By John Payne, M.D.
Global CHE Network Representative Council Member
In the late 1980s villagers in central Zaire (now D. R. Congo) came to Medical Ambassadors missionaries asking if the missionaries would teach them how they could help themselves. They had seen missions come, do good things for people, and leave. When the missionaries left, all the good things left with them.
The Medical Ambassadors missionaries suggested a 2-point solution
- Local people needed to be in charge – to set their own priorities and to use their own resources.
- The Gospel needed to be preached—service to God would put the goals into focus and provide the power to achieve them.
The villagers liked the idea. They chose their leaders; the leaders chose the community goals– sanitation, water purification, and agricultural advancement. They chose volunteers and trained them to reach these goals, all the while sharing Jesus’ teaching of loving their neighbors as themselves. These volunteers then went hut to hut, spreading what they had learned. Within a year, the results were so evident – healthier children, cleaner streets, happier people – that neighboring villages started asking if they could be trained too. By 1997, the one village using the CHE strategy had become 56 thriving villages.
But could such growth be sustainable? Civil war broke out and all the missionaries were evacuated. For four years, Medical Ambassadors was without contact with these communities, aside from being able to send a small amount to money to the trainers. At the end of these four years Medical Ambassadors revisited to discover that 56 villages had become 113 villages using CHE strategy. Malnutrition and infant mortality rates had been cut in half. Bible study, prayer, evangelism, and church giving suggested the spiritual maturity of the new believers to be the best outside evaluators had ever seen.
Since CHE was introduced to this region, outside missionaries have since been sent elsewhere. Aside from small amounts of outside funding, the locals of central Zaire have been equipped to find and sustain their own long-term solutions. Today, nearly 700 villages in that area are proving the effectiveness and longevity of CHE strategy. This is the power of local leadership equipped with the remarkable strength of the Holy Spirit.
Dr. John Payne is a physician who served in the field of family medicine for many years before becoming a missionary. Since 2005, he has worked with Medical Ambassadors International: first, as Regional Coordinator for in East Africa and now as President/CEO. John and his wife Madelle work hand-in-hand at Medical Ambassadors; their two children and four grandchildren serve the Lord in various ways across the world.