Walk the Talk

This article was taken in excerpts from an article written by Laura Booth, originally printed in IHQ’s “All the World” magazine.

In June 2018, Ian Campbell and Alison Rader Campbell left their home in Woking, England, and drove to Somerset so Ian could walk the 630-mile South West Coast Path. 

On average, the trail takes 52 days to complete, but Ian wanted to get things done more quickly. Cheered on by a group of WhatsApp supporters, with Alison’s logistical support and boosted by the companionship of fellow path walkers, Ian completed the walk in 28 days.

The Campbells come with a broad range of international experiences. Australian Ian is a medical doctor and served as The Salvation Army’s medical advisor and health programme consultant at International Headquarters (IHQ) from 1990 to 2007. Alison, who is from the USA, is a community development consultant, having served in Zambia and on the International Programme Facilitation team at IHQ. Today, Ian and Alison are independent facilitators in community health, development, and mission.

From a village in China overcoming addiction, a community in Kenya responding to HIV, relational health and healing complementing family life in Denmark or building community trust in London – as facilitators they have accompanied, listened, and learned from communities all around the world and have witnessed the amazing capacity of communities to deal with crisis.

When Ian was appointed to IHQ in 1990, an opportunity to transfer learning was seized. It was not long before many community-driven grace-based responses to health and social issues were seen around the world. Ian explains: “Initially the team facilitated in critical health issues such as HIV or addiction, but this extended to family violence, or anything critically important to family and neighborhood life that was producing conflict and stigma, discrimination and separation. Out of this came a crisper, sustained realization of what The Salvation Army really looks like, of what it can be.” “Integrated mission has to do with us integrating in the lives of the people around us, not waiting for people to integrate into us,” explains Alison.  “For me it is a central meaning of Salvation Army mission, that we are visible and available in the places where people live so that they can see a sign of hope in their neighborhood.”

In 2012, Ian and Alison revisited 39 communities in 20 countries. From Thailand to Rwanda, India to Ukraine, they met with people to continue community conversations, to learn about their continuing journey, and to encourage the neighborhoods to take steps into their future. The conversations provoked a need to review, name, and share more widely what had been learned. “We had a body of material that was starting to crystallise into what looked like a book, but it wasn’t digestible,” says Ian.

Walking the Walk

Through immersing in the stories of others on the South West Coast Path, Ian was able to recall stories from the past 30 years and link encounters on the path to community conversations around the world. “For example, the common thread might be ‘reconciliation,’” explains Ian. “Reconciliation in the case of someone facing conflict in a Cornish town, perhaps over immigration, and the reconciliation in Rwanda following the genocide in 1993.”

Ian found a rhythm of waking up at 5 am, reading reports from global community visits, walking for three hours before pausing for breakfast. He would then continue walking, now with a recorder, to dictate thoughts that would be transcribed by Robin Rader, a co-author of the book. 

Through the walk, 24 chapters were birthed, each focusing on a different story, intertwined with encounters on the South West Coast Path. The interrelatedness of the themes and local stories encourages consideration and reflection. Each chapter concludes with questions that take the reader forward to living out what has been learned.

“The stories of local communities which have sustained their action and hope despite enormous obstacles are the roots of experience, and the learning that has emerged is due to their effort. We need to honor them, and a way to do so is to share examples and to listen carefully to the main theme that emerges from each of the stories. We have tried to listen well. We are different and better today only because we have walked with communities worldwide and have been awakened all the time to God’s healing grace. We hope this book will help do the same for its readers.”

“Walking with Communities” was published by IHQ’s Salvation Books in February 2022. Please check with your territorial Trade Department for more information.

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