By Ashley Woodworth
Love in Action International (LIAI) has taken a different approach to ministry. Instead of simply helping others, it helps others help themselves.
Tom Stallter, former Grace Brethren International Missions (GBIM) missionary and co-founder of LIAI, explained that the ministry addresses a desperate need in the African country of Chad: job skills. “[Chadians] are lacking ways and means of employment,” he said. They sorely need these skills to provide for their families. With the training LIAI provides, Chadians can get a job or start their own businesses.
“I’ve always had a desire to create economic help that would be ongoing and self-sustaining,” says Stallter. He was a missionary in Chad and the Central African Republic for 18 years, dealing with famine and economic relief, along with planting churches and training leaders.
LIAI, an agency that cooperates with GBIM, became an official organization in November, 2003, as a ministry of Enterprise for Vocational Development which uses business to provide vocational training. Its work in Chad began in 1994 and has been growing steadily since then by putting love into action as stated by 1 John 3:18: “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth”(KJV). The organization’s purpose is to fulfill the Great Commission, and meet the needs of the brethren in Chad.
Among the GBIM and German-supported Grace Brethren Charis missionaries working with LIAI in Moundou, Chad, are Frank and Karen Puhl and Matthias and Melina Ezel from Leonberg, Germany. The Puhls have been in Chad for 11 years, and the Ezels joined them in April 2003. GBIM missionaries Diana Davis and Heidi Sisson are also teammates with the Puhls and Ezels in Moundou.
LIAI is responsible for starting three projects in Chad. The first is a sewing center, which is a two-year apprenticeship program. Learning this skill enables Chadians to find work in both urban and rural areas. Since its beginning in 1994, the program has flourished, and has continued functioning without missionary intervention. Eleven people have graduated from this program. LIAI has also been involved in training bicycle mechanics, in the encouragement of construction teams, and in micro-economic development.
The Metal Fabrication Shop officially started with the arrival of the Ezels. This program trains men in metalworking so they can have marketable skills for existing employment opportunities and it also provides a discipleship program for participants. Five students are currently in metalworking classes.
The Mike Retterer Training Center, named for the organization’s deceased co-founder, is the last project. This facility, which is nearing completion, will give Chadians biblical, ministry, leadership, and vocational training. Eventually it will offer training in computer word processing as well.
While LIAI has grown steadily, much is still needed to continue vocational training in Chad. LIAI provides start-up capital for each venture or major change in the ministry. The Sewing Center has been doing so well it needs a new facility so this ministry can expand. The Metal Fabrication Shop also needs more equipment and to finish construction. Workers who can demonstrate metalworking skills are sought, as Chadians learn better by personal instruction.
The Retterer building still needs landscaping, electrical fixtures, furnishings, and training equipment. A ministry opportunity is available to anyone who could help with landscaping in Chad.
In addition to these projects, LIAI is also responsible for distributing the Jesus Video in the Tchad Arabic language. Funds are solicited to purchase more videos and to replace broken projectors.
Director Tom Stallter, 53, is Professor of Intercultural Studies at Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, IN. He has a B.A. from Grace College (1974), a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary (1979), and a D. Miss. from Western Seminary (1993). The Stallters attend Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church.
Stallter sums up the success of LIAI simply, “The Lord’s been good.” He continues, “We’d like people to see the value in projects that help Africans help themselves. We exist for that reason.”
Support may be sent to Love in Action International, P.O. Box 805, Winona Lake, IN 46590-0805. To receive the “Love Notes” newsletter, or for additional information, log onto www.loveinactioninternational.org or e-mail email@example.com.
Ashley Woodworth, a 2005 spring graduate of Grace College, served as editorial intern with FGBC World in the spring of 2005.