When I drove across the country from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Phoenix, Ariz., in January 2008 I knew two things for sure:
- That I was about to start a wild adventure
- Only God knew where this adventure was heading!
My journey with Food for the Hungry (FH) began several months earlier when I volunteered as an intern and was sent to Aceh, Indonesia. For two months I lived and worked with Christian and Muslim staff, figuring out ways to help struggling families following the devastation of the infamous 2004 tsunami. It was the most difficult, yet most rewarding experience I had encountered up till that point. I persevered, had the most amazing summer of my life, and hence heard God’s call to seek out a career in ministry.
Little did I know that God’s call would bring me to Phoenix. Looking back at the past five years, I smile at all God has taught me. Here are the first two of five distinct lessons I’ve learned while working at FH (click here for Part 2):
Lesson 1: It takes teamwork
I’m a big football fan. And like many guys, I love to use sports analogies. If you are not an avid football fan, bear with me on this. A key distinctive about FH that led me to apply for an internship while in college, was the idea that FH is about walking with churches, leaders and families. FH works with vulnerable people to identify things that limit their ability to succeed and provide for their families, and offers ideas to inspire hope.
I’ve come to understand this as FH being the offensive lineman in the scrum against poverty. This allows the beneficiary to be the quarterback. In football, offensive linemen are often the biggest guys on the field. They are massive men who protect the playmakers, clear the way of potential risks (tacklers), while also creating opportunities (blocking). The key lesson I learned was that, just as in football, there is no success without high quality teamwork. And furthermore, it is important to note that FH is NOT the quarterback! The most vulnerable need to be the stars. At FH, we realize that it is our role to help those in poverty meet their own needs – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Lesson 2: ‘Mutual transformation’ is unavoidable
The term mutual transformation is a fundamental concept at FH. In many ways, coming to the realization that mutual transformation is an essential element of good Christian development work forces one to check pride at the door. Similar to the above analogy that I am not the quarterback, mutual transformation is a gut-check and makes sure that your intentions are made in good faith. But what is mutual transformation? And why is it important?
Before I worked at FH I spent a summer in rural South Africa. I was there helping an organization build an orphanage and had the opportunity to work everyday alongside a fellow 19-year-old. He was Zulu and his name was Ndumisu. We formed a great friendship, and I quickly began to realize that my world was being rocked. We shared jokes and called each other 50 Cent and Eminem (it was the early 2000s when that was relevant). But we also shared dreams, ideas and perspectives. The contrasts and similarities were vivid. It was probably the most influential relationship I’ve had in forming my biblical worldview.
At FH, they have a name for this. It’s called mutual transformation. It’s when we enter into relationships with others and allow ourselves to understand that there is a good chance that we will gain more from the relationship than they will. This is sometimes a tough pill to swallow. We often think of our charity as a badge of obedience. Instead, I’ve learned I must be willing to accept the fact that I will most likely benefit the most from THEIR obedience.
Please check back for the remaining three lessons I’ve learned in the five years I’ve worked at FH. If you are interested in working at Food for the Hungry, please visit our website.