April 23, 2015
It only takes a short walk through the streets to grasp the fast-paced liveliness of Colombia’s third largest city. With a population of 2.3 million, the city of Cali is a regional economic hub, a magnet for sports enthusiasts, and the world capital of salsa music. The city covers over 216 square miles, 46 of which is densely populated. Sandwiched in a valley between the Farallones de Cali Mountains to the west and the Cauca River to the east, the views of Cali from afar are astounding. But getting there from the mountains is sometimes daring.
As urbanized as Cali has become, poverty remains an issue, particularly in the outskirts. Residents in some outlying mountain towns must navigate treacherous, unpaved roads to access it. Despite the travel risks, the government has been unable to improve the transportation network in these towns, leaving residents to fend for themselves. This is especially true in the community of Cruz where Pastor Giovanny faithfully leads his church.
Aptly named Alcanzando lo Imposible (“Reaching the Impossible”) Church, his congregation is a daring band of believers with a passion for its community. Driven by a desire to transform the neighborhood, Giovanny attended a training seminar through the book of Nehemiah under the direction of e3’s Community Transformation team.
“As we lead local churches through a study in the book of Nehemiah, churches are awakened to engage their communities and show God’s love to others,” Ashleigh York remarks.
Throughout the training, pastors consider the needs of their neighbors and develop strategic plans to address them with the resources already at their disposal. All of this supports a long-term church planting strategy overseen by e3 leaders across the country. Giovanny later testified after the meetings, “The Nehemiah seminar changed me!”
As he went back to Cruz, he was compelled to engage both the church and the community to build a paved road around the side of the mountain. They faithfully gathered to work on the project every Sunday for three months. As they did, they shared meals together and built lasting relationships. As the bonds between Alcanzando lo Imposible Church and the city of Cruz deepened, so did the church’s credibility.
Today, Alcanzando lo Imposible Church is a bedrock in the community of Cruz where they’ve now developed a positive reputation. But their ministry doesn’t stop at building roads and engaging in community improvement projects. All of these efforts are a means to a greater end – seeing lives transformed by the Gospel. Every new relationship, every improved life is ultimately an opportunity to share the story of Jesus with those around them. As they continually demonstrate Christ’s love to the people around them, the Gospel is advanced in their town.
REDUCING RELIANCE ON FOREIGN AID
e3 Community Transformation provides a unique solution to the economic and social problems facing cities and towns around the world Many missions and humanitarian aid organizations focus on providing relief and rehabilitation to communities in the wake of natural disasters and economic crises. Using foreign dollars, they offer emergency aid that pinpoints the region’s immediate suffering. But relief alone only provides short-term impact. When the immediate crisis is over and the resources dry up, the people still need solutions that will sustain them in the months and years to come.
Rather than providing foreign solutions to local problems, e3’s Community Transformation program goes beyond the conventional wisdom, empowering churches to institute lasting change through the use of local resources. This takes place through extensive mentoring and training. As a result of the initiative, churches have developed a variety of solutions to improve their communities. One church in Tanzania recently developed over 25 businesses out of its 50 member congregation, including a restaurant and a bus repair shop. Other congregations have launched into agricultural projects, clean water initiatives, health clinics, and financial partnerships.
By reducing the community’s reliance of foreign aid, they are able to enjoy steady, lasting improvement that isn’t subject to the shifting priorities and resources of outside groups. In the case of Pastor Giovanny’s church, they were able to build a new road for their town without any foreign loans or grants. From start to finish, the project was entirely their own.
As community transformation continues to grow, churches are doing more than improving their neighborhoods. They’re transforming lives.
Click here to learn more about Community Transformation and join the story.