Last Sunday, Alongsiders International held the first of our international launch events, in Singapore. We are marking a new season where we will begin to respond to invitations to establish this movement in partnership with church networks in other countries.
From start to finish it was a different kind of event, reflecting the new paradigm in transformation that Alongsiders is pioneering.
Here are 3 key ways we tried to approach the event differently...
1. We celebrated what the poor are doing for themselves
From start to finish we celebrated what Cambodians call, "the spider repairing its own web." In other words, the Alongsiders movement is a movement rising up from amongst the poor themselves to reach out to the world's most vulnerable children.
Our Alongsiders have grown up in the slums and rural villages in which they minister and this launch event highlighted their stories of courage and perseverance.
Sreyta's and Chenda's heartfelt stories of overcoming orphanhood with the help of an Alongsider, inspired us all to recognize that God is pleased to use the vulnerable. Each of them is now in turn walking alongside another little girl in a similar position.
We also watched the new short film which artfully highlights the stories of Alongsiders who have been faithful over so many years.
2. We got independent external researchers to measure our impact
Over the past few months an independent team of researchers have tirelessly traveled across Cambodia to measure the impact of Alongsiders in the lives of their little brothers and sisters.
Significantly, they also researched the lives of similar children in the same villages without Alongsiders. This control group allowed us to compare the impact of Alongsiders in a number of areas.
The results are quite stunning and a preliminary report was released at the event describing the depth of impact spiritually, emotionally, socially, physically, and educationally.
For example, the researchers asked the control group whether they felt hopeful about the future. Only 59% said Yes. When they asked the little brothers and sisters, 99% said they felt hopeful about the future.
Similarly, when we looked at school attendance, only 55% of the control group were currently in school compared to 99% of our little brothers and sisters.
3. Alongsiders commissioned the Singaporean church - the poor bless the rich!
Yes - at the end of the evening young folks from the Alongsiders movement were beautifully and prayerfully commissioned by church leaders from Kingdom Community Church in Singapore. We laid hands on the young women from Cambodia as representatives of the wider movement and asked God to bless the spreading of this movement into Asia, Africa and beyond.
Then, in a beautiful, "upside-down Kingdom" moment, the leaders of the church asked the young Alongsiders to pray and commission them to be Alongsiders themselves!
So, our impoverished neighbors laid hands on their affluent friends and asked God to move in their lives and churches.
By the end of the evening, we had been blessed by traditional Khmer dancing, testimonies, research results, vision casting and a short video. But more importantly we were inspired by a new way of doing mission - starting at the bottom.
The delicious dessert we ate afterwards was simply the icing on the cake of a feast of good times, tears and laughter.
Thanks to all those who helped pull it together and to each person who came and participated.
The best is yet to come.