Sharing the Good News in Word and Deed Among the Unreached
Large cities in North Africa are exploding. The current count is a population of around 50 Million urban poor Muslims in the region around the Sahara Desert. What is shocking, is that only about 25-30 foreign workers are working AND living among them (that’s about 1 foreigner for every 2 million urban poor Muslims = lots of localities with nothing). Reasons ranging from safety and lifestyle choices, to difficulties with visas have kept most outsiders out of these neighborhoods. Given their urban environment, the prevalence of young people and the changes they are going through, these migrant based populations are more likely to be open to social, economic and spiritual change than others. Yet reaching them with the holistic gospel is difficult – requiring great adaptation skills, appropriate training, adequate support and amazing dedication.
There is a need for more outsiders who are willing to live in these neighborhoods long term. While we have a core leadership staff with over 25 years of combined experience – we are ready to add more people. So recruiting and funding are the main objectives at present – with the hope to start between 2 and 5 new teams within the next 5 years.
Our basic Strategy on the ground is to develop Community Centers that serve the REAL needs of neighbors, moving away from charity – towards culture change and sustainability.
The Community Center Model has been found to be a viable project method, recognized by the governments involved, and meeting the felt needs of the neighborhood. Activities could include (for-profit and non-profit):
- Basic Computing
- Small and Micro Business Development
- Trade Language Learning
- Vocational Training (Carpentry, Welding, Sewing, etc.)
- Public Health initiatives (Water filtration, sanitation and school education)
- After school programs
- (All classes and training have an emphasis on business ethics, creativity and community transformation – this is the core of the strategy)
A Community Center would not be fully viable without also combining an approach for helping neighbors self-develop. The V.I.P. Approach is a model developed in North Africa that places emphasis on “Asset Based Community Development” where we seek to discover ways God is already acting in a community… and encourage this change.
A final, but not least value for the region is joy! Without a healthy level of joy in our work, there is little long term community impact. True joy cannot depend on human strength or identity. It is based on God’s grace and the discernment between “needed suffering” and “senseless suffering” – a distinction acutely needed among urban poor workers.