loren Eric Swanson: Externally Focused 2.0

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Externally Focused 2.0

This past week Sam Williams and I were in Atlanta meeting with some of the leadership folks from Perimeter Church. One of the things we've talked about is the evolution of externally focused ministry is the change from the pastor trying to mobilize the church to engage the community to the church leading the community in helping to change the world. The two enduring institutions of any community are churches and schools (businesses last on average a mere 30 years) so the leadership for enduring change lies in one of those two institutions. Schools, by nature, most often, do not have the political will nor consistent leadership to change communitites. The church, however, often can be that instrument.

Last month, Sam's church, Flatirons Church in Lafayette Colorado, pooled its resources, and brought a team to Afghanistan to dig a freshwater well ($60K) and brought 600 winter coats and blankets for displaced peoples of Afghanistan. As a church they are making a long term commitment to these people. A special offering brought in nearly $275k. But community transformation is more expensive than that. Having a kingdom mindset, however allows churches to lead the community in engaging the world. What if the church became the leaders for social change, not just here in the states but overseas? What if the church was the catalyst for leading its communities in partnering with an underresourced community in a developing country? The church could partner with churches but could help find schools to partner with schools, providing shoes and school supplies. Businesses could help businesses, etc. Most folks want to make a sustainable difference in the world and they often need just to be part of bigger plan and to be asked.

I write this today because I read today that a teenage girl single-handedly raised the money for a school in Cambodia (see story below). There is a lot of untapped energy to do good but most are waiting simply to be asked or led.
Associated Press: updated 5:37 a.m. MT, Wed., Dec. 26, 2007

U.S. teen brings new school to rural Cambodia
Student raised $52,000 after reading about hardships of country's youth
BANTEAY SREY, Cambodia - Hundreds of Cambodian villagers welcomed the arrival of a new school Wednesday, a gift from an American teenager who raised $52,000 after reading about the hardships of growing up in Cambodia.
Rachel Rosenfeld, 17, made her first visit to the Southeast Asian country for the opening of the R.S. Rosenfeld School, which brings five computers and Internet access to 300 primary school students in a small village of Siem Reap province, a poverty stricken area that is home to the country's famed Angkor Wat temple complex.
Rosenfeld, of Harrison, New York, said she learned about the village of Srah Khvav after reading a newspaper article last year that discussed the plight of poor Cambodian children who often have no access to education. The American said she was horrified to learn that some young Cambodian girls end up being sold into prostitution by their parents.
The teen said she set out to help after spending most of last year battling a stomach disorder that caused her constant pain. She required months of medical treatment that forced her to miss a year of school.
To raise money, Rosenfeld sent out hundreds of fundraising letters, sold T-shirts and offered naming rights for several structures in the school, a statement said. The $52,000 she raised was supplemented by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which contributed $10,000 and $13,000, respectively, said her mother, Lisa Rosenfeld.
"It makes me feel great to know that I was able to help so many people," the teen said when contacted by telephone. "Just seeing everyone so happy (today). It meant a lot to me."
She was accompanied by her parents, grandparents and her brother and sister.
Children in white shirts and navy pants, the Cambodian school uniform, stood in two neat lines and clapped as Rosenfeld and her family arrived. The students pressed their palms together in a sign of respect and thanks.
"Going to school is very important to everyone's future," Rosenfeld said at the opening ceremony, according to a statement. "If I can build this school, then each of you can set goals for yourselves that you can reach."
"Aim very high, and you'll be surprised what you can achieve," she said.
Ung Serei Dy, an education official from Siem Reap province, said the school was only one of two in the village.
"The school donated by Rachel Rosenfeld is very important to us," he said, adding that she had "set a standard that all of us should learn from."


At Friday, December 28, 2007 10:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


deb h.

At Sunday, December 30, 2007 10:49:00 PM, Blogger Karl Mueller said...


Actually we are doing very similar things in Malawi -- investing long-term in a community of about 30,000 people, working alongside a Malawian faith-based NGO, and bringing other churches from across the USA alongside us and encouraging them to adopt neighboring communities as well. We have been doing this for 2 years -- and God is doing some amazing things. We are looking forward to what He has in store for the future.

At Saturday, January 05, 2008 8:46:00 PM, Anonymous Rocky said...

Wow. Not sure what you thought about the wildly popular book Blue Like Jazz, but as I read through your website/blog I have to believe you and your readers would enjoy the new book: Brown Like Coffee. I found it at brownlikecoffee.com
I would love for you to read it and review/critique here on your site. Thanks


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