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.
Joseph is the President of the Evangelical Church of Mali (EEPM) and a Pastor in Bamako, Mali. Joseph and his wife, Marthe Diallo, and their three children, recently moved to Bamako from Bougouni where Joseph was the director of the Reed Bible Institute since 2006. Joseph graduated with a Bachelors Degree from Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska and his Masters Degree from Calvary Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. Joseph has served on the International Board of Directors with World Vision for several years.
Marthe is currently the Vice President of the Evangelical Women’s Association in Mali. She taught Bible and health classes at Reed Bible Institute (IBR) for six years and will continue to do so in Bamako. Marthe is a counselor to many women in Mali and works alongside her husband providing marriage counseling to numerous couples. She and her husband, Joseph, have three children, Ibrahim, Emmanuel and Kyria. Her experience and wisdom are great assets to us and to many in Mali.
Stephen is assistant professor of international studies at Crown College, MN. He earned Bachelor’s degrees in Intercultural Studies (B.A.) and Business Administration (B.S.) from Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska and earned his Master of Arts in Intercultural Relations from The University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA, in conjunction with the Intercultural Communication Institute in Portland, OR. He also owns a small intercultural training company, The Practical Interculturalist. Stephen has traveled to Mali numerous times since first going there in 2007. He currently lives in Minnesota with his wife and three children.
Nanga is the Agriculture Program Director with the international non-profit Integrated Community Development International (ICDI) working primarily in the Central African Republic. Nanga is also the Food Security and Agricultural Ecology Consultant with the International Food Policy Research Institute. Before working at ICDI, Nanga traveled the world as a sustainable agriculture consultant. Nanga is also the Chief Research Procurement Officer of Kasny Recon, Inc, which operates the business Shea Touch. He graduated with his Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Agronomy at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
LaVern Smith was born at home, number 10 of 11 children. His undergraduate work was completed at Grace College of the Bible (Grace University). He later completed a master degree in Missions at Grace Seminary, Winona Lake, IN. LaVern served as a church planting missionary with World Team from 1967-2011 in the countries of St. Vincent, Grenada and Trinidad. He is married to Marlene, for 52 years. Together they have 4 married children and 7 grandchildren. He currently has part-time responsibilities at Community Bible Church as Pastor of Assimilation and Outreach and is the owner of a small rental business.
Tiffany Smith is a paraprofessional at Bancroft Elementary School in Omaha, NE. She served in Mali with her husband for a year and has a continued desire to relate to those in Mali. She enjoys mentoring college students and serving in her faith community. She and her husband, Michael, have three teenage sons, Thaddaeus, Elias and Matthias.
Isabelle Tapsoba grew up in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. She studied in Omaha, NE and received a bachelor’s degree in accounting. She is married to Tony with one daughter, Graciella. She is currently an accountant at the the Salvation Army in Omaha.
Beth is a Managing Partner with Global Teams, and is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. She has been facilitating intercultural learning and development for 17 years. She brings the mind of a researcher, the heart of a teacher and the enthusiasm of a pioneer to her work. In her position, she works with clients at both the individual and the organizational level to leverage their cultural differences to their advantage. Most recently, she has begun studying filmmaking with a professional company in Dubai as the natural next step from her extensive use of visual images and film in her training and coaching practices. She uses film and storytelling to bridge cultural gaps and to accelerate people’s learning.
Mike owns and operates Transformations, Inc. He lives with his wife, Tiffany, and three boys in Omaha, Nebraska. Mike graduated with his Bachelors Degree from Grace University in Omaha and his Masters Degree from Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. Mike first traveled to Mali in 1993. He has traveled back to Mali numerous times since 1993, and has traveled all around the globe while working as the Intercultural Studies Program Director at Grace University.
Sharon is currently studying physical therapy. She recently worked at an international non-profit based out of Omaha, Nebraska for two years. Sharon graduated from Grace University in Omaha with a Bachelors Degree in Intercultural Studies. She went to Mali for the summer of 2007, and then went back on a global service-learning program in 2009, and returned once again as an Intercultural Studies intern in 2010. Sharon also spent a semester in France between her trips to Mali to study French.
Rebecca works at a local remodeling company in Omaha, Nebraska as the office manager. Rebecca graduated from Grace University in Omaha with a Bachelors of Arts in Intercultural Studies. She completed a Global Service-learning Program in Mali in 2009, traveled back in the summer of 2010, and again as an Intercultural Studies Intern with Grace University in 2011.
Life Shared International
PO Box 31517
Omaha, NE 68132
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