Empty Tortillas

One of the guys working on the house construction said, “Yolanda and Francisco have been eating empty tortillas”.house.JPG

Our church has been helping build a new house for Francisco and Yolanda in one of the communities where the Shalom church has been developing a church plant. A Hispanic church in the States had donated funds to help with construction materials. Church members from our Shalom Church in the city of Choluteca, Honduras were supervising the construction and local workers from the community were volunteering to help with the labor needed to build the house. With everyone working together, it would take about two and a half weeks to build a small secure cement block house.


Francisco and Yolanda were selected by community leaders as the most economically needy people in the area. Their old adobe house had deteriorated over the years and the rainy season was about to arrive. With a leaky roof and broken down walls in the house, the couple did not look forward to enduring another rainy season.

Francisco is older and has chronic health problems. He is no longer able to work in the fields or go fishing along the coast like most of his neighbors do for a living. He and Yolanda have a few garden plants planted around their yard but it was not enough to sustain them.


I couldn’t get the words out of my mind. I kept thinking, “They’ve been eating empty tortillas” with no beans, much less any meat to put in them. In 36 years of ministry in Honduras I had never heard hunger expressed quite that way before. I had known that the cooking stoves in rural southern Honduras are often kept cold during this time of year. By July, people in the country have finished their food reserves from the previous season’s harvest. During this time of the year, they still have not yet started harvesting the few crops that they are able to plant. During June through August, people often gather what they can find to eat from the trees nearby. There is little else available.

To make matters worse, the young people are not able to help. Many of the young people in the region work in the large agricultural farms that grow produce for export. Most of the workers are seasonal laborers who work long hours for part of the year, but are without work for long periods of time during the rest of the year. One of the local municipal leaders once commented that “a whole generation of young people in the region are losing all knowledge of how to grow their own food”.

Yolando and Francisco depend on others to give them something to eat occasionally when there is extra food in the community. Often there is very little extra to share from the neighbors. Our men from the church commented on how difficult it is to eat your lunch in front of someone who does not have food to eat themselves. When they stopped at noon-time on the first day of construction and began to eat what they had brought with them for lunch, they realized that Francisco and Yolando had nothing to eat. The fire place remained cold. Our men readily shared what they had and the next day they packed a little extra in their lunch bags.

On the day that I visited the construction site after several days of work, Yolanda and Francisco once again had a cook fire for lunch. It was only because family members had given them eight pounds of corn a couple of days earlier. That would be enough corn to make about 150 tortillas. Eight pounds of corn would not feed them for very many days. In order to get the corn, they had to walk most of the day to go pick up the grain in a neighboring village, and then turn around to carry it back home the same day.

It’s often a challenge to know how to best help the needy people around us. As Christians, we are often challenged to walk the fine line between continually giving relief aid and that of encouraging communities and local church members to find ways to help each other.

There are several ways that our regional church is attempting to help their neighbors. They are looking for sustainable solutions that are developed by local community members. Church extension workers are not only preaching in the surrounding communities now, but they are also being prepared to be effective health promoters. Health promoters are teaching nutrition classes in the communities where the church is active. At times there are vegetables grown in the community but some families have never learned to eat them. The health promoters teach families the importance of eating vegetables how to grow their own food. They then show them how to prepare the food for their families. Health promoters are also teaching families to grow new foods, like eggplant, that they never imagined would grow in the region.

Our men in the church have also been looking for ways to help others. In the years immediately following Hurricane Mitch in 1998, World Gospel Mission had helped build several homes in the region. Over the past 15 years, the church has been wanting to develop a sustainable model home project. The home needed to be secure, using locally available materials, and it needed to be cost effective. A source of funding was needed.

First, several men from our church have developed improved skills for building high quality homes using locally obtained materials. They have the skills in part from teams of university students who have come from the Ohio State University. Some teams have helped teach community development practices. Others have designed a model home that may be adapted to different client’s needs. The homes include a “healthy combo” bathroom and kitchen.


Larry Overholt and his wife Angie have been involved in various aspects of community development in Honduras since 1982.   In this post Larry highlights the challenges found navigating between relief and development.   The Overholt’s process some of these hard and challenging issues in their blog.  What have been your challenges as you walk this fine line between relief, rehabilitation and development?


Wholistic transformation in Honduras

“We have to get involved in changing world view.”  David Hawk, Field Director from Honduras, shared about his experience with the Disciple Nations Alliance  (DNA) at last years  Compassionate Ministries Workshop held before the start of WGM’s 105th Celebration.  Listen here as David shares timeless truths and exciting ways that God is at work in the murder capital of the world.  In the next few weeks several others from the Honduras field will share how God is growing His Kingdom.

