A few days ago we met with Alongsiders group leaders from across Cambodia.
It was an inspiring time of sharing what God is doing in each of their communities.
This unique model of working in groups distinguishes Alongsiders from other mentoring/discipleship programs and reflects the deep commitment we have to building community - a central value for many people in developing world cultures.
This is how it works....
Young Christians from a local church who want to become Alongsiders form themselves into groups of 5-10 people (though some groups are larger).
Each group receives training and orientation from leaders in the wider Alongsiders movement. (Each individual Alongsider is matched with one marginalized child in their own community for a long term transformational relationship.)
As shown in the micro-credit field, working together in solidarity groups provides an ongoing level of peer encouragement and sustainability that brings benefits to everyone involved.
Think of it as positive peer pressure!
But building community goes way beyond just working in groups.
When a marginalized child is matched with an Alongsider, they gain not just a relationship with a loving big brother or sister - but a relationship with the whole local church support network.
That's why we work through churches. Because they are able to offer spiritual, social and emotional support far beyond what any one individual could offer.
Alongsiders is building community, and opening a space for the most marginalized children to participate in that community.
Isn't that what Jesus meant when he said, "Whenever you welcome a little child in my name, you welcome me." (Matthew 18:5).