Yesterday I experienced one of those moments that makes sense of all the other moments. I am at the Micah Network conference in Switzerland with 320 people from all over the world sharing their stories of community mission, service and justice seeking. There have been many moments of challenge, excitement and inspiration but yesterday was special. An elderly but vibrant lady from Central Asia came and introduced herself to me. She wanted to say thank you and she told me her story.
Around sixteen years ago she was desperately trying to help some persecuted and struggling widows and orphans in her very poor country in an incredibly difficult situation. She had heard of Tearfund and applied for a grant. She was successful and received some money. The problem was she had never done this before. All her energy and skill was spent on working so hard in helping her community that she wasn’t very good at writing about it. Some months later she realised that she had made mistakes on the application form and mistakes in the work. Overcome with the emotion of that realisation all these years later and talking in her third language she kept telling me that she had made eighteen mistakes. I never quite grasped what those mistakes were but over and over she kept repeating simply that she had got it wrong.
She was a women of integrity and so wrote to Tearfund to explain herself and offer the money back. Her voice was still filled with wonder when she explained to me that her offer had been refused. More than that, the Tearfund person came to visit her and explained that while praying over her letter the team had felt that God was calling them to serve her. She told me how they had sat with her, prayed with her and helped her with her project. That when she was ready to give up they helped her find courage and hope. She already had passion and vision and so they sent her for training in project management, fundraising and report writing. By the end of the course she had three other proposals accepted from other funders.
And yesterday, sixteen years later, finding herself next to one of the leaders of Tearfund, she still wanted to express her gratitude. Not just for the grace, commitment and trust shown to her that enabled her to keep going, but for the ten thousand children her project now serves with health and education every day.
I don’t know the colleagues who believed in her but I know that the small seed of faith they planted sixteen years ago has delivered great fruit. And I was very proud to be part of such an organisation.