|Alphonse Bashiya (left), PRODEK's Community Health Endowment coordinator, in a 2013 discussion with a CHE group in Bena Tshiadi, Western Kasai|
“You are salt for the whole human race.” Jesus sets a challenging standard for his disciples. Salt preserves and gives savor to food. It is essential, indispensable. Do we live up to that description? We claim to have the Spirit of Jesus living in us and leading us into all truth, righteousness and goodness. Still most of us barely distinguish ourselves from the broad spectrum of humanity that doesn’t even flirt with these claims. However, from time to time we see behavior that gives a glimpse of God’s goodness. This past week Christian partners stood apart, showing what the world might be like if we allowed God to remold us more completely.
Three weeks ago Miriam and I appealed for prayer. The Community Health Endowment (CHE) program has encouraged more than 400 community groups in Western Kasai province to plant a community field in support of the health center that gives primary health care to their village. Income from the field pays the subscription fee for a health plan that reduces out of pocket fees at the health center, making health care more accessible at times when family cash is scarce. This year the project is distributing seed of high-yielding varieties to participating groups with the idea of boosting productivity while improving access to affordable health care.
The glitch is that the rains have started and people want to (and should) plant right now. But the project bureaucracy remains oblivious to such nasty details as optimum planting dates and human needs, despite repeated reminders of the absolute necessity of distributing seed on time. The group distributing seed (PRODEK) still has no contract, nor any funding to ensure that seed gets into the hands of community groups. The project bureaucracy shows no signs of urgency. Even the prospect of failure (significantly reduced yields, loss of community group respect, and ineffective demonstration of the new varieties' potential) seems to have no motivating effect on the local project managers.
In the midst of this bureaucratic indifference (some might say all-too-human indifference) PRODEK, a health and development initiative of the Presbyterian Church of Kasai, has made a Christian statement. This week I heard part of the story. PRODEK agreed to advance its own (very limited) funds to get seed out to CHE groups. In a courageous statement, its agents agreed to work without a contract. They paid with their own money to arrange transport of seed. They worked from dawn to dusk for two weeks, putting community groups’ needs above their own. When others faced with difficult circumstances and possible failure were preparing excuses for why the operation couldn’t be done, the PRODEK team was figuring out a way forward. They still do not have a contract, but literally hundreds of CHE community groups may still salvage something from this year because of their sacrifice. They have nurtured hope instead of allowing hope to die.
Aid projects are big business in Congo. But spending money on activities is often very different from making a very real difference in people’s lives. Progressing from the first to the second usually takes a special extraordinary dedication. We can be the salt for the whole human race. But I think it takes the living Spirit of God dwelling in us, prompting us to love our neighbors as we do ourselves, leading us to dedicate ourselves to showing Christ. Thank you, Lord, for Alphonse’s willing sacrificial spirit sowing hope as PRODEK distributes seed.