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High-5 class in Guatemala

High-5 class in Guatemala

High-5 was adopted this year by Food for the Hungry International (FH) as a trial in Guatemala to teach values to children through the public schools. In February FH teachers met with parents from each of the communities involved, beginning in 100 schools. Approximately 1000 children were involved in the initial trial. It was very well received and is now being used in 300 schools!

Teaching lessons of love, hope, thankfulness, respect and truth, the High-5 character values training is based on biblical principles. It helps children and their parents understand and apply these five values in their daily lives. The lessons are easy to understand, age appropriate, and culturally contextualized.

Here are some quotes from FH’s initial reports:

“Teachers had “the experience while teaching each theme to see God touch the hearts of these kids. . . The results have been better than in the past because the children have committed themselves to change. . .”

“The first value has helped restore self-esteem in our kids and encouraged them to set goals to change their behavior despite their young age.”

“The kids have learned the value of love and that God wants them to apply this love with action.”

“This is a holistic method that engages teachers (from the school) and families to also participate, not just FH staff.”

These quotes give a sense of the impact that the High-5 curriculum is having in Guatemala. It continues to be a tool to build the biblical foundation necessary for long-term social and economic change within communities. Your generous gifts and continued prayers will bring hope and change like this to more communities around the world.

Donate here.

Gary Edmonds


Under the leadership of Breakthrough Partners’ High-5 Africa Director and CARSA CEO Christophe Mbonyingabo, the High-5 curriculum is now being taught in over 50 churches from five different denominations in Rwanda. Christophe said 2015ChildBalloonsSmall recently, “In all the churches we visited, the first impact that occurred from the time they started using our curriculum [is] an incredible increase of children in Sunday School. Generally the number has doubled after one year. In one church, the number has tripled since they started using High-5 curriculum!”

Learn more and watch a short video here.

Please support the growth of this life-changing teaching with your prayers and financial support.2015TeacherWithChildrenSmall

Gary Edmonds, President
Breakthrough Partners




Fish Farming Initiative, trained by Justin

How does sustainable development happen? The answer in a short pithy phrase is “Inside-Out Change.” The people of a community, whether in Africa, Asia, or the USA, must own their change process.  They must take responsibility. They must realize that transformative change begins and flows from inside them.

My good friend, Justin Bisengimana, envisions and trains people in 22 impoverished communities of Rwanda to be the agents of their own change. He recently remarked, “Their mindset must change. They must realize that they are valuable and possess gifts and talents for their own development. They must be given time and the challenge to struggle. They must become tough-minded and learn to fight against poverty. If they are to make it out of extreme poverty and violence, they must start the process inside themselves.  And they must prepare themselves to work hard without any promise of outside help. My job is to bring them this knowledge and wisdom. In fact if I bring them any outside money or materials without this mindset first planted deeply, the people will only end up dependent or worse off than before.”

The result of Justin’s work shows that when people own their own development and are willing to persevere against the odds, they are able to triple even quintuple their income and the well-being of their children in three years or less. Pretty phenomenal growth! So much growth that Justin has more communities asking for his assistance than he can service in a year!

So many strategies for poverty alleviation focus on government-led redistribution of resources or policy change. Few emphasize the need for character or culture change. It should be no surprise that we see little sustainable change around the world. What do you think is the best strategy?

Gary Edmonds

Zimbabwe Workshop GroupInvited by MAMUDA, a community development association near Bindura in north central Zimbabwe, a team from Breakthrough Partners recently worked with over 80 men, women and young people for four days to coach and transfer skills necessary to lead their own community transformation. They came from 13 wards, some as far as 30km away. One man rode a bicycle 20 km to be there. The beauty of the country and hospitality of the people was only exceeded by the eager enthusiasm of the workshop participants.

A distinctive of Breakthrough Partners (BtP) is the belief that God has embedded in communities the leadership, solutions, and resources needed to solve the many challenges they face. In the course of the workshop it was exciting to see these people begin to discover what God has already planted in them, working together to identify solutions and local resources for their immediate and long term improvements. Our MAMUDA hosts took some risk inviting a US group to assist in their local development, but their boldness may pay off as a model for other districts.

The participants went back to their wards and engaged their neighbors and community, sharing what they learned in the workshop and generating more improvement initiatives. In a note of thanks to BtP, a MAMUDA leader wrote, “. . . the community of Bindura should never be the same again after this workshop. The enthusiasm exuding among most participants will begin to yield results soon.”

BtP leaders also met with the senior minister and incumbent vice president of the national government. Our visit even made the local news. Please pray for the people of Zimbabwe, MAMUDA and Breakthrough Partners. BtP will follow up and provide ongoing coaching to the leaders through Skype calls, email and periodic visits.  Pray for wisdom and grace to learn and lead well. 