Have you been through a DNA Vision Conference or done the online training,  Coram Deo? If so, have you noticed differences in the way you view life and outreach?  How has interacting with this material changed what you do and how you do it?  We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share in the comment section below.

Escape to the City

Did you know that over half of the people in the world today live in cities? Our two final summer-season book reviews are about cities.  The first is very inspiring and the second is very challenging.  I hope you get a chance to escape to the city this summer, even if only a virtual trip.

From Bonnie Gouge, who serves as Regional Director for South America and Iberia along with her husband Ron

Mama Maggie: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Mission to Love the Forgotten Children of Egypt’s Garbage Slums by Marty Makary and Ellen Vaughn


This is an excellent book.  It is an easy read, yet full of opportunities to learn and be challenged in your thinking.  The book is the authorized biography of Maggie Cobran, who was nominated for the Noble Peace Prize for her work in the dumps of Cairo.  Maggie grew up in a privileged home in Cairo, Egypt, attended the university, and married.  While living an affluent life, her heart was drawn to the poor and downcast who lived in the garbage dumps in Cairo.  Soon, Maggie was visiting the “garbage villages” in the dump and realized that the call to help the poor was meant for her.  The story of her journey and her faith is inspiring.  From a visit to the garbage dump to the development of  a huge ministry, Maggie, the woman in white, has given leadership and has passionately loved those in her care.

Mama Maggie helped me catch a glimpse of Egyptian life and culture as well as reminded me to open my eyes and my heart to the needs of those around me.  It is a great story and well worth your time.


From Joy Phillips, WGM’s Compassionate Ministries Coordinator

To Transform a City: Whole Church, Whole Gospel, Whole City by Eric Swanson and Sam Williams


Have you ever worn out a highlighter? Be sure and have a fresh one before starting this book. This 200 page read may not look like summer reading on the surface but I found it quite compelling. As I’ve been mulling over WGM’s central ministry focus – wholistic transformation – this book resonated with me in a big way. I’ve been in conferences that talked about the urbanization of our world and I’ve read the stats and seen the infographics but I’ve still been left with the question – what do we do about the growing urbanization of the world?

This book gives clear-cut direction for how your church can join with other churches, and even community and business groups, to make a better community or to put it another way – to facilitate the coming of His Kingdom here on earth.

So many good quotes like, “We settled for conversion rather than transformation,” said Layo Lieva from San Salvador. “We don’t need to do it better, we need to do it different. I’m not sure we need any more church plants, if they are like the ones we have now. What we need is a different kind of church.”

This book is filled with great diagrams that help the reader grasp the concepts they are putting forth. There’s also a great list of additional resources at the end of the book to further help you in your quest to see your city transformed.

I’ll close with a quote from the forward. “On a macro scale, this view of church means that every community should be better if the church gets the mission right. The scorecard can no longer be about how well our individual congregations are doing. The condition of our communities is the scorecard on how well the church is doing at being the people of God.” Reggie McNeal

That’s challenging!

Those lazy days of summer – reading recommendations!

Have you ever wondered what WGM leaders are reading?  I’ve asked and they’ve shared a few of their favorites.  I hope this summer season affords you a chance to dig into a few good books to stimulate and entertain.  This post will highlight 3 books reviewed by WGM President Hubert Harriman, Alice Vanderhoof and WGM President-Elect Dan Schafer.  The book titles themselves are compelling: Futureville, Hastening and essentialism.  Happy reading!  We’d love to hear your thoughts after reading any of these.

from Hubert Harriman, WGM President

Futureville:  Discover your Purpose for Today by Reimagining Tomorrow by Skye Jethani


Jethani is a younger writer who has his pulse on God’s ways in today’s world.  He gets it.  Bob Goff comments, “This book won’t make you want to just think about what the world looks like, but how you’ll shape it.”  He’s right.

Jethani challenges us to think about tomorrow because our vision of the future is what determines how we understand the present.  “In a real sense today is defined by tomorrow.  How we interpret our present suffering, our work, our purpose, even our relationships is defined by how we think about what lies ahead… whoever shapes our vision of tomorrow wields enormous influence over our lives.”  Jathani’s concern is that we are approaching God from a posture of control predicated on fear, rather than one of faith flowing from love.  “As Christians, we believe that a meaningful life is one spent participating in what God is doing—God’s mission!  There are no divisions, in God’s mind, nor should there be in ours, between “religious work” and “secular work”.  Both are true vocations.  But our worth is not in what we do but who we are.  “The Christian worldview stands in unwavering opposition to all forms of utilitarianism.  Our faith affirms the God-given value of every person regardless of their usefulness.”

