David Reimer: What is Tearfund's raison d'être?
Tim Purver: Tearfund is a Christian relief and development agency working with a global network of local churches to help eradicate poverty. We believe in the local church being a catalyst for change, bringing justice and transforming lives, so our vision over the next ten years is to see 50 million people released from material and spiritual poverty through a worldwide network of 100,000 local churches.
DR: My own perception of Tearfund is that it excels at ‘partnerships’. How are partnerships formed with organizations in those countries where Tearfund carries out its mission?
TP: Tearfund works wherever possible through local church and church based organisations through a sharing of hearts and minds, values and vision to reach the poor and transform lives. These partners are not only part of the community and therefore understand local needs and issues, but they are there to stay, for the long haul and therefore offer a sustainable solution. We see the local church working at its best, being what it is made to be, when it is united and loving its neighbour both right on its doorstep and where love’s needed most.
In some circumstances such as in emergency situations, Tearfund will work operationally using our Disaster Management Teams to respond directly to a crisis or disaster situation. When the scale of disaster is large or there is a lack of partners in the region we will send our own experienced teams to assist. However, even when we do this we will always seek to identify and work alongside suitable partners, to build their capacity for the immediate and future need.
When Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar earlier this year, Tearfund had already been working with two Christian partners for a number of years and were able to respond through them in the first few critical days providing food, water, shelter and medical supplies. Whilst other agencies were still struggling to obtain visas to even enter the country, our partners were on the ground restoring hope and blessing their own communities in very practical ways.
DR: What role(s) do (or should!) local churches in the UK play in Tearfund's activities?
TP: The local church is central to who we are and what we do, not just overseas, but here at home too. The Bible asks Christians to ‘act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God,’ (Micah 6:8). So part of being Christian is standing up against the injustice of poverty - the grinding reality for so many people around the world today.
We talk about our overseas partners, but in reality we also have many partners at home; churches, organisations, families, individuals, who are just as involved with our work through their amazing support, both financial and in prayer. Our Church links programme also provides opportunity for individual churches to engage at a deeper level with a specific overseas partner and project, to be connected to their work, feel part of the process, and even to have the chance to visit and get involved practically through our ‘Transform’ programme.
Tearfund also run a Church Mobilisation & Change Programme to help equip UK churches to undertake their own social involvement and outreach work amongst the poor and marginalised in their own communities.
DR: What advice would you give to individual Christians who want to grow in their participation in addressing global poverty?
TP: Stay connected! Tearfund is about connections: we connect people in the UK with people in need around the world. We work in 64 countries with over 500 church-based organisations. And by getting involved, Tearfund supporters in the UK and Ireland have been part of a miracle – enabling local churches to make unexpected things happen: drought resistant crops feeding villages when the rains refuse to come; a newly planted forest diverting waters away from the villages when the floods come.
Visit www.tearfund.org to discover a wealth of information, learning and advice to help you pray, campaign, give and maybe go?
Tearfund are making connections across the world between the people with resources and the people who desperately need them. Letting people here at home be part of a miracle, a miracle that sees people in poverty at last able to make real changes. And the help they’re getting from their local church and the hope they’re experiencing has a transforming power. Lives are being transformed. Today, through our work, this is a reality - this is the miracle we’re witnessing.
Be part of it!
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Many thanks to Tim for participating in this interview! For those of you living in countries where Tearfund is based, you might be interested take up Tim's suggestion to explore their content-rich website and learn more. If you are attracted to Tearfund's vision and mission, but live elsewhere, you could also check out the "Integral Alliance" -- a network of Christian relief and development organisations -- to see if one of their members is in your locale.