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Returning to the couple who spoke about community development work in Vietnam, I wanted to share more specifically why I was so encouraged by their work.

Unlike nearly every other presentation I’ve attended of this type, this couple refrained from any marketing pretext or mass appeal. I kept waiting for the “give us money” line and was thrilled my expectation went unmet.

Having emerged from an international development agency a year ago, I’m dubious of marketing spins on why people should give money to those dubbed less fortunate. My cynicism emerges for various reasons I may expand upon elsewhere.

In contrast, the outcomes of the work this couple invests in depend on the resources and leadership of the local people. I learned after the presentation that they work for a larger, U.S. based agency, but the name of the organization never came up during the presentation.

Instead, the community development they described sounded as though it began without any headquarter or donor requirements to bind the people. Whatever the technical setup may be, the work clearly rests in the hands of the Vietnamese people relying on God’s guidance.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Dornier

If nationals come to this couple with a concern, the couple encourages them to pray and read God’s Word to discern His leading. Unlike most development workers I’ve met – including myself more often than I’d like to admit – they don’t presume they know answers that God will not reveal to those less formally educated.

Though the community’s solutions rely on the movement of God’s Spirit, the work does not proceed haphazardly. A barebones five-year plan helps guide the process by outlining general phases for moving towards transformation. The plan fits on a single page, simplifying the process some organizations never complete because of complicated frameworks.

With an adaptable framework in place and unflinching reliance on the Lord, these Vietnamese communities have experienced untold transformation.

Persecution of Christians has shifted to collaboration; crops overflow; neighbors serve one another; hosts no longer bankrupt themselves for communal gatherings; communities abandon debilitating superstitions; new homes emerge.

The presentation also provided metrics demonstrating accountability and differences made, the hard numbers so many Americans demand. But for me, the clearest indicators of effective transformation rest in the people’s reliance on the Lord, their changed attitudes, and their demonstrated initiative.

Photo courtesy of Jameson Wu

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