“Imagine a Christian community where followers of Christ are not merely focused upon church-based programs, but they are taught how to commune with Christ and glorify him in business, the arts, medicine, education, and every other channel of the culture where he has called them.  Such a church would exist not to advance its own agenda but to advance the common good.  Each person would know what part of God’s world he or she is called to cultivate with the order, beauty, and abundance of Futureville.  Their callings would all be diverse, occurring in different parts of the world and in various channels of culture, but every calling would be held in esteem by the church as coming from Christ and as part of his plan to redeem all things.”  Ministry is not being “a minister”, in the traditional way of thinking.  Ministry is being a Christian with a Kingdom view, no matter the vocation.

When asked if he would do anything differently Hubert responded, “I don’t know about differently, but certainly purposefully—I will affirm all Christian workers as called of God and doing full time Christian work, whether a builder or a pastor, etc.—one as important as the other.”


from Alice Vanderhoof, Kenya Field Director with her husband Jim

Hastening: No place Left by Steve Smith


When I was told that there was a good Christian novel that combined missions and the end times, I was pretty skeptical. Missions is exciting enough without having to make it into fiction, and end times books tend to put me off. However, once I started Hastening: No Place Left by Steve Smith, I was hooked.

The premise is compelling – in this modern age with advanced technology and ease of travel, what is to prevent Christians from completing the task of taking the gospel to every group of people until there is no place left where Christ is not known? The end times aspect comes in with Jesus’ promise to return in Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Will ours be the last generation – the one that welcomes Jesus’ return? Thus, the two titles: “Hastening (His return)” when there is “No Place Left”.
The characters are normal – with strengths and weaknesses, but who dare to surrender all for something that is greater than themselves. They do things we all can do. They feel emotions that we would feel. They are young and old. We could be in that story.
The approach is doable – train Christian “commando” units who will go to the unreached and difficult places to establish “beach heads” where follow-up teams can enter to disciple and train the believers. Their task is focused and short term, and the teams travel light.
The challenges are real – difficulties in entering isolated and sometimes hostile areas; language and cultural barriers; political roadblocks; forces of Satan opposing this ministry through sinister and secret organizations. The last part is reminiscent of stories of the Illuminati and DaVinci Code, but still plausible. There are not always happy or predictable endings.
For me, I was gripped by the sense of urgency to take the gospel to the world, a feeling that had waned somewhat from my 20’s. Research has shown that the number of unreached groups in the world is still a daunting number. There has been good progress and focused prayer raised up for the task in recent years. However, this book is a no-holds-barred quest for the call of the Kingdom. Since I am a person who doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines when God is calling people into action, I found myself intrigued by the possibility of this book being more than just a novel, but an inspiring invitation to strategic service.
I would commend it to every believer to see with new eyes the realities of this present world – a true battle for the souls of men and imminent return of Christ. I would commend it to every missionary to gain a renewed vision that may result in a change of approach and intensity of ministry.
Hastening is Book One of the two-part saga No Place Left. Book Two, Rebirth, has not yet come out. Both need to be in your library and passed around.


from Dan Schafer, WGM President-Elect
essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown
Initial success has a way of leading us to lose our focus which in turn leads us to a failure to really succeed. Successful people often take on too much work specifically because they are successful at most everything they try.  Therefore, we try to do it “all” and as a result we lose focus on what truly is our priority.  Without the necessary focus on our priority, we fail to invest sufficient effort to ensure that we accomplish that priority. Therefore, to truly be successful, we must understand what is our priority and eliminate everything that is in competition to keeping our efforts focused on that priority.  This requires that we build into every day a sufficient amount of time to consider our priority and to figure out how to eliminate the things that will keep us from focusing on it.  Maintaining focus on our priority requires us to develop a discipline of gracefully saying “no” to anything that interferes with that priority.  In the end, less (fewer pursuits) becomes best (the achievement of our priority pursuit).  We develop the disciplined pursuit of the essential in order to avoid the undisciplined pursuit of the nonessential.

Transformation at the Base of Mt. Kenya

There are often many pieces to a puzzle. We moved to a rural part of Kenya as the only westerners. It was lonely at first. Then God gave me Millicent. She is a Kenyan lady who is in her 50’s. She is a trained mid-wife. She has served children, the poor, the sick, and the marginalized all of her life. She runs a resource center for the poorest in our area. The children can come and eat, play games, and hear a Bible story on Saturdays. She is involved in community projects to bring mothers of malnourished children and mothers of nourished children together to cook a meal with what is locally available to teach the mothers how to feed their children well. She works with schools to distribute reusable menstrual pads to enable girls to stay in school consistently. She and her husband started a local soccer team for young men to keep them active instead of turning to unhealthy choices to occupy their time. She has worked hard to meet the physical needs with compassion to the suffering.  I came to Kenya knowing that if I only brought physical things to people, then I wasn’t making sacrifices for anything that lasts. I was primarily focusing on the spiritual.

