It was early morning when I was huddled around a fire with ten boys, ages 8 to 13, preparing to work in the community market in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Each Saturday these boys would show up at 5 a.m. to get their “choice” wheelbarrow preparing to carry client’s groceries around the market and then either back to their cars or homes like caddies. For a number of weeks I joined them, hoping to learn about the lives of young workers and to observe how Bolivian Christians reach out to this group of children. In some cases, these children live on the street. Others live at home and help out by providing some of the family income. Compared to some working conditions around the world, these boys are fortunate. Children are exploited the world over as child laborers are forced to work in degrading conditions as brick makers, miners or sex slaves. According to organizations like UNICEF and the International Labor Organization, nearly 218 million young people are understood to be child laborers, including 115 million caught up in hazardous and exploitative work.
The Need to Respond
Having worked either directly with or as an advocate for children living in difficult circumstances over the past two decades has forced me to confront the need to prepare and train missionaries and Christian leaders to respond to some very difficult contexts around the world. Fortunately we are beginning to see a wave of response by Christians to the needs of the global poor. As more and more engage in ministry with those most desperate in society, the need to provide them with professional and academic training has been noted by Multnomah, through the forming of the Global Development and Justice program. This degree will form leaders who are not only passionate about their work, but also prepared to carry it out with effectiveness. It will teach students to proclaim Christ as they show and tell of God’s desire to bring wholeness and restoration.
Not only are the global needs pressing response, but Scripture clearly requires an answer as well. As Zechariah 7:9-10 echoes,
“This is what the LORD Almighty said, ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’”
While all people are to be shown justice, mercy and compassion, Scripture places importance on showing these to those living in difficult circumstances. That includes the poor, the widow, foreigners and the orphan.
Recently, after finishing up a week of meetings with African seminary leaders in Nairobi, I had the opportunity to visit a poor rural community outside of Kitale, Kenya. I headed there to visit a ministry caring for street children. The workers of this ministry were dedicated Kenyans who felt called by God to work with this population of young people. One of my questions for them was: What is contributing to the large numbers of kids on the streets? The answer became apparent as we visited a local community. Immediately I came to realize how many child-headed households existed there. In an area ravaged by HIV/AIDS, many of the homes I visited were either led by older brothers and sisters or by grandmothers. The parents had lost their fight against the disease. The factors causing the children to go to the street are directly related to this horrible virus ravaging communities around the world. The Church, working wisely, can respond to such circumstances and create a sustainable answer to the needs these households face. The answer, in part, is to prepare and equip global advocates to work in partnership with local leaders and to “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion” in the name of Christ.
Multnomah is Proud to be Part of the Answer
The Master of Arts in Global Development and Justice program emphasizes the implementation of such actions to those living in crises and at-risk situations. Students will not only be prepared to care for these people, but also to offer the ultimate hope of a restored relationship with Christ. The divine call for global justice goes out to the people of God in any setting and requires thoughtful action. By giving students the opportunity to serve those most desperate in society, Multnomah is helping bring to fruition God’s heart for a restored relationship between Himself and His creation.
As part of Multnomah’s overall educational goals, this program aims to develop biblically competent students who will be exposed to Bible-centered training that guides them to incorporate Scripture teachings with Christian care for the poor, hurting and oppressed in society. In addition, it will prepare cross-cultural and local workers to engage with sensitivity as they engage people from distinct socio-cultural backgrounds. Multnomah will aim to prepare development and justice- focused laborers with the same passion and expertise the school is known for. Courses include an emphasis on inter-cultural communication, socio-cultural studies and transformational Christian witness.
Finally, the program contains an explicit focus on spiritual transformation. This takes place in both the lives of students and those to whom they will minister. Transformation goes beyond superficial change and recognizes that only true change can take place as individuals open their lives to the work of Christ through a personal relationship with Him. Through justice and development objectives, the program seeks to train workers to bring wholeness and restoration to individuals and communities.
Whether it is the children huddled around that fire in Cochabamba or the grandmother caring for her five grandchildren outside of Kitale, Multnomah’s aim is to see students graduating from this program prepared to work alongside local churches in service to individuals and their communities. The world is watching and waiting to see how this generation of Christians will respond to the most desperate of circumstances facing people today. I have no doubt the answer to these pressing issues is ultimately found in Christ and the global Church working together through innovative solutions to a plethora of human needs. Multnomah is proud to be part of the answer.