We work primarily in Mali, West Africa and Omaha, NE, USA with an openness to expand our work to other communities. All of our founding board members have lived, studied and worked in Omaha, NE and Mali, West Africa – we are tied together through a shared commitment and faith. We partner with the Evangelical Protestant Church of Mali. This partnership shapes and approves all of our ventures in Mali.
Every person is inherently valuable because each one is created in the image of God. We acknowledge the fundamental connection to one another that we share.
People face overwhelming challenges every day. We share in the fundamentally human responsibility of engaging the practical and systemic realities behind those challenges.
Valuable similarities and differences exist between people of all cultures. We share in the human need for intercultural competence and advocate for its value.
People committed to their neighbors and actively serving others can be found in every community. While engaging with communities, we acknowledge that these humble and intelligent people should be pursued. In serving alongside these individuals, we seek to both listen and speak, to give and receive.
In the simplest of terms, Life Shared International’s story is one of friendship – friendship with people whom we have grown to know and love. People with names like Marka, and Musa. Kadiatou and her daughter Kyria. Levi & Rachel. People with hopes and dreams facing tremendous challenges every day as they seek to follow Christ in the country of Mali.
Our friendship with the church in Mali began through a local Christian college in Omaha, NE who sent students to study in Mali each year from 2007-2013. Over those seven years this friendship grew and became tangible through exchanges of gifts, meals, and ideas. In the beginning, we questioned how the American students and the Malian students could benefit from time spent together. Eventually, our conversations evolved to include questions of how to improve the quality of daily life for the local believer, how to empower local communities of believers to simultaneously provide for their families and free up time to serve those around them, how to move toward long-term stability for the entire church.
LSI is shaped by our attempt to be faithful to both the reality of life facing those with whom we are connected and the truth of how to live in this world as found in the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus instructed us as his followers to imitate his example of love and service to the world around us, to put the welfare of others before our own. This, he said, would show that we are his followers. The reality of our faith is seen in the way we live in this world, particularly in regard to the needs around us. Ultimately, what we do, rather than what we think, reveals the vitality of our faith.
The willingness to ask these questions led us to ventures ranging from education to transportation, small business endeavors to agricultural development – a motorcycle to enable a pastor to travel to the far corners of his district or funds to build shops for rent to support a local Bible school. No matter the response to a certain challenge, our goal in the process is genuine partnership between Americans and Malians through listening well and openness to being influenced by the other. As we move forward in partnership together, this is our desire.
Much of the wrong in the world is the result of greed and exploitation. We understand advocacy as acting or speaking on behalf of another to help right what is wrong, particularly as it relates to the results of greed and exploitation. We believe it is fundamentally human and deeply good to advocate on behalf of others. We invite you into this experience with us.
Advocacy makes a significant difference in the lives of those who need it most. It brings relationship to those who are isolated, attention to those who are forgotten. Through advocacy, we seek to bring resources to those who have little and care for those who need help.
Specifically, there are two ways in which we practice advocacy:
Everyone loves a good story. We value storytelling because it merges another’s experience with our own and leaves us changed. It’s our hope that as we attempt to honor the worth of people who are overlooked and marginalized by telling their stories, it will convey knowledge and understanding to individuals with the influence and resources to enact change.
Human-made systems exert influence on a larger scale then people are able to individually. Governments, for example, have more power to affect the literacy rate of an entire country than any individual alone. Advocacy seeks to bring people together in understanding and common action; it’s an invitation to share together in what we cannot do alone. Through advocacy we seek to challenge systems that exploit people for selfish gain. Through advocacy we seek to bring awareness to people regarding systems and organizations which have forgotten their responsibility to do good.
By advocating for others, we seek to enter into their challenge, loss, and hope as if it is our very own and invite you into this experience with us.
We think that community development is one of the best avenues toward improving quality of life. Practical evidence of this can be seen in the history of communities working selflessly for the good of the whole.
We desire to relate to partner communities in the pursuit of development through intentional relationships, just access to resources, and reconciliation.
We’re in it for the long run.
We take a relationship-based approach to everything we do. We want to see progress in each venture we undertake while fostering genuine relationships with our partners. Most things take a long time to complete – development is a slow, rewarding process. Our desire is to recognize the dignity of human beings while working faithfully to accomplish our goals. We want to make sure to sit down with friends and take tea amidst the work.
We’re pursuing equality.
Because of the active nature of oppression and injustice, we think that equality must be pursued actively; saying that we care about it is not enough. We want to challenge the effects of greed and exploitation by striving for a better quality of life for individuals and communities through our ventures. Our desire is that increased access to resources such as information, education, technology, and relationships would contribute to a better quality of life for our partners.
We’re interested in making things whole.
Community development ultimately involves some form of reconciliation – the uniting of parts intended to work together but disconnected and broken by the challenges of life. Whether it’s mending broken relationships or fixing a broken water system, we are working toward making things whole. Reconciliation means people in the community coming together for the good of one another by mending broken relationships and pursuing development.
Many people are seeking to discover the reality of life around them, where they fit, and how they can contribute meaningfully in their context. Our desire is to facilitate this pursuit through training that includes formal education, practical skills instruction, and daily life experiences. Three areas of training where we focus include intercultural competence, leadership development, and practical skills.
Understanding one’s own culture is challenging and requires active steps to accomplish. Being a member of a particular culture does not inevitably result in knowledge and understanding. Often the very fact that we are members of a particular culture creates bias that hinders true understanding. Intercultural training efforts seek to provide individuals with a framework to understand oneself and one’s own culture as well as a framework to understand others who are from a different culture and provide the skills needed for healthy, genuine relationships.
If leaders in each community aren’t equipped with the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to make wise decisions and model best practices, the community suffers. Many of our venture partners are leaders in their communities. Leadership training seeks to support local leaders by providing learning opportunities that develop their capacity to live well and serve those around them. Our leadership training is shaped by the needs present in the communities where we serve and the requests made by our partners.
There are numerous practical skills needed for a high-quality life. Literacy, community health, education, or business entrepreneurship are a few practical skill areas to which we are committed. Our hope is that practical skills training would enable our partners to contribute their learning to the community and inspire others toward a fuller experience of life.
Some of the best protein can be found underwater, better yet, raised underwater! Helping to improve a person’s daily nutrition make aquaculture projects some of our most exciting ventures.
Many people in the world grow the very food they depend on for survival. Agriculture ventures seek to creatively improve processes that benefit people’s standard of living.
Ventures that facilitate raising hogs, goats, rabbits and other livestock are a great way for our partners to keep food on the table.
Starting a business is a challenge for anyone. Start-up capital, creative ideas, and financial planning are parts of our business ventures designed to help with ideas and initiative that will improve people’s standard of living.
Education is a privilege enjoyed by much of the developed world. Our desire is for people with limited access to education to have similar opportunities. Our education ventures range from primary school students through university graduates.
Sometimes all it takes is getting from here to there. Whether it’s access to a bicycle or getting on an airplane to study overseas, transportation is what many people need to meet their daily needs.
Thinking creatively to solve problems is a skill needed now more than ever and part of that skill is knowing how to use resources at hand. Appropriate Technology ventures focus on developing tools that give access to clean water, renewable energy sources, and more.
Institut Biblique Reed (IBR) is a theological training center in Mali that’s curriculum includes many LSI venture categories. The Development Center at IBR is a venture in partnering with the IBR staff to pursue the best integration of community development, leadership training, and theological education.
Life Shared International
PO Box 8730
Omaha, NE 68108
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