Yesterday I travelled with Hywel Meredydd, Tearfund’s manager in Wales, to Tearfunds head office at Teddington, London. Hywel was taking part in a Poverty Prayer DVD they were filming but he took me along with him because he’s keen to get my input on different strategies to get more Welsh speakers and Welsh speaking churches a part of Tearfund’s work. Amongst other things we discussed was the need to develop more of a Welsh online presence.
Tearfund work to inspire the church to transform communities. They mobilise the local church to work with poor communities to bring material and spiritual transformation: to speak out in advocacy, and to prepare and respond to disasters. Tearfund are addressing a wide range of issues including HIV, water and sanitation, reducing the impact of disasters, economic injustice and climate change.
If Tearfund would just be a humanist charity it would still be an amazing organization; but what excites me about Tearfund is the fact that it’s not just any humanist charity it’s a radical movement of committed (or if you wish ‘evangelical’) Christians. That spiritual dimension to Tearfund means that the zeal and Koinoniaesq feel around the work is very special indeed. What this means in practice is that prayer is central to Tearfund’s work. At Tearfund they believe in doing everything they can. It’s a way of working that they call integral mission. It means that while they know people need material things to survive, they choose to work through church-based partners who won’t stop at just the material basics when it comes to helping their neighbours in need. They’ll do everything they can. Churches know and care about the people they live with. They see them as more than just mouths to feed – they know what they’ve been through and the kind of help they need.
Tearfund see people as more than just physical entities, we all have emotional and spiritual needs as well. The local church, operating at its best, has the power to change people’s lives, to give them a new perspective, to help heal emotional scars and offer the hope they need – to bring people together. Taking this approach has proved, in Tearfund’s experience, the best way to help people make lasting changes in their lives that free them from poverty. This is why working through local churches at the place of need is such a powerful way to help people.
Another great thing about Tearfund is the fact that 91% of money raised reaches the front line. Only 9% of the budget is spent on administration, staff, advocacy, education, further fund raising etc… This is significantly less than most major charities with Christian Aid coming in with 30% on administration! This is achieved by Tearfund through very careful spending reviews and a big emphasis on volunteers and action through local churches rather than an over emphasis on paid staff. Despite Tearfund only having two part time workers in Wales the money raised here is as much as other charities who have eight and more full time workers – that speaks volumes.
I don’t think you must be a Christian to be involved in charity work proper and I believe humanist charities like Oxfam and the more humanist elements withing Christian Aid do very important and brilliant work. But for me as a committed Christian and a young church leader in Wales I do feel that Tearfund shares’s the vision closest to mine – basically, believing and living the Gospel of Christ!
But what was great yesterday was meeting young Christians who were fired up to fight injustice and work to end poverty. Here in Welsh Wales we have hardly any young Christians full stop; and I can count those I know of which have a passion to fight injustice on one hand!
How to get involved with Tearfund?
- You can visit the website to find out about the latest news so you can get praying about the work and give some money if you can.
- And if your a Facebook user you can sing up to the Tearfund SuperBadger app through which you can lobby politicians about various issues Tearfund feel strongly about.
Please pray especially for Hywel and Miriam and all the volunteers Tearfund have in Wales and pray for Janet and the other brilliant people who I met at the head office. Pray that the Spirit will lead them in their work and that through them more and more Christians will live a more responding life to the Gospel and though that integral mission will happen and people all over the world through Tearfund’s work will see material and spiritual transformation in their life.