Ed Hatch
Breakthrough Partners

Last week on this blog, we introduced the Breakthrough Partners Network conference that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Read that post here. This week, we’ll continue looking at two key themes that arose out of this conference: unity and connection, through the eyes of Breakthrough Partners’ Director of Global Leadership Development Mark Mielbrecht.  

While on the long flight to Africa, Mark suddenly felt inspiration from God. As soon as they had landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he quickly acquired a map of Africa. Mark then tore it into  30 pieces. Later, as he spoke at the opening of the Breakthrough Partners Network (BPN) conference, Mark placed a piece of the divided map in front of each of the eager participants. “Each person had a piece of the bigger picture God was creating for the future of Africa,” Mark recalled. “Not until we put all of our individual pieces together could we see God’s vision for Africa, the place where God has called us to minister .”

After Mark had divided up the pieces, they taped the torn map back together, making it whole again. However, it was missing one small piece. “It was small, but clearly a gaping hole,” remembered Mark. It wasn’t until the last day that the final piece was placed to fully reconstruct the map. “It was clear,” said Mark, “that if even one of us doesn’t step in to fulfill the purpose God has for our life, the whole body will miss that  person’s contribution.”

Each of the leaders brought together in this conference are living into dedicated, fruitful ministries of service in their home communities. As a result of the conference, BPN is nudging these individual ministries to be collaborative, to work together and create sustainability in their work. In particular, the BPN network members are all seeking to create economic  engines so their ministry communities can be self-supporting.  This will enable local  leaders  to better meet the physical and spiritual needs of those they serve, and be less reliant on external support. In order to achieve this, the leaders who had gathered were encouraged to look for what they do currently have, to find what resources and skills they can bring to the table to initiate change. Ultimately, these leaders have promised to turn to each other, to collaborate, initiate, and help support the work of programs and projects being developed in their local context.

This is a movement of relationship and unity; a movement of connectedness and vulnerability to each other. These leaders have united and are seeking to follow God’s plan for their countries, so that true change, new change, will be brought to fruition.

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Last month, on the final morning of the Breakthrough Partners Network conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,  a community leader from Nairobi stood up to address the attendees who had gathered for the week. He referenced the recent Kenyan election and related how they had been given the right to choose well those they wanted in leadership. “Now, will we exercise our rights as community leaders?  Too long,” he said, “Africans have looked to the outside, to NGOs, foreign aid programs, to be the answer for change.” He finished by saying that Africans themselves have been given responsibility for change. Will Africans accept it and move forward?

How do we help bring about profound change to the broken, distressed communities in Africa? For Breakthrough Partners President Gary Edmonds, the answer lies in the belief that God has already planted leaders in these communities. For over a decade, Gary and Breakthrough have been meeting with community leaders in Africa who have invited them to come and act as coaches, as they lead their communities. Breakthrough terms these men and women “Local Community Catalysts,” or LCCs, people who have networks in their communities and the ability to catalyze people and unite their neighbors to work together for the transformation and common good of the whole community.

As requests for coaching and consulting streamed in from LCCs, Breakthrough decided a new plan was needed to accelerate the process of consulting assistance; the Breakthrough Partners Network was born. Several months later the Breakthrough Partners coaching team assembled in Ethiopia, alongside 30 LCCs from all over the continent. Leaders from various African countries shared their expertise, sparking an unprecedented level of bonding, unity, support and relationship between the leaders. Over the five days of the gathering, the vision of what God is doing in Africa and where that vision is spreading rose clearly out of the swirl of thoughts and ideas, and was held in firm ownership by these African leaders. 

In reflecting on this conference, Gary emphatically rested his hope for the future of Africa on one simple truth: that God has planted a seed of greatness within these African LCCs. They possess humility, vision, willingness, and the courage to seek the well being of others in their community. Above all, they possess ownership. One can see in these leaders the recognition of the mandate God has handed them and their desire to shoulder the responsibility and look forward to the actions they will take to exercise their duty to bring about change. 

Is Africa ready for local ownership and change? Gary answered with this parallel: “After years of wandering, with God providing the daily manna and leading, God said: ‘Now pack your bags; we’re crossing the Jordan to settle the land.’ This means from tomorrow on, there is no more manna. You take responsibility.”

To African leaders, God is saying the time is now for Africa to be led by Africans.

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I went to the mailbox today and pulled out two envelopes designed to end human suffering. Interestingly, as I studied both vastly different appeals, I realized that neither was providing a long-term solution to this human dilemma. The first appeal was to my “need” for a respite from my own pain. A 3-D mailer, a cruise ship literally popped out of the water as I unfolded it. It promised “delights in every detail,” the opportunity to see “wondrous parts of the world” and experience the “the exhilarating allure and bold adventure” of a world-class cruise. For ten thousand dollars I can “get away” from it all for a week, ignore my problems and the hassles of life and experience decadent pleasures beyond belief. Oh, if only it could last!

