A little girl's terror turned Kilian's life upside down.
Now his humanitarian aid organization is devoted to helping her people group.
In 2007, Tom Kilian was Googling the word "humanitarian" and came across a photo that was taken by US military observer, Brian Steidle. The picture was of a little girl in Darfur, a region in western Sudan. She was running from a man trying to kill her known as the Janjaweed (an Arabic word which translates as “Devil on horseback”). The photo affected Tom deeply. He printed the picture and began to pray for her.
It was the beginning of a journey that would take him to South Sudan over and over, negotiating with the militia, building camaraderie with tribal chiefs, overcoming his squeamishness about blood to provide health care to those in desperate need, building churches, and a school, and so much more.
How it started… In 2008, after learning about the genocide in Darfur, Tom put together an art exhibit to raise awareness. Then, in early 2010, he traveled to Darfur to work as an educator at an orphanage for displaced children.
A few months later, he came to the understanding that the mantra of many humanitarian aid organizations was that "Education is the answer." To Tom, this mantra was not true; people needed practical assistance in housing, healthcare, and spirituality rather than education alone.
So he returned to North Carolina and founded MERCYPARTNERS®, a humanitarian aid organization not affiliated with a government but as an aid organization alongside the Church.
"In short, my mode of operation was to align myself with the South Sudanese, not a Western organization. The easiest way to do so was to locate refugees within America, then use their knowledge of their villages and native peoples of Sudan as an entryway into that part of the nation.” - Tom Kilian
Involving locals has continued to be an intrinsic part of MERCY PARTNERS' ability to effect change. Native evangelists orchestrate aid efforts through the local church. That way, the villagers will see the aid coming from their village and Jesus Christ, not Western NGOs.
Since late 2010, MERCY PARTNERS has provided prison ministry, art therapy, and spiritual counsel for soldiers and commercial sex workers; has enabled local churches to hold medical clinics for Malaria, Cholera, respiratory infections, typhoid, syphilis, and worms; and provides teacher training workshops, Lord's supper supplies, Bibles in local languages, youth conferences, transportation, and security for baptisms.
In addition, MERCY PARTNERS has established 8 churches, a primary school that hosts over 750 children from eighteen different tribes, 11 deepwater wells, 7,000 fed directly annually, 4,401 medical treatments, 2 graduates with Biblical certification. In total there are 128 trained local church leaders.
"Alternative ways for better results in cross-cultural missions. "
The Great Commission has been reduced to a subclass of ministry when it is our primary work. Traditionally there are four stages of mission development: Pioneer, Parental, Partnership, and Participatory. However, if we examine each stage, we find alternative ways to minister for better results as world dynamics have outpaced traditional strategies. Bridging Cultures For Christ provides practical techniques to accelerate relational ministry, which replaces the conventional four stages with Immigrant status, Practical Mercy, Partnership, Participation.
Disciple-making derives from living "on-mission." Acts 11 contains many "firsts," as it records where the disciples were first called "Christian," the first time in Acts that a prophetic event took place, and the first mention of Elders. It also contains a convergence of near-culture disciples and disciples that were far-off who partnered with native disciples. All three worked in concert to bring about an environment of change and authenticity. We can experience many first when we employ the same methodology and a sense of equality.
Bridging Cultures For Christ encourages mindfulness to provide a hand-up rather than a handout. Although Socratic teaching models can be incredibly beneficial, they need to be tempered with the understanding of equality. We should be mindful of what we telegraph through our behavior and actions; after all, "missionary" is a term that should be applied to all Disciples as their mission field is the grass between their feet (Matthew 28). Our resources are provided to us by God to meet the gospel opportunity of fellow Christians. We should sow indiscriminately. Christians should be willing to foster healing in communities divided by conflict, regardless of the source of the conflict." Identifying opportunities to God to be glorified and be committed to bridging the gap. Mercy is only merciful when applied in the proper light and understanding. We believe that extending dignity is worth more than intercultural exchange. We believe that partnership is at the root of mercy, and growth stems from mercy.
A good partner is not donor-driven but has already engaged in the work that God has given them. We invite good partners to keep us accountable and responsible in sharing to bring equality. A good partner will encourage us to have good accountability and be willing to be held accountable. Accountability is not about trust as much as it is extending dignity. The purpose of our partnership is for equality. It takes a team. The far-off missionary brings change, whereas the native evangelists bring authenticity.
"It started with giving a hand up, rather than a hand out" - Tom Kilian
Tom was born in South Amboy, New Jersey, and grew up in North Carolina. At age eighteen, he was selected for the scientific expedition, "Operation Raleigh" Australia Expedition 9a 1986 (spearheaded by Prince Charles of Wales). He pursued theological studies in Elizabeth City, NC, where he had met his wife, Sandie. Being an ordained minister, Kilian preached at churches within three states. In addition, he studied art at the College of the Albemarle and held craftsmen jobs. Kilian initially used his creativity to raise awareness about the Darfur Genocide by creating an art exhibit in 2008. His initial ambition was to raise support for a project on the border of Darfur.
He created the "Darfur Monument" with the vision that proceeds could be used for funding an orphanage or hospital. His artistic endeavor became published in the North Carolina magazine Our State, and public interest grew. Humanitarian groups took an interest, inviting Kilian to partner with them to realize the plan. Kilian accepted an invitation and traveled to Darfur.
While working with Darfur's displaced children, Kilian concluded that education is not the solution. Instead, a "wholistic" approach that provides spiritual, mental, and physical healing coupled with tools for self-sufficiency would be a fit pattern to "change the world one life at a time." So, in 2010, Kilian redirected his efforts to form the charitable, humanitarian organization, "MERCY PARTNERS." He had begun by traveling from village to village, sleeping in a combat tent to meet Darfur's spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. The relationships that were built created a secure network with the indigenous people. Today MERCY PARTNERS has worked in 6 nations, operational in 4, and remains devoted to providing the Help, Hope, and Love of Jesus amid conflict zones.
WHAT WE DO
MERCY PARTNERS connects resources with Gospel opportunities, so God’s people can meet the needs of humanity in a practical way.
Those that fall under the level of human existence need immediate care to Survive.
Those that exceed the level of survival require sustainable resources that will help them Strive.
Those that strive, need instruction, and education to help others in their community. When we help others we Thrive.
Those that thrive in conflict need encouragement to remain where they are rather than seeking outward mobility to western culture.