Himalayas (MNN) — The dictionary
defines the word "help" as a verb meaning "to give or provide what is
necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need; contribute strength or means
to; render assistance to; cooperate effectively with; aid; assist."
That, in a nutshell, is a
description of the mission of the Health Environmental and Learning Program
Technically, they're an
interdenominational Christian organization and community development
program. But practically, they're a
holistic ministry that is intent on transforming community physically and
Who do they help? Their teams
serve the poor of the Himalayas in Asia. In one country (not mentioned for security reasons), the illiteracy rate is about 58%, 72% of which are
Poverty and illiteracy are
directly related, and breaking that cycle can be a difficult task without the
proper foundation. H.E.L.P. looks at
literacy as the cornerstone of development, a steppingstone for other
H.E.L.P. co-founder Tim
Ackerman, an ecologist, says their literacy class is opened with prayer and Bible
study each morning. "By the end of these literacy classes in a
year, they are reading and studying their own Bibles. Over half of our students
that start with us are non-Christians. By the end, quite often, most of them
have given their lives to Christ."
From there, "Once they know how
to read and write, then we can go on with further training: how to properly
raise their crops, what types of crops, crop rotation, composting; then we
teach them to inoculate their animals, how to properly raise them, feed
them–proper nutrition as well as for their children."
H.E.L.P.'s focus is to equip the
national church and assist them in developing their own community, which comes
through the relationships built over the course of the year. As poverty-stricken farmers are able to
care for their own family, they are able to assist orphans and those in more
Ackerman explains, "It becomes a time of
meeting with others in the village–a time of getting together, and they do it
all around this literacy class."
National believers are encouraged
to love Christ first and then love their neighbors as themselves. That's where transformation occurs, says
Ackerman. "By the end of all of our
training–the literacy, then going on to agriculture, animal husbandry,
health–after several years there will be whole villages that will become
Christian. We're seeing such an explosion of the Gospel there that you can go
to almost any village where we work now, and it's almost to the extent of them
being the majority Christian."
While some of these areas have
been resistant to more traditional avenues of Gospel work, Ackerman notes that
"these literacy classes are being used by the leaders and the pastors as a
church-planting tool. They'll go into an illiterate village and start a literacy
class, and after one year, they will leave it intact there as a church."
H.E.L.P. is a grassroots ministry
that aims to empower the nationals to do what they know best. That approach, says Ackerman, has proven to
be wildly successful. "They just take off with it. They know how to minister to
their people, and they know how to carry the Gospel forward. There's never a foreign
person in there saying ‘do it like this, or that.' We can be so culturally
insensitive sometimes when we go in, because we simply don't understand exactly
how their culture works."
The programs are interdependent
and build on one another. Each
H.E.L.P. worker is committed to the development of the whole person. "Pray simply for our staff's protection. And even
more than that, of course, pray that they're able to spread the Gospel. It's
amazing. When you go forth with the Gospel, the Lord will protect you,
too. Pray for the health and well-being
of all of our national missionaries."