I first learned about Matt Chambers and SafeWorldNexusa littleover a year ago. I have followed their worksinceand have been so impressed with thierability to respond to needs across the world swiftly and effectively. Just six days after the earthquake struck Haiti,they wereon the ground delivering urgent supplies to groups all over Port au Prince. Since then they have been a part of mobilizing multiple specialty relief teams, 300,000 pounds of food, water, tents and medical supplies, evacuations and are now developing intermediate and long-term rebuilding solutions.
More recently SafeWorldNexus has adopted an area in Central Uganda called Bulyaake Parish. Bulyaake is comprised of eight villages housing more than 10,000 people, 2,500 of which are orphans. Community leaders have given their blessing for SWN and a Ugandan partner Africa Renewal Ministries to begin investing in these villages.
I first had the oppurtunity to meet executive director and co-founder of SafeWorld, Matt Chambers, when he was kind enough to join me for a chapel at my alma-mater. Matt’s genuine response to God’s call and passion for connecting people across the world to life-saving resourcesare contagious.Since the publication of The Mockingbird Parables I have had countless conversations withreaders who want to give thier resources, but are not sure where to begin.While Iinclude a number of fantastic non-profits on the Compassion in Action page of my site, I usually recommend that peoplestart by checking out Matt’s organziation. The work SafeWorld does speaks for itself. Spending a couple of moments with Matt and hearing his vision will definitely inspire you and win you over. Read more about SafeWorld by visiting their site: www.SafeWorldNexus.com, and make sure to visit the links below in the article. I had the opportunity to sit down with Matt recently and discuss his work, his journey, his favorite books, and our shared love for the writings of Frederick Buechner. Here are “Five Good Answers” with Matt Chambers:
Matt Litton: Can you give us a little bit of the background story of SafeWorldNexus and how it began?
Matt Chambers:SafeWorld was born on my front porch. Literally. During a conversation with a close friend about our current day jobs on staff at a local church, a desire to really test what living a life of “faith” would be like and what it would take to step out…we (along with our families) stepped out. Four “crisis issues” in the developing world helped us begin molding who we wanted to be and where we wanted go: 1) water/hygiene, 2) education, 3) medicine and 4) vulnerable children.
We began with simply focusing on a group of 8 villages in Central Uganda with clean water and a new church plant (to help with leadership/spiritual development) that would lead to a children’s village for the orphaned and abandoned. Since 2008, our reach in Uganda has expanded to include an area of 200,000 people, and a high-impact relief effort in Haiti that has since morphed into assisting an incredible long-standing organization on the ground build a brand new campus primarily for the rescue and care of pregnant teenage girls.
I’d say 95% of the time we really have no idea what we’re doing. None of us have ever raised support or built a humanitarian organization before, and it feels as though no matter how brilliant our planning is, we always seem to stumble into what we’re supposed to do next. We take the faith element very seriously…and I believe when we stop walking by sight and truly walk by faith, we end up walking by vision…and vision allows us to go places and do things we never thought possible. If anything, directing SafeWorld has taught me that you can’t overestimate God.
SafeWorld is still very much a work in progress with plenty of rough edges, but I sit in awe of how far we’ve come in such a short time. The grace of God is our lifeline, and it’s incredible to be a part of something where every day I wake up and say, “I can’t wait to see what happens next!”
Matt Litton: What excites you about your work with SafeWorldNexus?
Matt Chambers:I’ve always believed God has called me to be a “bridge” to help connect people here with people “there”. The heart behind SafeWorld is to burst the cultural bubbles we live in and challenge those around us to step into the reality of walking with the poor and oppressed, bearing the burden of the sick and being the embodiment of love to the fatherless. For many, they may have heard a lot of talk about these things, but it’s their first exposure to actually living it out. It could be a college student sitting on the warm earth in a hut in Uganda listening to a mother share her dreams, or a nurse get kisses from a child with cerebral palsy in Haiti, or even a middle-class family giving mosquito nets for a village instead of buying Christmas presents for themselves. When those things happen, that’s when I get excited. Because in the end, it’s not about the lonely, overwhelming gaze at the mountains of need…it’s about how much of a dent we can make together.
Matt Litton: We are both huge fans of Frederick Buechner, which book of his is your favorite and why?
Matt Chambers: I could probably list most all of them, but in the end I will always come back to Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy & Fairytale. I believe our faith is full of paradox and struggle and beauty, and Buechner tackles each of those things head-on to remind us (gently, of course) of how we can really come alive in the journey to the heart of God.
In fact, I’ll let Buechner sum it up himself…
“It is a world of magic and mystery, of deep darkness and flickering starlight. It is a world where terrible things happen and wonderful things too … Yet for all its confusion and wildness, it is a world where the battle goes ultimately to the good, who live happily ever after, and where in the long run everybody, good and evil alike, becomes known by his true name….That is the fairy tale of the Gospel with, of course, one crucial difference from all other fairy tales, which is that the claim made for it is that it is true, that it not only happened once upon a time but has kept on happening ever since and is happening still.”
Telling the Truthbeckons us to be active participants in a beautifully true fairytale that is still happening. I suppose my desire is that SafeWorld will be a worthy contribution to the communities I serve, and helps show that the story isn’t over, but indeed is still being written.
Matt Litton: What are your biggest needs as an organization right now?
First…we love making new friends…so…whether you want to begin praying for us, giving to us financially, interning in our offices (both stateside and internationally) or actually going on a mission experience with us, we’d love to meet you! Click the link below to drop us a note:
Matt Chambers: Second…our goal this year is to begin speaking and interacting with many different church, business and school groups around the country. I’d love to come share about our vision, what we have learned along the journey so far and see how we could encourage you or possibly partner on a future endeavor! To connect, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Third…funding is how we continue the movement…whether you want to provide mosquito nets to a family, dig a well, fund a maternity center, or give to where we need it most, every gift helps. If you’d like to join up with us, click this link:
Matt Litton: What are your favorite novels?
Wow – that’s tough…there are dozens…ok, here’s 5:
- The Road// Cormac McCarthy
- The Undertaking// Thomas Lynch (ok, so it’s not a novel, but still an amazing collection of his short stories)
- Watchmen // Alan Moore
- Wise Blood// Flannery O’Connor
- Out of the Silent Planet // C.S. Lewis
Make sure to check out next week’s “Five Good Answers” with author of the upcoming book Global Soccer Mom; Changing the World is Easier Than You Think, activist (one of theoriginal members of the One campaign), and soccer mom, Shayne Moore. You can read more about Shayne here: http://www.shaynemoore.com/