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Issue 9-13

Positive Deviants

I spent all of last week above Colorado Springs in intense training sessions with some of the leaders of the CHE (Community Health Evangelism) movement, which is so effective it is spreading rapidly around the world as various denominations and missions groups adopt its methods. Saddleback Church with Rick Warren, for instance, is using the CHE development program in the Peace Initiative in Rwanda.

CHE is a unique neighborhood (or village) approach that seamlessly integrates Scriptural stories with practical preventive healthcare (or microenterprise) lessons that are advanced by trained village nationals who relate (ideally) to 10-15 households. There may be other groups that are doing this kind of integration—I’ve witnessed all kinds of relief and development initiatives around the world in my travels as a journalist—but, generally they lean toward one pole or another, development and relief on the one hand, or church planting on the other.

When I saw the CHE model in Kenya, I was immediately overwhelmed with the empowering genius of its philosophy. It puts back into the hands of the community the responsibility for their own physical and spiritual health, and it gives them the savvy to do exactly what needs to be done. When I was asked to serve on the board of LifeWind, the organization that first incubated and now must serve the rapid global mobilization of this movement, I immediately said, “Yes!” (Actually, it was more like, “Take me! Take me, PLEASE!”)

Stan Rowland, who originated the Community Health Evangelism concept, shared longitudinal data conducted through independent surveys that have studied the effect of CHE on villages where there has been a decade or so of CHE impact. For instance:

In Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, starting in 1990 in one village, today the Presbyterian and Mennonite churches are working in 550 villages. On an average, there were 10,000 to 15,000 decisions for Christ each year with over 9,000 individuals in discipleship groups. Over 73 new churches have begun. Malnutrition was reduced by 66 percent, infant mortality rates were cut in half, some 15,000 latrines were built and over 27,000 children are vaccinated each year.

I could go on and on, but just one more sample may help you understand why I am so excited about being involved in any way in this outreach.

After five years of doing CHE in 48 villages of seven provinces in Cambodia, a study compared CHE communities with non-CHE communities.

The CHE villages had 60% lower rates of malnutrition in children under five years.

The death rate for children under five was reduced from 7.9% to l.1%.

CHE is bringing solidarity between villages, and farming is beginning to develop in areas previously not farmed.

Alcohol, gambling, domestic violence, and regular violence have been greatly reduced.

Of all the heads of households in CHE villages, 72% have heard the Gospel for first time, with 81% attending Bible studies. Some 36% have been baptized.

One of the lessons was on “positive deviants.” “What,” I thought, when I heard this phrase, “is a positive deviant?”

In one East Asian village, with a rice-based diet and few other nutritional supplements, some children in the same community were not malnourished like the majority. They all ate rice from the same paddies. But, in one paddy from which these healthier children were fed, tiny little krill inhabited the water. The krill provided a protein nutrient that kept off the starvation diseases. A positive deviant.

In another community, soup was the staple dish. Again, some children did not manifest the same wasting diseases as the majority. A careful study could find no differences in eating until one researcher noticed that some parents scooped soup, not from the top of the pot as was customary, but from the bottom, where the nutritious veggies and small pieces of meat settled. And that made all the difference. A positive deviant.

My week of CHE training and these little stories have caused me to do some deep thinking about positive deviancy. After all, isn’t that what Christianity is all about?

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Yep! Positive deviancy.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)

Definitely—the original positive deviant.

So here we are, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, with the world going awry again. With Americans stuck in a painfully slow economic recovery. With a political system that is controlled by special interests and where the good of the people is lost in power politics. What are we to do?

We are going to become positive deviants. We are not going to let the condition of the world bump us from making a difference for good in the name of Christ in the world.

So how? Use the CHE model.

  • Pray.
  • Gather a group of people (friends, family, neighbors).
  • Identify the need or cause.
  • Discover what assets already exist in the group that has gathered.
  • Ask: “What can we do with what we have at hand?”
  • Pray and look in the Scripture for a story that relates to your need or cause.
  • Begin a mobilization plan.

(Well, this is really simplistic—but many of us are just novitiate positive deviants!)

Let me know. Remember the krill in the rice paddy and the ingredients at the bottom of the soup pot.


