Poverty and Transformational Development: It’s Transforming Students, Too

Poverty and Transformational Development: It’s Transforming Students, Too

In the years following World War II, Christians in the United States and beyond began to develop a deeper conviction to address global poverty. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, was one of those Christians. In 1950 he prayed, “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”

We still prayer that same prayer today. At World Vision, we seek to empower families and children in nearly 100 countries around the world, helping them break the cycle of poverty and reach their God-given potential. How do we do that? Through transformational development.

When Christian schools partner with World Vision Ignite, there are two goals. First, as students build relationship with friends in their sponsored village, they’ll be able to play a role in helping families and communities take steps to overcome poverty.  And second, they’ll experience transformation personally, in their own lives.

We live in a world of instant gratification. It’s never been simpler to satisfy our desires in a moment. This is not healthy. So many of us need to retrain our minds – including our students Through Ignite, students will see what it is like to partner with a community for the long term. Transformational development isn’t about quick fixes. We can’t just write a check. We don’t just build a couple of wells and move on to our next philanthropic project. We’re not the heroes of this story. Instead, it’s about investing our hearts, our minds, and our resources to make a lasting difference. It’s about partnering with new friends, learning from their wisdom and insight, and empowering them to break the chains of poverty for the long-term.

Through Ignite, students will get to know the children and families in their partner community. The program gives students the chance to communicate to their friends through emails, and helps them discover a greater understanding of the needs of vulnerable people  through compelling videos, schoolwide events that make a lasting impact, integrated curriculum centered around global poverty, and Vision Trip opportunities.


Rethinking poverty

Poverty isn’t simply a lack of physical possessions, but also a physical, emotional, and spiritual state that is a result of broken relationships. In his renowned book, Walking with the Poor, Fuller Theological Seminary professor and former World Vision International Vice President Bryant L. Myers says, “The poor are poor largely because they live in networks of relationships that do not work for their well-being.”

Many people living in poverty lack power and control in their own lives because their relationships with others are often oppressive and disempowering. As a result, they can feel “permanent powerlessness,” Myers says. Parents who want nothing more than to be able to take care of their children are unable to meet their needs because of the cycles of poverty in their world.

World Vision takes a holistic view on eradicating poverty, equipping people to break the chains — the spiritual, social, psychological, physical, and economic chains — that cause them to believe the world’s lies that they lack value and are forgotten.

Psalm 107 and 116 both speak of God breaking our chains to set us free. We need to address the lies that make people who are materially poor believe they are worthless and not made in God’s image. We must address the root causes of poverty, and equip these families to be all that God created them to be.

Global poverty does not stem from ignorance, laziness, lack of entrepreneurial spirit, or lack of community spirit. Instead, it’s caused by injustice, displayed in broken relationships and deeply unequal power dynamics.


Our goal is mutual transformation

Seeing God at work in the lives of friends in the developing world can be powerful for students, especially if their classes, teachers, and communities approach global development work from the foundation of our Christian faith. As students engage in transformational development, we believe they will experience transformation themselves.

In a world of technology and instant gratification, Through technology and social media we have become accustomed to living in a world of tribes, surrounding ourselves with people who look like us and think like us. Ignite offers students a rare opportunity to build a friendship with young people in the developing world and will begin to see the world through the eyes of someone very different from themselves. They’ll develop humility and respect in their relationships with others, a sense of gratitude for God’s blessings, and an understanding that they can make a difference by caring about others the way Jesus cares.

Foundational to this transformation will be our Christian faith. We believe that Christ died to redeem our broken world: to heal the sick, to bring justice to the oppressed, and to invite all people into loving and self-sacrificial relationship with Him.

Revelation 21 tells of God’s new heaven and new earth, where God “will wipe every tear from their eyes” and “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” We seek to bring God’s love, healing, and message of hope to people around the world.

Christian schools today face a daunting task. In our technology-driven, hyper-individualistic, and deeply polarized world, how can we graduate leaders of competence and character who are practically equipped to serve our world well? Students today need a radical shift of thinking and experience, or nothing will change.

Integrating our faith into our daily lives, and putting Christ’s values and priorities at the center (not our world’s values and priorities) isn’t easy. We must seek to gain practical experience leading, serving, showing respect towards, and being discipled in community with people who are different from us: who come from different communities, cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds … people who represent the economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity of our world.

This type of transformation isn’t easy. It won’t happen overnight. But by God’s wisdom and grace, this relationship-focused approach can equip them to be effective leaders in a today’s turbulent world. World Vision Ignite is a good way to start.