In sharp contrast, the second mailer didn’t even need you to open it to capture your emotions“On the verge of extinction. No Food.  No Water. How Long Can They Survive?” was the tagline on the front of the envelope. The back had a photo of a suffering child and the phrase, “Imagine your body is so hungry IT STARTS TO EAT ITSELF.”  Motivated by a heart of compassion, this organization claims that your gift of just $27 will be multiplied 5X and will help bring children back from the “brink of starvation.” Who wouldn’t be compelled to answer this bold, gut-wrenching appeal to save poor, helpless children from certain destruction? Oh, if only it could last!

The problem with both appeals is that neither one offers a sustainable solution to human suffering. After seven days of being pampered with the finest food, entertainment and scenery, I will return to the reality of my challenging life. On the other hand, a bag of rice can only stave off hunger for a day or a week. What happens when that is consumed? Another mailer goes out. More money is raised, and more rice is handed out.

The way an outside organization enters a community will determine the way the local people respond. If the organization brings money or goods, the locals will see them as providers of aid and will simply wait for the next hand out. If an outsider enters in order to discuss ways to help the local people become self-supporting, the locals will see them as trainers and coaches encouraging them to develop sustainable solutions. The reality is these are creative, resourceful people who have survived thousands of years in their particular environments without the charity of Western donors. What they really need is to be given the opportunity and the incentive to become change agents right where they have been uniquely planted as “the display of God’s splendor” (Isaiah 61:4).

During a crisis, immediate aid and relief are definitely needed. But to keep people in perpetual crisis by taking away their incentive to discover solutions to their own problems is nothing short of criminal. The amount of aid flowing from Western nations to developing nations is shrinking dramatically as the Global economic crisis deepens. More aid is not the answer! They must be reminded that they too bear the image of a living God; the world needs their strength and dignity as contributors not charity cases. Their own leaders must be given the incentive to lead and the tools and training to maximize their potential to advance the Kingdom of God in every segment of their society. Their soil is rich and needs their stewardship to maximize its yield. The long-term sustainable solution to their suffering can only come from an inside-out approach led by capable, visionary local leadership.

Please feel free to respond to these bi-monthly Breakthroughs in Missional Thinking, we need your voice in this ongoing dialogue about how the Christian Church engages in missions in this rapidly changing world and culture.


Mark Mielbrecht

Director of Global Leadership Development

Men washing stones in a riverLawrence Temfwe, Executive Director of The Jubilee Center in Zambia, offers the following perspective on poverty:

“In Zambia rural poverty stands at 70% with the national rate 60%.  The World Bank believes that with the strength of our economy circling around 5.5% annually, we have the potential to eradicate poverty.  This is a common story in African countries south of the Sahara where oil, copper, diamonds and other natural resources have exemplified the perverse paradox dubbed the ‘resource curse.’

“It is shameful that the massive wealth being extracted from our country is not bringing greater prosperity. Equitable development is nowhere to be found in these nations which are dominated by Christians claiming to be guided by biblical beliefs. There is no reason whatsoever that an average Christian in Africa should be destitute when the very issues the Bible says cause poverty are lived out daily in African churches. To an African Christian living in a poor community, the Biblical narrative may read like an autobiography or a “day in the life.” Indeed, the world the Bible describes consists of widows and orphans, polygamous families, diseases, tribal and ethnic conflict, property rights, corruption, plagues and famine, poverty and unjust systems, all to which the African Christian has grown accustomed.

“Thankfully, the Bible tells us what the ‘righteous’ ought to be doing in those situations and what results can be yielded.  Mordecai was a “preeminent person among the Jews, and was held in high esteem by his fellow Jews because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all Jews” (Esther 10:3). In Luke Chapter 5 we see Jesus heal a man with leprosy. Leprosy had social, spiritual and physical consequences and when Jesus healed him He addressed each one. After he healed him Jesus tells him to go to the temple and have fellowship with the brethren who otherwise would not accept him. His healing was holistic.

“God’s vision is for the church to be an agent of spiritual, physical and relational restoration.  The church in Africa has a great opportunity to disciple Christians to be effective in evangelism and in tackling the social and economic issues such as poverty, corruption and environmental degradation that plague our nations. How is your church helping people become devoted followers of Christ who are making an impact on our culture?”

Here at Breakthrough Partners, we realize that biblical Christianity does not separate a person’s spiritual life from the rest of his life. In the Western World we tend to think of our faith in very dualistic terms which separates our spirituality from the whole of life. It is time to embrace a more robust faith which involves the whole person and the health of the entire community which we all share. Jesus “saves” us for eternity, yes! But He is also interested in the restoration of “all things.” Does your faith embrace the need for societal or systemic healing? Jesus did.