One day, Millicent and I were at a school giving out menstrual pads with some short term visitors. Mentally, I had been sitting there questioning myself, “What am I doing here today? What value does this activity have for eternity? Did I hear you, Lord? Am I supposed to participate in this or did I miss the mark?” The visitors had been giving the teens the “self-esteem talk” so common in the west and without basis. “You are special. You are beautiful. You can be what you want to be. You have choices.” I was telling myself that these speakers were not in tune with the reality of these girls’ lives. I recognized that all of us, except Millicent, were outsiders, just visitors here. I knew that even I had no real idea of these girls’ real world. I had glimpses, mostly taught to me by my friend Millicent. It was at this point that the Holy Spirit moved. I spoke to the group next, completely unprepared, as I had come to help and transport the group. I shared with the girls that I knew they often had their choices taken from them. And that they were special because God made them in His image. And that they had the choice to be redeemed by the blood of Jesus. And that no sin was too great for Him to forgive. And that is why they were special and beautiful. That day changed everything for Millicent and I. We saw the missing puzzle piece. How could we integrate meeting physical needs with the spiritual?


So we searched for training to help us. Joy Phillips from World Gospel Mission as Wholistic Transformation Coordinator, along with Adhonam Hidug and Theresa Manchester, came to see what training would best help us. Joy recommended that we start by doing a free online course, Coram Deo,  to help us understand how worldview affects a nation. Three Kenyan friends and I did the training online within 3 weeks. It was geared more towards the western worldview but this let us know that we had hit on what we were looking for. It answered the mail so to speak. From that training we learned that there was a Samaritan Strategy Vision Conference that was geared towards the African culture. The bottom line for this training is that within every culture there are lies that we live and act on that keep us from being the believer, the church, the community and nation God wants us to be. The individual and church should be the driving influence of a community and nation. So we carefully crafted an invitation. As local missionaries, my husband and I, we were able to invite others from all denominations in our area. We invited and hosted 50 church leaders from about 20 different churches to a Samaritan Strategy Vision Conference.


2 Chronicles 7:14 says “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” This training is an example of our philosophy of ministry here:  come alongside the people but let them do it. So we had 3 Kenyans and 1 Eritrean come and teach the seminars.


Wow! It was amazing. I learned so much from them about the culture. They were able to speak boldly with relevant examples. Here are a few:

“The church isn’t telling the whole truth. We should be like Dorcas in the Bible who was always doing good. Her life was one picture every day. She didn’t go to church one day and live like someone else on all the other days. “

“Am I bearing God’s image? Do I see God’s image in my neighbor?”

“We are a nation of thieves. Kenya is the 3rd most corrupt nation in the world.”

What is the foundation of the destruction for individuals, communities and nations? It is lies.  The facilitatior said, “An African always carries God with him. What god is that?”

The pastors gave example after example of situations where the culture acts counter Biblically. The African culture has within it an animistic or traditional religion worldview.  This belief carries over into the way they see the world. For example,  spirits are everywhere. They are to be appeased or bribed. History happens to you. You are a victim of events. An African person is hopeless. They demean themselves and think they can do nothing. Nature is just there. Very few Africans enjoy the beauty of their country, nor do they take care of it. In contrast as a people with a secular worldview, our own country thinks that the ultimate reality is nature. Man is motivated as a consumer who believes resources are limited so we fight over them. We are not very spiritual on the whole. So you see, it isn’t just Africans with wrong thinking. Our churches could benefit immensely from this teaching as well. Until we as a nation, whatever nation that is, are honest about where we are and what beliefs we are acting on, we won’t be able to move forward or change.

The speakers went on to tell more of the story. They said over and over how the African church was only focused on the spiritual, but Christ Himself grew in wisdom, stature (physically), with favor with men (socially) and God (spiritual). He showed us how to do that in ourselves and then our churches to then go out into the community and then the nation.

The pastors went on to tell people about the abundant resources that are present in Africa. Although Africa is monetarily the poorest continent in the world, it is the richest in terms of natural resources, which many other nations are exploiting. They went into details about the water, agriculture, minerals, energy, and beauty that are present here and now. The people were visibly shocked to hear this.

One person said, “I am shocked by what we are sitting on. We are like an elephant with a big head who digs in the dirt with his trunk.”

