Transformational Development in Madagascar

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Karin Mende is a German nurse and midwife who, after Bible school and studying theology at All Nations Christian College, has spent 30 years serving with AIM. Following 15 years in medical ministry in the Central African Republic, Karin moved to Madagascar in 2001. Here, she is involved in teaching Transformational Development. But what does that mean? Karin explains here:

Understanding our identity

Transformational development is an approach to sustainable development that emphasises people’s God-given talents rather than focusing on what they lack. It’s my conviction that development begins through transformed thinking and lives. Rooted in the theology of identity, transformational development asks us “Who am I?” and reminds us that we are created as image bearers of God and redeemed through the blood of Christ. As communities understand their identity in Christ they are encouraged to use their strengths and gifts to bring change.


What a transformation!

Pastor Jo was called by God many years ago to reach out to those who do not know Jesus yet. He shares some of his story in mission.

“My work started in 2003 to reach out to the Mikea people group who live hidden in the forests of south west Madagascar. To reach them it was clear that we needed to offer some development work alongside the gospel. But people were expecting schools. I took extra courses for basic development work, in addition to being a pastor. Eventually, a small church and a few development activities were started through our efforts. But tensions also grew between the community and us, until we had to leave, mainly because of false expectations.

In 2009 I learned about transformational development. What really struck me is the fact that we are created in God’s image, and the image of God is also found in difficult people.”

Today, Pastor Jo leads a church in Toliar (south Madagascar) with a small training centre for Malagasy church leaders. Learning about doing mission work and transformational development training is part of their curriculum.

Valued in God’s eyes

Every year some of my Malagasy coworkers and I arrange participatory workshops. Attendees are Malagasy leaders from churches, schools, medical institutions or individuals who have heard about transformational development from friends. During these seminars, we have the joy of seeing the participants’ eyes opened to more than theological theory. They start to see life holistically and begin thinking about attainable changes in their own lives and their communities. We see self-esteem growing when people realise they have value in God’s eyes, even though they may be poor in society. We see God moving in people’s hearts and a recognition of the need to reach other people groups where Jesus is not yet known.


Living out Biblical principles

In giving people confidence in their own abilities and identity, transformational development helps participants not to be dependent on outside help. Most development projects in the past have waited for money from others. But, after the money has gone, often nothing much changes, let alone a transformation. Instead, the values that transformational development promotes, discourages help from outside donors, assuring individuals and communities that they have the capacity to make positive changes for themselves.
Recently a pastor in a slum area of Madagascar’s capital knew God wanted him to build a school for the socially poor next to his church. With a very motivated building committee among the church members they raised money, made bricks, did most of the manual labour themselves and built a two-storey school building almost entirely on their own. Church membership increased and community activities strengthened the neighbourhood. Praise God for this accomplishment and pray for more church leaders to take on board and live out the Biblical principles of transformational development.

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