When you accomplish something on your own, it is yours! You own it! Think back on your life and remember a time that you were faced with a challenge, and it took work to overcome it. Once you were on the other side, the horizon crossed, the mountain climbed, the barrier breached, the victory won – how did you feel? Accomplished? Empowered? Fulfilled? Sustained? Perhaps it was a graduation from a particular degree or training program, or maybe it was a project that came to fruition and was a success. Maybe your hundreds of hours of practice paid off as you took your final bow and the curtain dropped on the final performance.
These feelings that come from hours upon hours of practice and preparation, study and determination, form the heart center of our message today: training will surpass a handout every time. Educating someone, through transformational education, allows a person to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to lift themselves out of poverty and allows the individual to be the one that finds the way to success. Because in the end, it was the trainee that sought out education and training. It was the trainee that exhibited the determination and work ethic to make the marks and overcome the obstacles. And it is the trainee that then takes that knowledge and applies his training to the situation at hand in his own environment. In the end, the trainee is the hero of the story, not the one that trained him.
And that is where the focus has to be – on the trainee. No longer can we place all of the attention, and all of the funds for that matter, on the trainer. But instead we must place the center spotlight on the one who is trained and who then becomes the change that his or her community needs.
Unfortunately, the world hasn’t focused on this form of transformational training. Instead, paternalism has ruled the day with wealthy foreigners stepping in with their own version of saving the day and a checkbook to match it. We flood impoverished countries with MTV t-shirts from the 1990’s and Cleveland Cavalier jerseys adorning our favorite basketball player’s name. We come swooping in as the knight in shining armor to save the helpless damsel in distress.
But have you noticed the trend in movies today? You don’t see a lot of roles that feature a helpless lady in need of a big, strong man. Instead, you are seeing empowered women alongside empowered men fighting hand-in-hand with each other to save the day. Do you want to know why? No one wants to be helpless! Women are speaking up saying, “I’m not helpless! I have plenty of resources and I can get the job done!” The same sentiment rings true when we, as the assumed hero of the story, come with our aid and attempt to end poverty with one fell swoop of our economic sword. We come to the rescue of the helpless farmer in distress with what – RICE! How do you think that makes the citizens of a nation that is struggling economically feel? Do you think that empowers them? Do you think it motivates them to rise above? Or does it create a system of dependency where an entire nation is solely reliant upon an outside hero. An impoverished country needs heroes from within.
The echoes of paternalism have rung for generations and it is time that we stop it. Because the fact of the matter is that we are not dealing with damsels in distress! Just as women are being empowered to use their voice, their talents, and their abilities that they were given as human beings, so too are individuals in nations that struggle.
They are not helpless, but resourceful; they are not frail and weak, but strong and courageous.
What they need is training and a chance! Just watch what happens when you take a small contingent of Liberians, Ugandans, Kenyans, or the like and place them into an environment of deep and meaningful training surrounded by experts in the field. And you show them, through transformational training, that they can rise above, that they can accomplish anything they put their minds and bodies towards. And watch what happens to their communities upon their arrival back home.
What you will witness is transformation in the purest sense.
Because they will become the hero, they will become the knight in shining armor. But with that knight will come honor, integrity, and the desire to make more knights amongst his brothers and sisters. This is what Narrow Gate Exchange is attempting to do. To bring groups of people out of their own environment for a season to gain excellent training in sawmill production, furniture design and manufacturing, business skills, and discipleship-making so that they can return home and establish fully sustainable businesses in their home communities.
Woodworking will become more than a task, it will become transformation.
Running a mill will become more than a process, it will become power.
Sustaining a business will become more than just economy, it will become the evolution of a community.
If we are to truly be Jesus, making disciples while loving and serving the poor, let’s not just give them a handout. Instead, let’s give them a hand-up through training. Jesus’ mission was to first train 12 young men and 7 women, and then a larger crowd around them for the sole purpose of carrying on His mission of loving God and loving one’s neighbor through sacrificial service for the betterment of all. He left them to that task, giving them the Holy Spirit as support.
But the key here is that Jesus left.
While Jesus is in fact the savior of the world through His sacrifice on the cross, He allowed the message of salvation to be spread by others. Jesus didn’t go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the nations – He allowed his trainees to do that. And it is because of those trainees, through the empowerment of training with Jesus, that allows us all to know who Jesus is and have the ability to follow Him today.
We are dealing with souls, not statistics. It is time to re-think the idea of paternalism and move towards true empowerment and sustainability. It is time to train others so that they can create the change that is required for their own communities. A community where the trainee becomes the trainer for the next generation of businessmen and businesswomen. How can you change the world? Instead of giving a shoebox, share the gift of training an individual so that he or she can become empowered and change the world!