Five Bricks At A Time -- By: Bryant L. Myers

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 13:1 (Winter 1999)
Article: Five Bricks At A Time
Author: Bryant L. Myers

Five Bricks At A Time

Bryant L. Myers

Bryant Myers is Vice President for Mission and Evangelism, World Vision International, and also President of the Board, Evangelicals for Social Action. This article first appeared in the December 1996 issue of the MARC Newsletter, and is reprinted by permission.

I almost didn’t hear her. She sat just outside the door, leaning against the weathered wood on a dirt stoop. Her sari was so old it had no color anymore. No one else acknowledged her. Maybe she hadn’t said anything after all.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I was in Madras visiting a project that is a part of World Vision’s urban advance program. This 10-year-old initiative employs community organizing as the primary tool for promoting transformational development in urban settings. Organizing people around common issues creates the community framework often so hard to find in the city.

I had come to study Christian witness in the context of our work in a country where Christian relief and development agencies are scrutinized carefully to be sure they do not stray from their limited mandate to help the poor.

The slum I visited is in a part of Madras just 20 minutes from the World Vision national office. Two hundred very poor families live here on an irregularly shaped piece of unused land onto which the water drains during the rains.

The families were rural migrants with little education and few prospects. Their homes were the standard shanty type, made of whatever discarded materials could be found. Only two families were Christian when World Vision arrived in the slum.

Four years before my visit, two World Vision community organizers began working in this struggling pocket of poverty. They patiently formed relationships, helped out in small ways, and befriended a few.

Over endless cups of tea, they talked of the possibility of forming community organizations to address the slum’s most urgent needs. There was little response.

“What can we do? No one cares about us. Besides, it takes all our time and energy just to survive. It is our karma.”

Finally a group of 10 women decided they would try. Two of the women were from the Christian families.

The newly formed women’s organization chose to focus on trying to get the local municipality to provide a simple sewer system that had been promised for years.

The World Vision community organizers helped the women understand how a municipal political system works and what motivates local government people to act.

To everyone’s amazement, the effort succeeded. The...

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