Independence vs Interdependence

Giving thanks for their new building.
Working together to provide enough food for their families.
Women support a young mother with her new business project.
Mothers train children early to tithe.
Women managed the food distribution for the destitute.
Sisters growing together in the Word.
Ladies’ garden produces a profit.

Independence vs Interdependence
By Gracia Sugantharaj

Self-sustainability is the buzz-word frequently used to describe the goals of many ministries operating in the developing world. By definition self-sustainability means the ability to support or maintain something without relying on outside aid. In the Western context, self-sustainability and independence are often used interchangeably. There is a tacit understanding that such goals are of high value. However, in the African frame of reference, interdependence is more highly valued than independence, In Akot this interdependence is evident particularly within the women’s ministry.

For example in 2017, one of the five women’s groups that meets weekly under large trees to learn Bible stories orally decided to build a shelter for their meetings and for their Sunday church gathering. These women had only their time and labor as resources to contribute. Over a period of several months the women spent time and effort hauling water from the well to mix with mud and straw and made several hundred bricks. At that time the contractor who was building the primary school agreed to pour the concrete block and construct and roof for the women. Yet, it was the women’s determination and hard work that made the building a reality. This building has now become a testimony to the village of how the gospel has transformed these women, who are from different clans and may not otherwise associate, to create a community which shares and cares for one another.

Similarly, at the model farm where the agricultural wing of the ministry has a twenty-two acre farm growing a variety of crops and utilizing more modern farming techniques, many of the women have also planted vegetable in small plots surrounding the farm. Faithfully they water and weed their small plots. From the yield of their gardens they not only supplement the variety of their family’s diet, but are also able to sell some of their surplus produce to generate income. Though they rely on the water supply from the “Jesus well” drilled by LWCT, the productivity is a result of their initiative and industry. During the most recent drought caused by a failure of the rains, LWCT sent a shipment of grain by plane. This was a limited supply not enough for the entire community. Though all of the community was suffering from the effects of the drought, the leadership of the ministry distributed the food primarily to the widows, orphans and the elderly without any riots, protests or disruptions. The good news of God’s sacrificial love was on display.

More recently a pilot project has been launched through a micro business loan for one of the women to open a restaurant along the main road through the village. A young mother, abandoned by her husband, is the recipient of the loan. Though she had been ostracized by the village, the women in the oral Bible storying group embraced her and have helped in setting up the business, providing man-power, and have pledged future support of her efforts. This sense of community, and their desire to help the marginalized in society, is a result of the transforming power of the gospel truth taught weekly in their groups.

Biblical examples such as Ruth, Sarah and Deborah have taught them that God is their provider; God is all-powerful and above all He is faithful and trustworthy. These lessons are reframing their worldview based on animistic traditions and superstitions. No longer do they seek revenge when their cattle are stolen; no longer do they rely on the village spear master (witch doctor) to settle disputes, nor do they despair without hope during times of difficulty. The women of Akot, Malual, Atiaba and Paloch are not merely memorizing these true stories from the Bible, they are learning that they are relevant to their lives and in their relationships with each other. One of the most powerful examples is found in the way an increasing number of women now bring a tithe to the church. Sometimes it is a meager gift of a torn and tattered bill, but more often it is a sack of peanuts or sorghum or grass for roofs. These are then distributed to the poorest in the community as a demonstration of God’s love for the destitute.

In seeking to promote self-reliance through self-sustainability we have learned the greater virtue of interdependence. By demonstrating their love for one another with the community, the lives of these women have become a magnet for the others in the village. Thus the original group of twenty five women which started in 2007 have now become a group of seventy-five. Additionally the groups have multiplied in seven other areas totaling nearly eight hundred women eager to learn God’s word. By following Jesus, these women as sisters in Christ, join us as “members of God’s household being built to become a {part of} the dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19,22)