Please feel free to respond to these Breakthroughs in Missional Thinking. We need your voice in this ongoing dialogue about how the Christian Church engages in mission in our rapidly changing world and culture.


Mark Mielbrecht
Director of Global Leadership Development

Many non-profit organizations have good intentions. Compassionate people want to give to the less fortunate, doing their part to “end” poverty, hunger and suffering around the world. The problem is that particularly in the Global North, poverty is seen as simply a lack of material goods or resources. The well-meaning solutions are based on alleviating material symptoms by offering the goods or resources that appear to be lacking. Food, medical equipment, clothes, and money have been shipped to the Global South in staggering amounts. Unfortunately, this has done little to end the cycle of poverty. Why?

Poverty is a very complex issue that often manifests itself as a lack of material resources. Yet, poverty has much to do with the psychological, moral and relational health of a person. In a World Bank report, Voices of the Poor: Can anyone hear us?  40,000 poor people from 47 countries were interviewed regarding the issues of poverty. More than a lack of material resources, the lack of a voice, power and control over their lives, and equality for women contributed profoundly to a state of perpetual poverty. One poor woman from Moldova said, “Poverty is pain; it feels like a disease.  It attacks a person not only materially but also morally. It eats away one’s dignity and drives one to total despair.”  Furthermore, Bryant Myers in Walking With the Poor recognizes that “Poverty is a result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life…”

I would submit to you that the average homeless person on the streets of America is not simply dealing with the fact that he doesn’t have a home. He has in some way lost the social safety net that most people rely on when they face difficulties. What appears to be the result of a loss of financial stability is likely related to a loss of relationships and the social equity that keeps us connected to those around us. The systemic causes of poverty are very difficult to discern in surface assessments. An honest and perhaps personally invasive assessment of what brought him to this broken place of dependency is needed to bring about systemic change.

We must realize that an aid and relief approach will not end poverty but will only relieve some of the symptoms. In order to provide the kind of systemic solutions that are needed we must also answer some hard questions. If your well-intentioned approach is doing more to keep someone in a state of poverty than it is actually helping, are you willing to change? Is your church or ministry willing to consider the implications of a long term, systemic approach to poverty that includes the healing of the whole person? 

Please feel free to respond to the Breakthroughs in Missional Thinking. We need your voice in this ongoing dialogue about how the Christian Church engages in missions in this rapidly changing world and culture.

Mark Mielbrecht
Director of Global Leadership Development

In a remote African village the children were being ravaged by cholera, parasites, and a host of other water-borne diseases. A medical missions team assessed their situation and prescribed the need for clean water to end these preventable illnesses. An American church soon heard the story and the money was quickly raised to build a well. Within days, blue jerry cans brimming with crystal clear water and the smiling children playing in the flow gave a happy ending to this tragic story. The missions team left, the benevolent givers were happy, and the situation was resolved, right?

Unfortunately, the story was far from over. A year or so later some of the medical team checked on the children. To their surprise not only had the water-borne diseases returned, but the village was now further from the well. Unbeknownst to the Western missionaries and the supporting church, this village had been in relational conflict with a neighboring tribe for quite some time. The new well, built as a beacon of hope for the future of the village, had become a weapon in the hands of the more dominant tribe and this weaker tribe had lost all use and benefit of the new water source.

Too often, in our assessment of the needs of a community in the developing world, we don’t take the time to look into the deeper, systemic issues that are much less tangible than digging a well or building a house. What this village really needed was to be reconciled with its neighbor. All the clean water in the world would not solve this deeper issue that was preventing them from using the new well.

At Breakthrough Partners we are committed to walking in relationship with the local people in order to discover the systemic issues and to help facilitate an inside-out solution to their problems. By bringing the leaders of the different villages together and working through these tribal differences, a process of forgiveness and reconciliation can begin to transform the relational landscape. Now, the well can serve both villages equally and the entire region can benefit from this life-giving water source.

As you consider your missional contribution to a community, are you willing to take the time to discover the deeper systemic issues that may make your current ideas for intervention a moot point? Are you willing to walk alongside the leaders of these communities to make sure they actually have the identified needs and the means and knowledge to sustain these projects for their well-being? How will the rest of the community or neighboring communities react to your intervention? We must come with eyes and ears wide open and a listening heart in order to avoid a “war of the wells” situation.

Please feel free to respond to these bi-monthly Breakthroughs in Missional Thinking. We need your voice in this ongoing dialogue about how the Christian Church engages in missions in this rapidly changing world and culture.

Mark Mielbrecht
Director of Global Leadership Development

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