Monday, November 03, 2008

Imagining the Possibilities

A Meeting of Co-Laborers

Our third-to-last week in Liberia was spent with Joel and Jeannie Huyser, CRWM missionaries from Nicaragua, as they joined us on the invitation of the CRWRC West Africa Ministry Team. As I mentioned last time, part of leaving Liberia for us is doing what we can to ensure that work started is supported, and that we have heard from our Liberian colleagues as we consider future work. Joel was here to listen to reps from five organizations as he outlined a model for community transformation. He spent Tuesday and Wednesday visiting these organizations, learning about their work, listening, swapping perspectives, and then on Thursday, we held the all-day workshop.

Our Liberians colleagues were generous in giving us their work day—we know very well that they have been invited to meetings like this with international organizations many times. We take their time, seek their opinion, glean from their expertise, and in doing so offer the hope of support for their heroic efforts. And they know full well that sometimes the support comes, and sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s a mixed blessing, these partnerships between relatively wealthy western NGO “haves” and relatively impoverished NGO “have nots” in developing countries. Invariably, the “haves” influence the agenda-- not always for the best-- and test the integrity of the “have nots.” Invariably, most international “haves” maintain a position of gatekeeper, while the national “have nots” submissively seek to please their supporting partners. The challenge for INGOs and national NGOs that understand the dangers of this dynamic is to consciously, intentionally work hard toward just and evenhanded relationships. Just doing peacebuilding activity with a partner is not enough. Actively co-monitoring and co-maintaining a healthy relationship is necessary for the partners. Indeed, actively co-maintaining the health of the relationship is integral to the work of peacebuilding.

So, our gracious Liberian colleagues shared their ideas and expertise, and they politely listened to us and offered feedback. In the end, they asked CRWRC/CRWM to return and work with them again. If it happens, returning will be the easy part. The real challenge will be in working as true and co-equal partners.

Our guest, Joel Huyser, meets with Ellen Williams, General Sevretary of the Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL). Karen Bulhuis from LEAD joins us.

Renita and LEAD National Director Allen Gweh are next on Joel's list.

The LEAD staff took Joel on a tour of several LEAD businesses.

After visiting the Association of Evangelicals inLiberia (AEL), the exec board of the Foster Town Association for Community Transformation (FACT) gives the Huysers a tour of the FACT market.

Fact Exec Board and guests. From the left, Standing: Joel Huyser, Alex Maye, Jeannie Huyser, Magdelin Brown, Rev. Odashi Shelton, Cecilia Yekeson, Solomon Monway, Yers Trooly.
Kneeling: Renita Reed, Rev. Augustine Zar, Karen Bulthuis. If you look closely, yes, that's Enoch in the tree directly above Odashi's head.

The workshop last Thurday begins. Joel Huyser facilitating and enlightening and enjoyable day.

With a very humble assist from Yers.

Joel in action-- engaging the participants.

Ellen Williams of CHAL makes a point.

Rev. Peter Kollie, Director of Advocacy and Good Government at AEL. A passionate and articulate spokesperson for genuine empowerment.

Alex O. Maye, Chairperson of FACT offers toothy insights.

Allen Gweh of LEAD making himself clear.

Coming later this week:
Leaving Liberia, Part Three: Beginning to Hurt