Why CHE – A Story
Imagine yourself in Africa; let’s say a rural community in Ghana. You see some homes with thatched roofs and a few with metal roofs. The majority of the homes have mud walls. Sitting outside their homes people are cooking meals over an open fire. One lady sits on a piece of cardboard with a bright silver finish. It appears to be the remains of a solar oven.
A woman carries a pot of water on their head, a two-mile walk from the creek to home, and then she turns around to do it again. There is no water well in the village, at least not one that will work. And her husband is in the house, sleeping off a little too much local brew.
This community has not changed much in the past one-hundred years. Community members still sleep on the ground, die of malaria, have no school, use latrines infrequently, worship their dead ancestors, and have a ninety percent unemployment rate. All this in spite of the fact that short-term mission teams have been there repeatedly and a church in the USA has “adopted” the Christian congregation there.
The short-term teams were able to build a school building, and a medical clinic. However, the community could not afford the supplies and equipment needed for either building, and paying for a nurse or a teacher was equally impossible. The school building is now home to some goats, and the clinic’s doors and windows were stolen. Last year the team built new homes for two residents, but this caused a great deal of envy and bickering around the community. Tension still exists between several members of the community.
The “mother church” in the USA introduced the people in the community to the proper way to worship. They brought materials, supplies, and equipment for their style of worship that the people in the community could not obtain. The USA church gave Christian lessons for every age group, and they were overwhelmed by the number of local people who responsed that they wanted to “accept Jesus”. The USA church kept a record of all conversions to report back in the USA.
The church has given members of the community church bicycles, food, athletic equipment, clothing, etc. Most of it was stolen, damaged, or sold soon after the team left. In a very generous gift, the USA church paid for a hand-pumped well to be drilled in the community. Unfortunately, it broke after a short time, and no one in the village knew how to fix it nor did they have money to fix it.
This semi-fictional account illustrates what happens when people from the USA attempt to improve a foreign community by using disconnected projects, handouts, and other methods that fall short of community development.
Development – CHE is not a short-term project but a long-term process that develops the most valuable resource in the community – the people themselves. This assures that continued progress is sustainable even without outside resources.
Community Ownership – Development of the local community must be through their ownership, leadership, and operation of the CHE process. The community learns to do their own problem identification, prioritizing, solving, and evaluation.
Wholistic & Integrated – The CHE process emphasizes the four-dimensional health of each person: mind, body, soul and spirit. Many community problems, and thus their solutions, are a blend of these four human aspects. The CHE process orients itself by the exemplary teachings and practices of Jesus regarding the whole person.
Multiplication – The CHE process is not only sustainable for one community, but is designed so each community can be an example and mentor to other communities. This reproduction is a natural result of people who have discovered “shalom” with themselves, others, God, and his creation.
The CHE process is implemented in communities around the world regardless of religion, race, income, disability, or any other factor.
How CHE Is Done – An Example
After many months of interaction between a community and CHE trainers (who are nationals but not necessarily members of that community) there develops a mutual desire and agreement to begin CHE. CHE trainers serve as trainers and advisers while community members take positions of leadership and service. Families in the community who desire CHE training are visited weekly in their home by members of their own community who have been trained as Community Health Evangelists (CHE). At each visit, two lessons are taught. One lesson offers practical actions the family can take to deal with a problem that has been identified by the community as a widespread concern. The other lesson presents a teaching of Jesus. Each week brings another visit by the CHE to review progress and offer two new lessons – one practical and one spiritual. Over a period of years, new problems are addressed, additional families participate, and the community develops physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Additionally, many people choose to follow Jesus and his commands. This births a new church or strengthens existing churches. The natural next step is for some of the CHEs to become CHE trainers and go to neighboring communities who are interested in beginning the CHE process.