By Dan Williams, Director of Spiritual Integration
A seven-week series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration
The flight attendant came on the intercom announcing our final descent into Rwanda. Giving up on my attempt to nap, I began gathering my things in preparation for landing, ensuring that my seatback was in the upright position, my tray table stowed, and my carry-on under the seat in front of me. Fully prepared for landing, I noticed my row companion taking out his earbuds, so I began conversing with him for the first time. An eager short-term mission trip participant, this was his first visit to Rwanda.
“What brings you to Rwanda?” he asked.
“I work for a microenterprise development network called HOPE International,” I told him. “We have two programs here in Rwanda.”
Somewhat familiar with microfinance, he was intrigued, recalling prior reading about how access to small loans and a safe place to save can be transformational for families living in poverty. He’d even heard of HOPE. “What do you do for HOPE International?” he asked.
Despite knowing the reaction I often get when I describe my role, I risked honesty. “I’m the director of spiritual integration,” I told him.
Met with a blank stare, I continued, knowing that spiritual integration often requires further explanation.
“If you think of HOPE’s core services—biblically based business training, savings, and loans—my role is to help our programs develop and deploy strategies for integrating discipleship into those services,” I explained.
I could see in his eyes that my explanation didn’t help. Integrating discipleship into financial services? Now he’d be imagining sitting down to study the Bible and have coffee with his bank teller or his mortgage broker. For the remainder of the flight, I shared more specific examples of what my work entails.
I don’t think my traveling companion is alone in his confusion about discipleship, spiritual integration, and other such Christian buzzwords. For many of us, the term “discipleship” conjures up a range of ideas—everything from Bible study to accountability partners and your goateed youth pastor asking painfully personal questions.
Simply put, integrating discipleship is intentionally creating opportunities where hearts can be transformed and developing the means for that transformation to be expressed. Because being a disciple requires both personal transformation and an outward expression of that transformation to others.
In this weekly series, we’ll take a closer look at spiritual integration and discipleship, untangling these terms that are often shrouded in mystery. We’ll look at how spiritual integration works at HOPE, but also how discipleship is a calling for all Christians, no matter where you live or work. Over the next several weeks, our framework will follow a familiar verse—Micah 6:8, which tells us that God has shown us what is good and what He wants from us: To act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. I hope you’ll learn along with us.
In the meantime, learn more about how God invites His people, both in Scripture and today around the world, to play an active role in restoring brokenness.
Dan joined HOPE in 2011 and has served in a variety of roles, currently serving as director of spiritual integration. He studied international business at the University of South Carolina and served for 2 1/2 years as a missionary in Niger. He and his wife, Ashley, and daughter, Maelyn, live in Durham, NC, where they are active members of Christ Central Church..