I could go on and on, and tell you all of it, but let me say that in the end, the people had hope. They had vision that THEY could change. One man reported that he cooked an egg for his wife for the first time ever. She said, “Surely the spirit of God is at work.” They were inspired to change themselves and the church.


One pastor told me after the second day that he had been awake until 2 in the morning because he had only preached at the people and had never done anything to reach out and meet their physical needs. His church had never helped those in the community.

The final day we divided into 9 groups based on communities where we live. Each group planned a seed ministry that would reach to someone outside the church with local resources involving the local people to meet a need that would encompass all 4 areas that Christ grew in: social, physical, spiritual and in wisdom.

As we look to the future, some of these church leaders are looking to provide this training in their own churches to more and more people.  I have talked with some groups that are on their second seed project.

As Millicent and I looked for the missing puzzle piece, we found purpose in seeing things from God’s perspective.

Just yesterday, she and I were moved by the Spirit to talk with 4 street boys who were living under a storage container sniffing glue to numb their pain. These boys had no mother. They were unrelated to each other. We learned their names and ages and that they wanted to go to school but had no means of getting a school uniform to go to school.  So we told them that God cared about them and that was why we came with food. We told them that God didn’t want them to harm their brains. We exchanged the food for the glue bottles they were sniffing. We told them we would return soon and if we found them not sniffing glue we would buy them school uniforms. We wrote their stories down. We are going back in 2 days. In such a simple act, we are trying to influence a change in these boys, spiritually, physically, in favor with God and man. We have been changed to see this and it has given us such encouragement in everyday life, having purpose and satisfaction to participate with God in touching those who are near.


Martha Ritchie is a Missionary Disciple with WGM and is finishing up her first 2 year term where she and her husband, Jim, serve at Chogoria Hospital in Kenya.



My own journey in understanding what wholistic ministry is all about began at a seminar entitled “God and Creation.”  I thought we’d hear about tree-huggers, and we did, but talk about cows is what caught my attention. The question was asked, “If you were to look at a dairy farm could you tell if the farmer was a Christian?” “Does the way a farmer farms have anything to do with his relationship with God?”  Asked then I would have said no.  Farming is farming and God is God, right?  But after reading a ton of books, attending lots of seminars, studying scripture, and talking this out with other Kingdom believers I’ve come to the conclusion that farming is not just farming – it’s an expression of how the farmer views the world.  And if I view the world from the basis of the truth presented in the Bible that will be expressed differently from someone who farms, or does business, or governs, or teaches, or provides health care from the world’s view or an animistic view.  What we believe matters.  What we believe affects who we are, everything we do, and our relationships with God and others.

Take a look at this trailer for the movie Food, Inc. to to get a taste (no pun intended:) of this issue.

My desire for this blog is to inspire and encourage us on the journey of being transformed in our own lives and with those God has led us to interact with.  My prayer is that as we grow in our understanding of wholistic transformation we will begin to see changes in what we know, what we think, as well as in how we ‘do’ life.

I’ve been thrilled as President Harriman has caught hold of this vision. I’m currently going through old files and the shredder is humming but this document caught my eye before meeting it’s demise.


This report that Hubert Harriman wrote several years ago is entitled, The Heart of Compassionate Ministries.  In it he writes, “We feel God’s hand in our back, pushing us into the things that move His heart. What all that will finally mean, we don’t know but we do know that we can’t turn back.  Our hearts have been marked by a world in need — these are desperate days, with war, drought, famines, floods, displaced peoples, the illiterate, the uneducated, the poor, the homeless, the orphans, the abused, the addicted, the sick and diseased.  Do we have a choice?  Like the good Samaritan, stopping to help the man in need, we must take the time, make the effort and pay the price, always remembering that it’s about people.  People! People! Not projects.  . . . . . . This is the pulse of our heart but it’s a beat that’s getting louder and louder, like a drumbeat in our thoughts, hopes, and dreams — that God wants to do more with WGM, to make us an instrument of healing for the nations.”


Preach it Hubert!  Thank you for your leadership over these past 14 years.  You will be missed but we are anxious to see how God will continue to use WGM to build His Kingdom.

Check “Between the Trees” often for inspiration, testimonies of how God is at work, mistakes to avoid as you put wholistic transformation into practice, what others are reading, etc.  I welcome you to ‘like’ the WGMCompassion page on Facebook.  You’ll find helpful links and resources to help you facilitate wholistic transformation within your sphere of influence.

PS – An upcoming blog post will explain the name of this blog.


Joy Phillips

WGM Compassionate Ministries Coordinator