Another Update from the Congo

Hello from Kindu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. I apologize for the slow rate in updating my blog, but communication here is almost non-existent.

Kindu is the center of United Nations Security Forces fighting the ongoing insurgency and the basic lack of government in this region. Women and children are the object of attack for so many of the insurgent forces and it is overwhelming to see the horrible impact of these atrocities.

The DRC is the rape capital of the world. So many of the women have had their husbands murdered in front of them and their children. Then the women and some of the children have been raped and sexually exploited. Once this happens, they are considered outcasts by both sides of this conflict. We hope through this trip to further support building a center for those affected by this violence to once again enter society and live a fruitful life.

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We have had much difficulty getting here. Travel in the Congo is a challenge at best. It seems that at every corner, the government challenges the attempts to provide the necessary information to make this project "work." Nevertheless, we are making progress.

Yesterday upon our arrival, we were greeted by more than 2,000 children singing and dancing while lining the road to the proposed center. The ladies walked with us around the road of the area singing songs of joy and praise for our presence. It was most humbling.

Today we worshipped with the leadership of the church community, walked the proposed center site and will be interviewing the brick makers who are already at work. Tomorrow we will interview many of the victims and leadership for the effort before going to West Congo to meet with leadership there.

The proposed center will allow for training, counseling and support of victims for up to three months. It is desperately needed and will cost approximately $350,000 to complete. I believe we can do it together. Please come back for more as we are able.

Update from Travels to India & the Congo

An update from Dr. David Lewis, Executive Director of the WiseHeart Foundation, who is travelling to India and the Congo this week.

It has been a long trip thus far. After flying for two days, we reached our first stop in India. Last night I got to deliver the commencement address to the largest graduation class of pastors from the Bible College in the school's 17-year history. I was fortunate to be there in the beginning and to see the growth of the program - the quality and commitment of these men and women is awesome. God is doing a great work here for sure.

After the ceremony concluded I got a rare treat. Back in the 1990’s, I taught a mini-course each year at Bible school in the northern state of Rajasthan. Over a four year stretch, I had the privilege of teaching some of the same students year after year. Last night, following the commencement, three pastors around the country approached me with big smiles on their faces. I immediately recognized one of the men as a former student. I then realized that all of these men, now married with families and active in the ministry in India, were all part of those classes. The wife of the missionary I work closely beside in India was a member of the first class I taught. They all graduated together. When it was confirmed I would be coming to India, she let them know and they formed a mini-reunion with me, traveling hours to take part in the ceremony. They said they wanted to see me, visit with me, and thank me for being a part of their Christian walk. I was extremely humbled. What a small thing I had done years ago was still remembered as a milestone in their lives. You very seldom receive validation in your ministry that also confirms what you did was something God truly used. I am so thankful I got the chance to see these fine men of faith in a difficult ministry.

We covet your prayers as we continue the trip. Tomorrow we leave for Africa and the Congo. We will be visiting the future site of a planned home to help the victims of rape and other female violence as a result of the ongoing wars there. Please pray for the success and safety of this part of our work and may God bless the work we are attempting to do. If I have internet access, which is doubtful, I will post more. Just know we covet your prayerful support.

WiseHeart Welcomes Ministry Partner: Families Matter

Families Matter exists to increase the number of healthy, loving, caring and forgiving families through a community–wide movement.

Families Matter was founded in 2004 through a three-year grant from the Urban Child Institute of Memphis based on a marriage enrichment program developed by a pastor at Second Presbyterian Church at that time. It is Families Matter’s experience that the breakdown of the family is the root cause of the many negative social issues we witness today. In order to increase the number of healthy families, they are compelled to address the need to educate, encourage, empower and support men in their knowledge of building and sustaining a biblically-based Christian relationship with their wife/significant other and their children.

Families Matter is a resource center that provides tools to build up every member of the family. Their educational offerings include everything from workshops for boys and men instructing them on how to become men of integrity to the indispensable purpose of being a father. Classes are also offered to couples and to single parents. In schools Families Matter supports students in understanding the necessity of making wise relationship choices, thereby assisting them in creating future success for their lives.

Families Matter is also collaboratively positioned to connect individuals and couples to counseling services around the area when one-on-one attention is needed.

For more information, please visit www.familiesmattermemphis.org.

As the White House Changes Hands, Philanthropy Must Change Too

Opinion Article From the Chronicle of Philanthropy:

By Allison R. Brown and Liz Sak

"Donald Trump’s inauguration today changes our world in ways we cannot yet predict, but one thing is certain: We will depend more than ever on nonprofits to guide us.

That means those of us who give money away need to do all we can to help nonprofits thrive — an imperative that requires entirely different approaches than we have taken in the past.

In this moment, philanthropy has to let go — give up some control, streamline the grant-making process, trust the strongest organizations, and devote resources to helping all the nonprofits we support thrive and move nimbly to meet the needs that emerge.

