Feature

Project Countryside

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Twelve years ago, Alliance international worker Cleo Undheim was asked to speak at the Correctional Institute for Women in metro Manila, Philippines. During her visit to the prison, she discovered a severe lack of helpful programming for women who would soon be released back into society without any skills training or cultural preparation. Little did Cleo understand at that moment the journey that the Lord had in mind for her and her husband, Tim.

A Ministry Is Born

That day, God planted a ministry dream in the heart of the Undheims. Within a year Cleo started a prison outreach called Ina-Inakay (“mother and fledglings”), which is a licensed nonprofit agency with the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Ina-Inakay was established to facilitate the reintegration of women into society through the formation of Christian values, family connections, child education, and livelihood initiatives.

Training sessions inside the prison include workshops on ethics in the workplace, bookkeeping, accounting, handicrafts, food production, etc. All of this is done while demonstrating the love of Christ and giving women an opportunity to receive the Savior.

Ina-Inakay has reached out to more than 2,000 people in need, including female inmates and their families living in impoverished conditions, helping their children by providing financial allowances for schooling (tuition and supplies) and assisting the women through craft production, livelihood skills training, and spiritual mentoring. This compassionate, equipping ministry is designed to help inmates break out of the negative habits and poor life choices that led to their incarceration.

One former prisoner, Teresa, said, “When I was in prison, Ina-Inakay helped me by sending my children to school. Ina-Inakay also provided travel assistance so that my children could visit me. When I got out of jail, my initial income came from making beaded items that I had learned from Ina-Inakay’s handicraft lessons. I am truly grateful for the Ina-Inakay ministry.”

A Problem and a Bigger Dream

However, a requirement for parole is that soon-to-be released women must have a place to live and a family or community to whom they can be accountable. Without this outside help, it is nearly impossible for released women prisoners to become successfully reintegrated with their children/husbands/families and with society in general. But for many inmates, this is very difficult because of the long separation that has occurred during their imprisonment and the stigma associated with having been in prison.

Seeing this perplexing need, the Undheims went to the Lord with a bigger dream that their ministry team had been discussing off and on for about a decade. Could this be the right time for the Ina-Inakay ministry to “enlarge its territory” (1 Chr. 4:10) by purchasing land to develop its own transitional home for released women prisoners? After discussing this idea with the Ina-Inakay staff, board of directors, and prison officials, the decision was made to launch what is now known as Project Countryside.

Project Countryside

A big dream with meager resources isn’t exactly a winning business plan—that is, unless the Lord Himself is behind the plan, for “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 18:27). So by faith the Undheims sent out an urgent prayer letter, asking churches and individual supporters for their prayers and financial help.

At about this same time, a friend of The Alliance—let’s call him Joe—had been in discussions with Orchard Alliance representatives regarding how he could best use some of his God-given resources to make an eternal investment in the Kingdom while he was still able to see the results. In God’s own mysterious timing, Joe heard about the need for Project Countryside and felt led in his heart to partner with this project. Joe said, “My wife and I have a real passion for helping marginalized women get a second chance in life, and this project really appeals to us.”

Informed of this potential gift, the Undheims began the long process of searching for the right piece of property, and in September 2018 they found it. Back in the United States, Joe and his wife used a Donor Advised Fund** that enabled them to purchase 22 acres of farmable land to officially establish Project Countryside! Since there were no livable buildings on the property, Joe and his wife also provided five prefab bamboo homes for staff and the first women residents.

An “Abundantly More” God

Because the property is located in a remote location, it did not yet have a direct electrical feed. They were able to temporarily stretch wire from a nearby community, tapping off a residential low supply account for initial electrical needs, such as operating a small welding machine, a metal cutter, and nighttime security lights. The grim reality was that the Undheims would have to wait for several additional months until enough funds were raised to pay for a line to bring electricity to the property from the nearest town—about a kilometer away. This would be an expensive process.

But the God of the impossible is also the God of abundance (Eph. 4:20). It turns out that Joe had previous connections with a nonprofit solar energy company that builds complete solar energy systems inside a 40-foot shipping container. As I write this, the container is about to be shipped via ocean freight to the Philippines. This solar energy system will save Project Countryside thousands of dollars in operational expenses each year—this will enable the ministry to assist more and more women!

Joe and his wife have never visited the Philippines, but their connection with the Alliance ministry there is palpable. They have never met the Undheims, but their hearts beat with the same passion for reaching broken people with the gospel. It is the nexus of a ministry dream and a generous heart.

Gifts Still Needed

Project Countryside is still very much a work in progress. In addition to Joe and his wife, many Alliance individuals and churches have responded to the Undheims’ appeal for further funds. The long-range business plan calls for a permanent row house containing 10 units to be built. Each of the units will house two to three residents. The current estimated cost of each unit is $15,000, which includes materials, labor, and furnishings. Gifts may be given to Project Countryside either online at www.cmalliance.org/al-give or sent directly to the C&MA National Office in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Thank you in advance for your strategic Kingdom investment in the worldwide outreach of The Christian and Missionary Alliance.

**A Donor Advised Fund (DAF) is a “giving” account set up by a donor for the purpose of managing his/her charitable donations. For more information about DAFs or other charitable giving tools, contact Joseph Padilla at the Orchard Alliance: padillaj@orchardalliance.org.

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