In When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert writes, “Development is not done to people or for people, but with people.” He talks a lot about savings groups as an example of good “with” type development. Our friends John and Kate Marsden at Mustard Seeds Shared established one of our favorite savings group programs in the known universe 🙂 So we asked John to share from their experiences doing development with people in Bangladesh.
My legs were growing stiff from sitting cross legged on a mat in the shade of a mango tree. Sweat trickled down my back from the sticky heat of a South Asian summer. I was sitting in a circle with fifteen Bangladeshi village women who had been conducting their weekly savings group meeting for the last hour. They’d worked through their agenda, finishing a lesson on how to keep their family healthy and depositing their ten taka weekly savings (that’s about US 12 cents).
My earliest memory of being aware of refugees even existing simply involves sitting in a living room with a family I couldn’t talk to (because we didn’t speak the same language), and being served my first cup of Turkish coffee in a beautiful, tiny demitasse cup. I was about 16, and I had no idea what this family had experienced or how they had landed in a town near me. I still don’t, not specifically. But they changed my life with their hospitality, at a time when my world was very small.
Over time, God has provided more and more touch points for me with refugee families. Opportunities to help set up apartments, welcome families, and walk with them for a time. Opportunities to hear their stories and their dreams. Every time, I receive from them so much more than I give—a more complex world, a softer heart, a bigger God.
God is at work through the church. This video tells the story of an Act of Love from a community we work with in Asia. It’s an inspiring example of how their church is being obedient to God and loving their neighbors with joy.
TCT Act of Love – House building from Reconciled World on Vimeo.
There is undeniable dissatisfaction with church among Christians around the world these days. People leave one local church for another or even stop gathering. The reasons could be worship music, length of sermon, leadership style, facilities…but I believe the underlying reason is that we misunderstand some fundamental things about the local church.
One of the truths that God used to open my eyes and affirm His call for me is the centrality of the local church. As I understand more about this truth, I learn to love and serve His church more. Let me share a few things with you.
Who owns the church?
Pastors often have a habit of saying “my church” when they talk about the congregation they pastor. Most don’t mean to imply that they own the church; but the problem is some pastors do act like owners. They are controlling and treat other members like slaves. Jesus is the one who established His church (Matthew 16:18), so He is the real owner. He loves and gave his life for her and sanctified her so that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). Does the local church we are gathering reflect the ownership of Jesus? What can we do to help others realize that Jesus is the owner?
This past month I’ve had one of those experiences where one name of God seemed to jump out at me from every direction – when I read my Bible, when our pastor talked on Sunday, when we sang worship songs, when I talked with friends, in blogs I read… sometimes 3-4 times a day…eventually I got the hint that God is wanting to show me something about Himself.
The Sovereign Lord.
I guess I have an issue with authority, control and trite, religious comments. Because I admit that I’ve actually avoided focusing on this attribute and name of God. It seems like people typically say, “God is Sovereign” when they can’t answer the question “why?” or when something bad happens. So, saying “God is Sovereign” felt like an excuse or a “disclaimer”. “God is Sovereign, so oh well” or, “He is in control, you just need more faith.” That doesn’t inspire hope, faith or trust…just resignation to God’s unknowable will and His whims to do whatever He pleases.
The church is able, anywhere and everywhere—even in the most seemingly-impossible places and circumstances!!
As I listen to Rahham’s director recall stories of life in the slums, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by all the hardship and suffering he shares. Stories of the devastation of alcoholism; widows of men taken by AIDS who are left behind with little children; unwanted baby girls; a man who was hit by a train the same night his wife gave birth to two stillborn babies; kids who barely have anything to eat; beggars who spend their lives on the streets. I take time to look into the eyes of each person in the pictures and try to feel the weight they are carrying, try to imagine what life must be like for them. All of this would be almost impossible for me to relate to, except that, living in Delhi, I see people like them day after day—people for whom life is a constant struggle. I see that they are real, that this kind of life is real.
Rahham has been reaching out to these most vulnerable communities with the message of hope. Hope that orphans, widows, scavengers, drug addicts, HIV-infected people, and the LGBTQ community are all welcome in the kingdom of God. A Hope that Christ cares for them—they are not forgotten, not excluded, not worthless and expendable. Rahham has started churches there in the slums, believing that the church is God’s chosen instrument for changing the world. Following the way Christ showed us will expose the lies that keep communities in darkness and sin. Walking in His footsteps will lead to healed, transformed, flourishing communities that in turn can bless those around.
For years the church members of Tu Pi village had waited for someone to come help them. They were extremely poor—at least three months a year they had to scavenge for food. The village was a three-hour walk from the nearest road, meaning that they had little contact with anyone outside their community. The village had no school, no medical facilities, no market, no electricity, no toilets or wells. Gathering water required a two-kilometer walk. With little discipleship, the church members lived much the same way as the rest of the community— growing tobacco and rice to make rice wine. It made life bearable at least.
Then they heard a rumor that there was a program for churches that was causing communities to move out of poverty. They sent representatives to try to find someone to come and teach them the program. However, when they found the trainer, he refused to come—he was doubtful that if he left his motorbike on the side of the road for three days while he did the training that it would still be there when he got back. However, God convicted the trainer, so he agreed to go to Tu Pi and teach Module 1 of the TCT program.
This blog was originally posted in November 2014. We love it so much that we wanted to share it again!
What happens when you arrive at the movie theatre on time? You get the full picture.
Our ‘picture’ starts with Creation and the fact that Adam and Eve were given a task: to be fruitful, fill the earth, and make something of it. This Cultural Mandate is our job description, part of what it means to be human, part of God’s design for us which remains unchanged to this day. Somebody put it this way: “On the last day God created Adam, to pick up where He left off.”
“Your child has a disability”—words that probably no parent would ever like to hear. Being faced with this reality can fill parents with a sense of panic and deep grief at first and can bring with it the fear of the unknown, the difficulties, the struggles and the pain that people generally associate with the word disability.
Even though unofficial statistics in India tell us that 10% of the population has a disability of some kind or another, there is still little guidance here on what to do when one receives such a diagnosis. The devastation and emotional struggle seem even more intense when families do not know where to turn to for encouragement and practical help. As they grapple with this new reality, they often find little support and understanding from extended family members, neighbors, schools, and the larger community.
Why did Jesus die? The answer seems to be obvious: Jesus came to save us from our sins, to save our souls, because He loves us so much. This is what we are told, and this is what we tell others. Getting people saved becomes many people’s first priority as Christians. But is this the only reason why Jesus came to die?