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HOPE Malawi staff

by Sylvie Somerville, Former Program Manager, HOPE Malawi

A myth of HOPE expat work is that we spend every day interacting with clients, drinking from the hose of transformation stories you can find all over this blog.

Instead, I spent about one day a month in the field with the savings group members HOPE Malawi serves. I cherished these times of watching and listening to the unique ways people save, build businesses, and discuss the changes in their lives and communities.

My two years in Malawi, however, were filled with ongoing stories from those I did get to watch every day—partner and office staff. God is moving through HOPE and through our church partners to change lives at every level! I cannot think of a single person I’ve been privileged to spend my daily HOPE life with who doesn’t have a beautiful story of spiritual and economic transformation. I’ll cherish these stories and relationships above all else that I experienced in this lovely country.

 

Gertrude

Getrude (left) is the most ambitious Malawian girl I’ve met. In addition to her duties mentoring 27 church volunteers, coaching groups during share-outs of their savings, analyzing reports, and writing member stories, she purchased a refrigerator using her own share-out from our staff savings group. At only 23 years old, her plans are underway to open a small restaurant in town. She wakes up at 4 a.m. most mornings, eager to not waste a single minute seeking God and His purpose for her life. Her prayer life and ability to disciple others have blossomed in her last two years with HOPE.

 

Trevor

Trevor hit one of the lowest points in his life right before joining HOPE as a regional field coordinator through his church. Nearly burnt out with the emotionally taxing duties of pastoral care in a broken and disunified denomination, he was questioning God’s purposes and ready to quit. The peace and unity the savings ministry has brought his denomination have also brought new life and meaning in Trevor’s life. Continue Reading…

Mosque

Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

*For security reasons, the name of the country in this story has been omitted, and names of individuals have been changed to protect their identities.

On a sparkling day in late August, I sat in a dusty African courtyard with HOPE’s new field coordinator, Pastor John. We met to discuss a pilot program that HOPE recently launched in an area of this country that has historically been highly resistant to Christianity.

As Pastor John and I transitioned to the business of the day, an intense looking man dressed in traditional Muslim garb approached our table. Pastor John greeted him warmly and said,

Please meet my friend, Yayah. He’s a sheikh.

I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I knew that the word “sheikh” was a term of honor typically used for senior Muslim leaders. As we greeted one another, Pastor John laughed. “He doesn’t look like a pastor, does he? He was a sheikh, but now he serves as a volunteer in our savings program.”

Yayah broke into a broad smile and shared that his journey toward Christ began years before. Continue Reading…

Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

It happens all the time. I have the privilege of meeting someone new, and some version of the following conversation occurs.

Me: “Hi, my name is Matthew.”
New Friend: “Hi, Matthew, my name is _______________.” Various types of small talk take place, inevitably leading to: “What do you do for a living?”
Me: “I serve as director of spiritual integration at HOPE International.”
New Friend: Brow furrows, eyes begin to squint, and head tilts a few degrees to the left (I’m not sure why it’s usually left). “Um, so what does that actually mean?”

With few exceptions, introducing the concept of spiritual integration (S.I.) at HOPE to someone new to the organization elicits both confusion and curiosity. This is understandable, since “spiritual integration” is not a department or function in most organizations. Additionally, our western culture naturally divides life into sacred vs. secular activities or physical vs. spiritual realities. This makes the idea of spiritual integration somewhat foreign and potentially counter-intuitive.

Continue Reading…