developing a worldview that encompasses all of life.
  4. Justice Education and Advocacy: addressing local, national, and global issues that make and keep people poor 
  5. Economic Empowerment: developing the local economy to create jobs and improve economic sustainability (working with Partners Worldwide, for example)
  6. Evangelism and Discipleship: helping the local church to increase its vision for social outreach in the community, while also reaching out to the lost
  7. Environmental Stewardship:  protecting and restoring the environment

CRWRC works with hundreds of Christian partner organizations to carry out these strategies. Community development work would be impossible without our partners, who truly know the needs of the communities CRWRC seeks to serve. CRWRC field staff work hand-in-hand with the boards and staff of these partner organizations to support and guide them in transforming their communities.

CRWRC is also involved in many networks because of its belief that people, communities, churches, and organizations must work together for greater efficiency and impact. Collaboration with CRC agencies such as World Missions, Home Missions, and the Back to God Hour is crucial for holistic ministry.

Make Poverty History

Increasingly, CRWRC’s work is focused on addressing injustices in the world. There is no excuse for the fact that in the midst of unprecedented global wealth 1.2 billion people (75 percent of them women and children) live in abject poverty. More than 800 million people go hungry, and 50,000 people die every day from preventable poverty-related causes. 

CRWRC believes that it doesn’t have to be this way and that if we choose to act, we can “make poverty history.” That is why we are active in campaigns such as the Micah Challenge, Make Poverty History, and the ONE Campaign. As Christians, we should not and cannot rest as long as people on this planet are living in spiritual and physical poverty. CRWRC’s specific mandate is to alleviate poverty by showing Christ’s love to people in need. CRWRC would like the whole church to be involved in this mandate—in the 30 developing countries in which CRWRC works but also in all of the communities where CRC congregations are located.  Before we can play a role in transforming others, we have to be open to transforming ourselves. CRWRC wants you to get involved, have an open mind and a receptive heart, share a vision for a better world, and make a commitment to work together for change.

CRWRC at a Glance

CRWRC was started in 1962 as the diaconal agency of the Christian Reformed Church. Today

•CRWRC works in 30 of the world’s poorest countries to help communities find long-term solutions to hunger, injustice, and poverty. These solutions include improving child nutrition, growing drought-resistant crops, teaching adults to read, and providing small loans to businesspeople.

•Disaster Response Services volunteers respond to disasters in North America (including hurricanes Katrina and Rita) by clearing disaster sites, assessing needs, and repairing or rebuilding damaged homes.

•International relief programs respond to crisis situations around the world (including the famine in Niger) with emergency food, shelter, and supplies.

•Service Link connects North American volunteers with internships, Discovery Tours, and opportunities for service around the world.

CRWRC programs cost approximately $15 million (U. S.) each year. CRWRC does not receive ministry shares. Most of its support comes from individual donations and church offerings.

Watch for the following opportunities to give in your church:

November 6 World Hunger Sunday offering

November 24 Thanksgiving Day offering (U.S. only)

December 25 Christmas Day offering

For more information visit www.crwrc.org.

It’s Time for Peter to Fish Again

CRWRC’s World Hunger/Peter Fish campaign takes place from Oct. 16 to Nov. 6. This year’s theme is “Answer the Call.” The theme is based on the Micah Challenge—a global Christian campaign that challenges us to deepen our engagement with the poor and calls world leaders to achieve eight Millennium Development Goals designed to cut global poverty in half by 2015.

We hope your congregation will join CRC churches across North America as we learn about world hunger and discover how Christians can and must make a difference. Visit www.crwrc.org or call 1-800-55-CRWRC to learn more about the resources available.

About the Authors

Wayne deJong is the former director of CRWRC-Canada. As of October 2005 he serves as vice president of special projects and partnerships with Habitat for Humanity.
Henrietta Hunse is CRWRC-Canada Coordinator of Church and Donor Relations.
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