A life-changing restoration project

There’s nothing that satisfies quite like a restoration project. It’s a delight to witness something ruined or forgotten carefully, creatively nurtured back to beauty or function. It stirs hope. It deepens the appetite for more transformation.

Whether you’re binge-watching episodes of Grand Designs or rolling up your sleeves for your own reno project, there’s an innate drive in everyone to be a restorer. We are made in the image of God who, in the beginning, brought order out of chaos; God still speaks into the chaos of our world with the promise, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:2-5).

Perhaps that’s why I was so captivated when I recently heard about Farina, an abandoned town 600 km north of Adelaide. Farina was a failed hub of grain production 150 years ago, but a group of volunteers have been restoring its ruins – starting with the bakery. Now, for a few months every year, Farina comes alive, drawing travellers with freshly baked goods from a restored underground oven.

But I want to share another story of restoration, one even more captivating. It’s one where restoration is not just bringing inspiration but transformation. Stick with me – we’re jumping from the outskirts of an Australian desert to the edge of a remote hillside in northern Laos.

Here, in the region of Phongsaly, families have lived with limited access to facilities – whether to clean water, education, livelihoods or health services – for generations. Alongside their families and neighbours, farmers Kia Loc and Por Cher often struggled to overcome these obstacles, keeping them trapped in the cycle of poverty.

But a new story of restoration is emerging here. World Renew Laos, a locally based partner of Tearfund, has worked here for the past 14 years, building relationships and sharing skills, resources and support to open up life-giving opportunities. Initiatives have addressed immediate needs, such as installing water points and accompanying hygiene and sanitation education. They’ve also helped to build resilience and generate long-term transformation, demonstrated in strengthened families and positive approaches to gender equality.

Now, Kia Loc and Por Cher are seeing local children access the education they never had themselves. With household latrines and new avenues to access healthcare, they’re seeing the health of the community flourish. They say they feel proud to be part of the journey of change that their community is experiencing. They see its impact on the next generation: healthier children with better opportunities to grow and learn who can continue the story of restoration for their community.

Access to clean water has helped restore health and harmony in Phongsaly. Image: Phakhinda (Mina) Khanthavilay

Reflecting on Kia Loc and Por Cher’s story, I realised a couple of things about restoration. First, collaboration is key. Sharing skills, resources and encouragement means a restoration project can go so much further. Second, while fits and spurts of effort will move a project along, regular attention brings momentum and efficiency. Finally, true restoration brings life to others. Its impacts ripple out, reviving the weary and rewriting the story for the next generation. Kia Loc and Por Cher’s story is one of the millions that demonstrate how restoration is at the core of Tearfund’s work: it happens through relationships with local Christian partners around the world, who serve faithfully over the long term to bring lasting change that creates resilient, transformed communities.

Restoring the hard places in our world – places where people experience the most extreme impacts of poverty and injustice – is about more than beautification. It’s about more than creating a buzz for tourists. It is about renewing the God-given vision of fullness of life.  It’s a beautiful picture of the restoration that the prophet Isaiah speaks of, where good news is proclaimed to the poor, and they bring glory to God through restoring places long devastated (Isaiah 61:1,4).

Breaking the cycle of poverty requires more than just quick fixes. Ending injustice won’t happen overnight. But generosity and justice on repeat can effect lasting change where needed most. You can be part of the kingdom restoration you’re wired for by joining Tearfund Restorers and giving monthly to support local partners as they work to bring hope to hard places. Become a Restorer here.

Melody Murton is Tearfund’s Head of Communications and Education.