Karen Mains



Annual 24-hour Advent Retreat of Silence

Twenty-some women have taken advantage of the early-registration discount, and we have room for 35 more. The cost now is $120. You still can receive a price break if you bring a friend who has never attended a Hungry Souls Advent Retreat before. If you are new or bring a friend that’s new, the cost will be $90 per person. This fee includes a private room with bath and three meals.

We will be looking at the life of Mary and pondering the unknowns and the mysteries in all of our lives. For those new to this process of silence, this retreat is always a guided retreat.

The dates are Wednesday and Thursday, December 1 and 2. We will be meeting at the Bishop Lane Retreat Center in Rockford, IL. Directions and all the other details will be sent to you upon receipt of your registration. There is one month left for you to reserve a place for yourself and a friend!

You can register by e-mailing Susan Hands at We MUST have your check in the office by November 21. Please make your checks payable to “Hungry Souls” and mail them to:

Hungry Souls Advent Retreat
Box 30
Wheaton, IL. 60187


Global Bag Project Tidbits

Three people have stepped forward to donate $30 for 12 months to match the $300 a month that the Alive and Well Foundation is granting us as a loan, so we can increase traffic to the Global Bag Project website. This is exciting! We are looking for seven more loving donors. Please contact Karen Mains at

  • Caitlyn Mains, the Mains’ 17-year-old granddaughter, gave a tithe off her part-time job.
  • One woman ordered 25 small bags @ $25 each as a memorial to her sister who recently died of cancer and who was an enthusiastic supporter of the Global Bag Project.
  • We have four church microenterprise fairs where the bags will be displayed—one in McHenry, one in Oakbrook, one in Hyde Park, and one in Modesto, CA.
  • Home parties are being held in Dallas, TX and Green Bay, WI.
  • 100 more bags will arrive on November 8, as Debbie Ruzga “mules” them in from Kenya.
  • Some of our Kenya GBP team begin CHE training in Nairobi this month.
  • Mary Ogalo, the Project Manager who runs the GBP Kenyan office, received her Master’s Degree in September and gives birth to her third child in November!
  • David and Karen Mains will be leading a group to Kenya March 25 to April 10, 2011. We will visit with some of our bag-makers in the Kibera slums, go on safari, meet with CHE staff, stay at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology guest house, and get our heads together with the global community for the purpose of becoming positive deviants! If you are interested in joining us for this trip, let Karen Mains know at We would like to keep our group to around 8 people, men and women. Financial details will be firm next week.

Listening Groups Start in February, 2011

Karen Mains is gathering material to put a book on Listening Groups together and would love to journey from February 2011 through eight months until September with people who wish training as Listening Group leaders. This will keep her mind in the Listening Group mode and in dialogue with people who feel strongly about this spiritual exercise.

Her covenant is to have the first draft of the book written by September 2011.

As usual, the groups will consist of 3-4 members; we will meet once a month at the Mains’ home in West Chicago, IL. The meetings will last 2 1/2 hours, but will include training and hands-on activity with each participant taking turns leading the group. Karen is a small-group specialist, certified by Riva Institute as a focus group moderator.

We will be looking at the neurobiology of well-being cuased by the listening process, at how to ask good questions, at how to guard the architecture of the listening process, at how to create safety in a group, etc.

The fee for this 8-month journey is $125. If you are interested, contact Susan Hands at Mainstay Ministries at



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Karen Mains

Karen Mains

“When I saw the CHE model in Kenya, I was immediately overwhelmed with the empowering genius of its philosophy. It puts back into the hands of the community the responsibility for their own physical and spiritual health, and it gives them the savvy to do exactly what needs to be done. When I was asked to serve on the board of LifeWind, the organization that first incubated and now must serve the rapid global mobilization of this movement, I immediately said, ‘Yes!’”


When Helping Hurts

When Helping Hurts:
Alleviating Poverty Without
Hurting the Poor...
and Yourself
By Brian Fikkert,
Steve Corbett
and John Perkins


Karen says:

When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor...and Yourself by Brian Fikkert, Steve Corbett and John Perkins. Everyone we know in the development, relief and missions communities is talking about this book. Most of us are aware that billions of dollars of aid poured into Africa have not helped that continent but have, instead, too often created a negative environment of dependency.

Helping looks at the personal implications of helping the poor for those of us in the Christian community. It helps us examine our hidden motives and what unintended consequences actually result from unexamined good intentions.

We have ordered the book from so we won’t miss out on this exciting dialogue! Check it out.


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