In a chaotic and uncertain world, firm paths can be hard to find. Join us for a seven-part devotional series on the Beatitudes for Lent as we walk the way of love in an upside-down world. Get the email series or the printed version (printed series available for a limited time).
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
Chiraphone Khamphouvong fled Laos with her family in 1980, when she was five and a half. They endured a perilous journey to reach safety and a new life in the US. There, as a teenager, she found faith in Christ. Here, Chiraphone, who is the Program Advisor for Tearfund’s partner World Renew Laos, reflects on the Beatitude “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”, and what it looks like to be Christ’s hands and feet in a country where Christianity is a minority religion, and religious activities are heavily monitored.
This reflection is adapted from a full-length interview with Joel McKerrow and Gracie Naoum, hosts of the podcast ‘An Upside-Down World’. This 8-part podcast has been created especially for Tearfund’s Lent 2022 series.
Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect that of Tearfund.
The development approach of World Renew Laos speaks to the idea of meekness: listening to what is needed and wanted, honouring someone else's goal over your own. How have you encountered this in your experience with communities?
The attitude or the Spirit of Christ is so countercultural. In our world today, people are trying to flex their power. Wanting to be in control. With World Renew Laos, we're trying to instil a new paradigm, where we come alongside and we actually let our villagers be the leaders. What an upside-down approach to development!
How do we develop, because development comes at a cost, right? When you have access to roads, it means drugs have access to that community. Human trafficking has access to that community. Community members want a road so that they can have access to the markets or take their goods to the markets to sell, or for their children to go to school. But then what are the things that come in? And those that take advantage of the poor? How can our communities retain their control and be resilient so that they themselves can be sustainable?
In a culture that favours power, how have you learned to embody the kind of meekness that Jesus talks about in the Beatitudes?
My father was a buddhist monk for 14 years. He left the monkhood because he’d had enough of the spotlight. Everywhere he went, people held him up. When you’re a monk, wearing the saffron-coloured monk robe, you can’t interact with civilians as an ordinary person. So he did this downward-mobility, where he was like, “enough of this attending to me, serving me all the time. I can’t make as much of an impact for the people that I want to help”. So I grew up with that, and was able to witness this amazing model.
My personality is a little bit loud. [To grow in meekness] I need to withdraw. I need that space and time, to withdraw and be removed from the public or others, and just be in stillness. I live along the Mekong River: the same river that my family and I crossed [when fleeing Laos] when I was five and a half. Living there today is a daily reminder of God’s grace, and causes me to meditate on that and how I can take my 24 hours in a day seriously, with intention, with impact. Can I make a positive impact in someone’s life today?
Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus talks about the temptation to be spectacular, the temptation to be powerful, and the temptation to be relevant. The church of the world has it so wrong, especially the western churches. So how do we do this downward mobility?
This Beatitude challenges our cultural assumptions about what brings about a 'rich' life. How have you seen this play out in your lived experiences across different cultures?
When we’re self-aware of the privileges we bestow, I think that’s what love is – we’ve received so that we can give, and not just keep for our own benefit. Meekness is of that: where when we receive, we want to give – because it’s not even ours to keep. How do we utilise our nationalities, our education, our health, our hours, our homes, our food, to bless others?
Here in Laos, how we live our lives is a huge testament. Because of the country we live in, the name Phra-Yesu [Jesus] may not always be able to be spoken. That’s when the witness of Christ is in and through our actions, our connections at the marketplace, the villages. It’s that downward mobility. Henri Nouwen’s In the Name of Jesus talks about the temptation to be spectacular, the temptation to be powerful, and the temptation to be relevant. The church of the world has it so wrong, especially the western churches. So how do we do this downward mobility? If our community members or our staff can do things on their own, let them. Get out of the way, Chiraphone! Do I live here, is this my village? It’s your village, how would you like to develop it? What goodness is here that we can continue to build on? Get out of the way: that’s part of the decolonising.
Laos is about 70 per cent agrarian. They depend on the earth; land is very important. That’s why “inherit the earth” is so key. I feel like the meekness of Laos is already part of our world. Our Western cultures, we have concrete jungles; what’s surrounding us is not God-created things, it's human-created things. We need to go back to the basics, back to nature. I’m raising worms here, composting here in my urban home. The plants I plant are either for me to eat or for the bees. Now my neighbourhood is starting to plant more things. Whatever the drop of impact, every day is an opportunity. In our villages, I say, “Everyone breathe in, everyone breathe out – if you are breathing, you are still alive, you have an opportunity to be better.”
Phra-Yesu, Jesus, thank You for Your mercy that is new every morning. Thank you Lord for being the ultimate example of meekness in our lives. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth… in every part of our big and beautiful world. Bless those who are experiencing challenging situations. Strengthen Your people, Your children to be full of hope and faith. May we have the courage to be bold, counter-cultural as we live out meekness each day, shining Your Light and Love. All in the name of Phra-Yesu, Jesus we pray, Amen.
Farming is not easy at the best of times and in Rajasthan, India, scarce water, harsh conditions and unpredictable weather make it extra difficult for farmers like Ramlal.
Not long ago, things became so tough that Ramlal was forced to migrate and work as a day labourer to feed his family. Things changed when our Christian partner EFICOR began working with Ramlal's community to train local people in new and sustainable ways of farming.
Ramlal learned about kitchen gardening and sustainable agriculture, and began rearing cattle and growing fruit, vegetables and grains, which he sells at the market. Now that his family has enough food on the table and a regular income, they can think beyond their day-to-day survival and plan for their children’s futures.
Our Christian partner EFICOR is working in this area with families like Ramlal’s to bring hope, freedom and restoration, expressions of God’s love and opportunities to celebrate and build on community-led vision and capacity.
Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).