Gene SmithThe third in the Seeds of Change series: 20 strategies for systemic change described by members of the Vincentian Family’s Commission for Promoting Systemic Change. Gene Smith writes:

Strategy Three: In maintaining a profound respect for local culture, evangelize and enculturate Christian and Vincentian values and charism.

In Kenya, 80% of the population live in rural areas. More than half of these people to do not have access to clean water – a situation worse even than that of neighboring countries. The government has said it will not fund water services; it is up to water users. A Daughter of Charity proposed to people that wells be built in ten villages. She was able to obtain funds for materials from the Vincentian Family. The opportunity for evangelization arises as people ask, “Tell us, Sister, why do you do what you do?”

The impact of water projects is dramatic and, in many ways, immediate. From improved access to and use of an adequate and better supply of drinking water there is a 20% reduction in diarrhea, a 50% reduction in 24 hour diarrhea because the roundtrip for collecting water is reduced from a hour’s or more time to five minutes or less, and a significant reduction in child mortality and stunted growth.

To the west of Kenya, a Daughter of Charity goes out each day in a boat to travel the Niger River. Going from one village to the next, she teaches families three things: boil water, build latrines and use them, and immunize every child to prevent disease. The result: healthier communities, by far. People say, “Sister, tell us about your God. Any God who has sent you to us is a God we want to know.”

St. Vincent de Paul said, “Our vocation is to go to all parts of the world, and to do what? To set the hearts of all people on fire to do what the Son of God did – He came to cast fire on the earth so as to inflame it with His love”. Today the Vincentian Family continues to live out the words of St. Vincent de Paul. The Family is worldwide with at least one branch of the Family in 133 countries.

Everywhere the Family is, its mission is to evangelize and share Vincentian values and the charism through word and witness. Members of the Vincentian Family do this at the request of people who want to know what makes them “tick”. Such requests are facilitated because members of the Vincentian Family live in the communities where they serve, are known, respected and trusted. Real inculturation implies living with the poor, learning their stories, and being poor with the poor.

Throughout the world members of the Vincentian Family set the hearts of all people on fire, to do what the Son of God did. Throughout the world members of the Vincentian Family are ideal for facilitating systemic change.