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Community Transformation Requires Individual Transformation

Doug Guest talks about transformationToday’s guest post is by Doug Geist, team leader for a church partnership with a group that calls themselves The Sweat Hawgs in Mesa, Arizona. They have been working towards community transformation in the Dominican Republic, first in the community of Puello and now in Placer Bonito.

Leading community transformation teams through Food for the Hungry (FH) to the Dominican Republic for the past 16 years has led me down the path of transformation and discipleship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

What Is Personal Transformation?

Before we talk about the transformation of team members, I must tell you about my own personal transformation. Because, as a team leader, if I am not transformed, the team will not be transformed. This is where it begins.

Working toward transformation in the Dominican Republic

It all started with our first partnership with a community in the Dominican Republic called Puello. Before then, I had the typical American attitude that financial resources would fix their problem. All it takes is money! Sadly, our team displayed an attitude of superior education and knowledge. We wanted to show them what they needed to do to fix their problem! It was the typical American prideful, god complex. It took over five years to break the hold of the American culture.

What is Community Transformation?

Once I began to understand the biblical view of community transformation — changing hearts and minds and empowering people to take sustainable steps to overcome their own poverty — I realized I was the one who was broken, not the community. I was the one living in poverty.

As a team leader, it was my job to disciple the team members to understand their poverty. I needed to help the team understand that we cannot achieve true transformation until we get out of that American way of thinking. As long as you remain immersed in this American mindset that we are better than the rest of the world, you will have a very limited biblical worldview of God’s Kingdom.

I know that transformation has started when I hear team members ask how people who live in such physical and economic poverty can be so happy and generous. They wonder how that can be when we live in such abundance and have so many happy or dissatisfied people around us.

I have seen some team members break down in tears as they struggle with this reality.

What The Bible Says About Discipleship

I also began to understand my responsibility in discipling the teams through the versus in John 21:17. Jesus had just asked Peter for the third time, “Do you love me?” Then Jesus concluded by saying, “Feed my sheep.” That is the compelling task I have as a team leader.

I like Oswald Chambers’ thoughts on this passage in his devotional My Upmost for His Highest.

Peter realizes now with the revelation of the Lord’s hurting question that he does love Him; then comes the point — Spend it out. Don’t testify how much you love Me, don’t profess about the marvelous revelation you have had, but — ‘Feed My sheep.’  ‘Love is ‘spending it out.’

Jesus has some extraordinarily funny sheep. Some are bedraggled, some selfish, some awkward, some obnoxious butting sheep, and some sheep have gone astray (myself included). However, no matter how hard we try, it is impossible to weary God’s love. The love of God pays no attention to the personalities we have individually. If I love my Lord, I have no business to be guided by my temperament. I have to feed His sheep.

In most of American culture, generosity is based on sympathy that is covered over by money and not by LOVE. In this culture, generosity is giving money or spending time on some service project so we can have a great spiritual experience.

God says no. If you cannot LOVE my sheep, you will not be able to DISCIPLE my sheep. This is Agape love. Love and patience drives discipleship, which in turn brings transformation.

Love begets discipleship, discipleship begets generosity.

Discipling the teams has become my primary focus. Team transformation needs to happen before community transformation can occur. When the team is transformed, both the community and the sending church can be transformed as the team becomes the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).