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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

Weary donors around the world are searching for what will bring sustainable transformation to the poor. We must always ask, “What works that will last beyond the aid?” From more than 40 years of international work in some of the most distressed nations of the globe, my answer is simple – Local Leader Centered Development.

When local leaders are valued, honored, listened to, and empowered to execute transformational initiatives based on their dreams and visions, on the resources at hand and on the rhythm of their own culture, the change lasts.  The community is changed from the inside-out.  Ownership of the new reality is felt by the local population.  Creativity is fostered.  Diversity in unity is cultivated.  The leaders and people experience the dignity of being masters of their own destiny and stewards of their own resources.

I recently returned from 10 days in rural Zimbabwe, invited to facilitate a change process in this community of many distressed people.  Working with 85 local leaders, we helped them surface their own visions and dreams and grasp the assets that they already possess.  Relational trust grew as together they wrote plans to transform and develop their district.  They created a local development association with this mission statement:  “MAMUDA (Masembura and Musana Development Association) exists to promote sustainable development and empowerment by the local people for the future generations.  We encourage total control and ownership of the resources by the local community.”  Read more about our meeting in the Bulawayo News here.

Check back with me in a couple of years.  My experience tells me that outside-in project-centered development does not last, but inside-out Local Leader CenteredDevelopment does.  What are you practicing or investing in?  Does it last?

Gary Edmonds


Julius Muwanguzi of Uganda

When people think of a coach, sporting games with red-faced men frantically waving arms and shouting instructions is usually what comes to mind.

Mark Mielbrecht’s coaching couldn’t be more different.

Two years ago, Mark and three others at Breakthrough Partners signed up to become certified coaches through Creative Results Management. The coaching method they learned is unique. “It’s a client-led agenda,” Mark said. “They say what they want to work on; I’m helping them achieve the goals they set for themselves.” Mark explained that it is future-focused, while counseling is often focused on the past. “We like to recognize the effects of the past, but ultimately believe that God created us as unique and gifted individuals. We have to trust the Holy Spirit to enable us to fulfill our God-given purpose.” In order to do so, Mark’s coaching focuses on a person’s desire to set goals, overcome barriers and willingness to choose to move in a positive direction in order to meet one’s potential.

Mark recently coached Breakthrough’s friend Pastor Julius of Uganda. His church had planted corn to feed the village and provide for schoolchildren, but the crop was destroyed when a neighbor allowed his cows to graze on the plot. Julius was faced with a dilemma. He wanted to show love to his neighbor but had the reality of a destroyed crop that could no longer feed the village. He struggled with whether to turn the other cheek or seek restitution to meet the needs of the village. Through Mark’s coaching, Julius decided that he should meet with the elected village council to ask for their input regarding a solution and support. They in turn spoke with the neighbor about his negligence. “I never told Julius what to do. All I did as a coach was help him discover his solution to the present problem. That’s the beautiful thing.” Mark’s coaching with Julius helped prevent a conflict between a pastor and his community and helped give recognized authority to the recently elected governing body of the village.

Mark and the other Breakthrough coaches are well on their way to logging the necessary hours for their coaching certification. As they do so, they will continue to play an important role in helping clients decide the best action-steps to self-created solutions and effective change.