God's Story: Transformation Is Better Than Development

This post is the third in a series on God’s Story, the Foundation for FH’s Work in Relief and Development. Follow the series, starting with the first post. You can read the next post in this series here.

Sixta was the first to admit that she didn’t really believe what Food for the Hungry (FH) was teaching. In her village in Bolivia, FH was pursuing transformation by teaching mothers like Sixta to care for their children’s nutritional needs. To entice mothers to attend trainings, FH offered small incentives. Sixta attended, but only for the incentives–a bar of soap here, a packet of peanut butter there.

Sixta would sit in the classes, distracted by her knitting work, and make doubtful comments. FH staff often heard her say, “What they’re teaching doesn’t matter. I’m just here for the gifts.”

FH staff persevered in welcoming Sixta at the weekly group. They prayed throughout the week that God would change her heart. Over time, He did! Little by little, Sixta’s life began to change in noticeable ways. She began to show interest in the classes. Soon, she was engaging in group conversation about nutrition. She began to believe that God wanted to free Bolivia’s children from malnutrition.

Today, Sixta is a leader in her community. She trains other mothers to meet their children’s nutritional needs. Her own four children are thriving, and she has even started a backyard vegetable garden to provide for them.

Sixta trains her Bolivian neighbors to care for their children's nutritional needs, as a volunteer mother in Food for the Hungry's programs

Sixta trains her neighbors to care for their children’s nutritional needs.

Which One Is It?

Many people look at the changes in Sixta’s community and invoke the word “development.” They’re right; development has certainly occurred. Parents have learned to make choices that benefit their families, and as a result, the community’s children are better off. It’s a beautiful example of community development.

However, at FH, we recognize that something more powerful at work than just development. We use the word “transformation.” More than just a buzzword, transformation is at the heart of everything we do.

While development is a change for the better in people’s experience, transformation is a fundamental change in people’s hearts.

Defining Transformation

Recently, a group of FH leaders came together to describe what we mean by transformation. After some good discussion, they landed on this thoughtfully-curated definition: 

“Transformation is the Spirit-driven process of radical change in the behaviors, attitudes, and worldviews of individuals, communities or cultures towards living in healthy relationship with God, others and God’s creation.”

 

Let’s break it down by each phrase:

  • Spirit-driven – The process of change is dependent on God’s power, will, and intervention.
  • Process – Transformation may be relatively slow or fast but it is never complete in a single moment in time. Rather, it is a process with steps on a journey.
  • Radical – The change itself is a complete metamorphosis.
  • Behaviors – Not only a change of mind (repentance) but a change in lifestyle.
  • Attitudes – Beliefs and values applied to life circumstances should be aligned to God’s truth.
  • Worldview – A set of assumptions held consciously or unconsciously about reality–that are transformed as an internal change of the heart–affecting beliefs, values, perceptions, and behavior. Thus, we acknowledge that behavior change can contribute to worldview change and vice versa.

True Transformation is a Vector

Sixta and children transformationTransformation also has a direction, toward living in healthy relationship with God, others, and God’s creation. When the Holy Spirit brings positive change, our relationships with God, others, and Creation improve. As a result, life looks closer to the way God intended it, a sign of the Kingdom coming in the here and now. 

Sixta experienced true transformation, as evidenced by the change in her heart and the health of her family. As a result, we know that the development in her community will be lasting. We see that God is receiving the glory.

Have you taken time to think about how God is transforming the lives of people living in poverty? Learn more about our work in transformational development and visit our page on the Biblical response to poverty. Praise God with us for the way He is bringing transformation all over the world! 

Other articles in the God Story series:

The Story That Matters Most

How Clean Water Reveals the Kingdom of God

God’s Story: “How” Is More Important Than “What”