Partnership visit from Sierra Leone and Guinea
Written by Maria Silkjær
In February, one of the coldest and harshest months in Denmark, three bishops and three development officers left the sunny and warm weather and travelled to Denmark.
Relay Trust, together with the Teachers Mission Association (LMF), had received a grant for partnership activities from the Danish Missions Council's Development Department (DMCDD) under Danida. Our three partners from the Anglican dioceses in Guinea and Sierra Leone respectively had the opportunity to come to Denmark and meet around our partnership and shared visions.
For some the cold climate was a bad surprise, because - how do you prepare for an experience you have never had before? Fortunately, it was warm and comfortable at Hotel Ikast, which was the venue for the conference. The Sunday, the day after their arrival, was an exciting cultural experience attended by members of the LMF and Relay Trust. The day started with a festive Shrovetide service in Fonnesbæk church, where the architecture of the modern church was admired. After that we visited Gl. Estrup Agricultural Museum, where we saw how Denmark has evolved from the Peasant Stone Age to the present day. We saw when democracy, human rights and women's suffrage were introduced. Our partners were surprised to see that it is part of recent times. We took a tour of the castle in its pomp and splendor. It was also a great experience. Imagine a building still standing after more than 600 years! The day ended with a festive partnership dinner, where the three bishops talked about the history and activities of their respective churches.
The following days we had workshops on good communication, cultural differences, leadership styles and organisation. The goal was to have a partnership agreement with each of our partners, where we together can set a direction on our common visions. There was a great deal of participation from everyone, and together we identified a common vision. Our vision is to create sustainable development through the training of local church leaders. Together, we have identified areas of focus within sustainable agriculture/environment and loans and savings groups - budget management as transformative knowledge in their communities. These developmental initiatives must go hand in hand with theological training so church leaders in both words and deeds can be the good news to their people. The churches and their church leaders have a strong relationship with their local communities and a credibility, which gives them a unique opportunity to help advocate for change. Therefore, there was a consensus that the church leaders will be the right key people with whom we will focus on capacity building in the future.
During the week there was a visit by Elisabeth Nørgaard from Farming 4 Life, an organisation that has extensive experience in development projects and will be a sparring partner in the future. The Dean, Poul Erik Knudsen, from Ikast-Brande Deanery paid a visit, which gave an opportunity to talk about Danish church life and culture, and he introduced the team to some of the social projects in Ikast, a recycling shop and Ikast Church.
On the final day, the second part of the partnership activities was planned. This summer, participants from Relay Trust and LMF will visit the three dioceses and their members. We plan to begin Bible Study groups for church leaders and to have a workshop with a Farming 4 Life teacher.
All in all, we have taken some good steps together, and we believe that we will be able to help set thousands of people free through faith in a loving God, free to love their neighbour and free from extreme poverty. Thank you all who follow us and support our work!