After studying International Development for three years, I knew that change doesn’t come easily, and I knew that real, lasting change in a community, comes over a long period of time. I had been taught that however long it took a group of people to get to the state they are currently in, it usually takes about the same amount of time to get to the desired and improved state.
Until recently, I have had very little overseas development experience, but I am currently in Amuria, Uganda interning with World Renew. I have only been here for three weeks, but I find myself in a spot where I had to give my head a bit of a shake. I had studied for three years that real change comes slowly, that community handouts are never the right way to do development, and that community development should revolve around the assets that the community already has, but we as humans, for some reason, have a longing for flashy, instant change.
After three weeks of living in Amuria as a World Renew intern, I noticed as I was writing out an email update to friends and family that I didn’t have any changed communities to report yet. Isn’t that what World Renew is all about? What happened to #ChangingTheStory? It seems like so many youth missions teams come back reporting on changed communities and the impact of the work they did, but I have been here for three weeks and didn’t feel like there was much to say.
Then I had to bring myself to remember. Kent Annan talk of this a lot in his book Slow Kingdom Coming. Humans don’t usually have the patience to stay in a community for the long haul, and we will even trick ourselves into believing that we have #ChangedTheStory of a community, when often times we just #MakeTheirDay by giving handouts. It seems as though this is an unfortunate dilemma for organizations that do good development. They want to report of communities that have been completely changed, but the truth that is being faced is that it took these communities decades to get to the points that they are at, and if real, sustainable, permanent change is to take place, it will probably take just as long to see that change. Supporters of these organizations want to hear of the change that their donated dollars are bringing, but a lot of the community development methods and research that has been done, is still recent enough that the permanent change can’t quite be seen yet.
This gradual, slow moving, but unbelievably effective and empowering change that is happening, is hard to market and get people excited about. Being here in Amuria for this period of time has again helped me remember that God’s kingdom is one that brings transformation, but that transformation is often slow moving when intense transformation is taking place. May God grant us all patience as we strive to do His work excellently, wisdom as we try to be agents of change, and excitement as we celebrate achievements.