We’ve seen grant makers make changes that help local nonprofits struggling with urgent challenges succeed. At its heart, each approach involves asking ourselves tough questions about why grant makers act the way they do and what nonprofits most need to achieve their missions. Here are four steps grant makers can consider:

Ease up on the burdens of reporting.

How do you want your grantees spending their time?

It probably isn’t doing paperwork.

Our grantees often spend 10 to 15 hours compiling complex proposals and interim, year-end, and final reports that then get skimmed at best and, in some cases, go completely unread.

If they receive support from multiple foundations and other grant makers, this can suck hundreds of hours out of their lives, hours that could be better spent organizing communities, leading advocacy efforts, connecting with young people, and setting us all on a path toward freedom.

If you know the nonprofits you’re working with, skip the reporting requirements. Sit down for a conversation with your grantees about the challenges ahead. Talk about what they need to grow and succeed. Then, for your institution’s records, document what you learn and observe in a write-up that details how what they shared fits with what you expect and what your organization requires. Share your written notes and observations with the grantees as feedback so they can adjust if and when need be, not to meet foundations’ expectations but so they can serve their communities better.

Offer multiyear, general-support grants.

How long does change take?

The answer is almost never only one year. Yet philanthropy often provides one-year grants for specific projects to organizations with a track record of sustained success.

If those same organizations received long-term funding, they would have room to take on challenges in a way that makes a real difference. The one-year grant cycle locks nonprofits into inertia, leaving them uncertain about hiring new employees or undertaking broader and more ambitious efforts to change society. Even when grants are renewable, grantees still need to pause and reapply.

Our goal should be to give our grantees breathing room so they can become stronger and more sustainable. General-support grants, in particular, give them the flexibility they need to pursue new approaches and meet emerging needs.

In Chicago, multiyear, general-support funding from several foundations allowed Communities United, a coalition that seeks to keep kids out of prison, to become more sustainable. The organization was able to expand from working in a set of neighborhoods to developing connections statewide. Young people pushed for policy changes aimed at helping middle- and high-school students avoid prison, and this statewide network of organizations is now helping to figure out ways to carry out these policies. Since the November election, the group has brought together more than 30 organizations united behind a set of specific activities designed to advance community investment that will help young people get the opportunities they need to stay in school and get good jobs.

Treat your grantees like experts.

Who really knows what is going on in the communities we are trying to reach?

Many foundations hire experts whom they ask to guide their grantees. But often it’s local organizations that have the best sense of how to create change in a community.

In New Orleans, for instance, local nonprofits like the Grow Dat Youth Farm have a taste of what the future could look like under the Trump administration. In the years since Hurricane Katrina, the city has become a testing ground for much of what the new administration embraces: charter schools, stepped-up incarceration, a disregard for the environment, the hegemony of the oil and gas industry. Given their history, these nonprofits can help shape the response to Trump better than a foundation with little experience in neighborhoods. Philanthropy shouldn’t just develop strategies and ask grantees to fall in line.

Invest in the grass roots.

Where should our dollars go?

One thing we all learned in this election cycle is that our work needs to be better connected across states and that philanthropy can’t keep funding only what it already knows works for sure. We need to take risks to help build the future that we want and need to see.

That includes looking for leaders and emerging groups in communities that, for generations, have been purposely and structurally exploited, abused, and deprived of opportunity. Taking risks means that philanthropy must identify those who are working to promote and expand the strength of communities of color, protect LGBTQ teenagers from warped mind-sets about who they are and who they should be, and make the education system respond to its clientele — the children.

It means being ready to support unorthodox methods of advocacy that aim to both expand and energize the "choir" and reinforce support systems to protect communities of color and help them sustain themselves. Frontline groups do the most difficult work; that’s why philanthropic investment in the grass roots is essential.

None of this means foundations must give up on achieving a return on their investments or on measuring success. It simply means that grant makers should take back some of the burden and work more collaboratively with their grantees. And, when necessary, they must work with other foundations to foster a conversation that will help us become stronger and more resilient and protect the progress we’ve made.

The money in foundations, donor-advised funds, and elsewhere has grown exponentially over the past few decades. Philanthropy’s sense of responsibility for, and accountability to nonprofits, must grow as well, with donors providing funding in the background while organizers and advocates lead. With the current state of play, however, philanthropy’s response is too often to turn inward, revise or create strategies for allocating funding, and then move dollars.

We’ve seen several such emergencies before — 9/11, Katrina, Sandy, Ferguson; sadly, the list goes on — where we haven’t acted to put nonprofit needs and expertise first. As a new administration takes over, this must be a moment for action."

Allison R. Brown is executive director of the Communities for Just Schools Fund, a national donor network working to foster supportive learning environments and end the school-to-prison pipeline. Liz Sak is executive director of the Cricket Island Foundation, which supports youth-led social change.