Just a couple of days ago I had the honor of sitting down with some brothers from South Sudan while they shared about their nation. One of the stories that still haunts me is of how soldiers are renting out their weapons from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. so that people can go looting. The soldiers haven’t been paid for five to six months and are literally starving, so the offer of a month’s salary just for renting out their weapon is hard to resist. Even if money makes it into the system it is taken by corrupt generals and officers, thus making the soldiers even angrier and more likely to make poor decisions. It’s a tragic scenario that leaves me asking myself what hope there is for the world. I think many of us are feeling that way right now.
Last week we held the TCT East Africa Forum. We had 32 participants from seven countries. I shared about how against all odds, God turned up through the TCT program and communities moved out of poverty. On paper there was no hope. The work was illegal (the government didn’t allow church training). I wasn’t exactly what the church was looking for—young, white and female. Everyone said it was foolish and wouldn’t work. In fact even I didn’t believe it would. But it did. Because of God.
Last week, Anna blogged about the complexity of generational poverty and the need for prayer. The truth is, we see Him answer these prayers every day. We are so excited about what God is doing amongst those who are experiencing poverty—bringing transformation in their thinking and causing them to flourish. We just finished up our first ever TCT East Africa Forum, with 31 pastors and denominational leaders. So I’m sure that, in the coming year, we’ll be sharing lots of stories of God’s power and faithfulness from that group of dynamic men of God!
Here are a couple of “Praise God” stories from TCT-partner churches in Uganda…
Violence against women, especially domestic violence, is a major problem in India. About one-third of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced domestic violence here. Sadly, the problem is also prevalent among believers within the church. Ending Gendercide (EG) is committed to address this issue and to educate people about the value of women and God’s perspective on marriage and family relationships.
EG staff regularly visit new churches and introduce their domestic violence training. Whoever is interested from the congregation is invited to come together once a month for three months to learn. In mid-September, EG held an award ceremony to celebrate those who had completed their latest training.
One of the participants, Mira, is a married woman with a teenage son. She says she has learned since childhood that it was normal for men to be controlling, overpowering and violent. She never felt it was right but it was simply the way things were everywhere. She comes from a Hindu family but by a twist of life married a culturally Christian man. He made her go to church but when she became an actual believer, her passion for Christ started concerning her husband. He wanted to keep her in check and became more violent as time passed. Women have no brain, he would say.
Beliefs can be powerful. They impact the way that we live, interact with others and see the future. For the students at the Wholistic Development Center (WDC), one of the most common and oppressive misbeliefs is that they have no value. They see themselves as the lowest people in society and believe that they cannot make a difference. They have plenty of life experience to back up this life-stealing belief. Most come from difficult family situations. Many are orphans. Some have illnesses that have affected their appearance.
For many even after two years of school they still struggle to understand the potential that they have. The lies that they have lived with for most of their lives are hard to break. As part of an ongoing program to see the graduating students become nations changers we recently ran a training for staff and past students. (In reality most of the staff are past students).
“Hope! Hope! Come get your hope!” As the call rang out in the narrow, overcrowded lanes, home to the working poor, I felt like crying. It was nothing short of a picture of heaven, a vision out of Isaiah, the Kingdom of God at hand!
This was one piece of an energetic spread of performance art pieces, murals, paintings, installations, photography, and video art that resulted from our 2nd annual international artist residency. For three weeks 13 Indian artists, and 7 international artists worked to make art with, for, and about India’s vulnerable. Our goal was to love the city by helping people see their city, and each other, with God’s eyes.
Reconciled World focuses on the vulnerable because we believe The Father focuses on the vulnerable. As we work with local churches, we teach them to look for ways to show love to those around them who are experiencing physical poverty, oppression and injustice–people who are overlooked and hurting.
This focus on the vulnerable has led us to come around those facing rural and urban poverty, girls facing gendercide, and children with disabilities. Every single story we tell is really about God’s heart for the vulnerable. But no one’s life and ministry tells that story more clearly than the Director of Rahham, a ministry to some of the most vulnerable people in New Delhi.
Here’s his story (with thanks to Adrienn for telling it).
It was hard to believe Savita had any chances of survival. She was experiencing her eighth miscarriage as the three-month-old fetus spontaneously aborted amongst heavy bleeding. Savita went into a coma, and the doctors had no hope for her recovery.
Her husband’s heart sank inside his chest. They had gone through the trauma of all the earlier losses together, but now his wife’s life was on the line. As Ajit was sitting numbly in the hospital hall, out of the blue a young janitor started talking to him. He said something about calling on the name of Jesus. Ajit and his family had always hated Christians and their God. He remembered how years before he had angrily forbidden his younger sister to even visit a church. Yet now, in utter desperation, he decided to give this Jesus a chance. What could he lose? He walked to a nearby church, stood outside its walls, and cried out to Him. God listened to his request and saved Savita’s life.
A few weeks ago, I heard a sermon on Saul’s conversion to Paul in Acts 9:1-18; 22:4-16. While I was amazed by God’s power to transform a person like Saul and that no one is too far from God’s reach, I was struck by another person and his contribution in this story. What he did is something that I often overlook. But he played a rather significant role in God’s plan and indirectly impacted so many people.
You can probably guess who I am referring to as there are only two main people in this passage, Saul/Paul and Ananias. For sure, every Christian is inspired by Paul’s life and I am no exception. We are named and name our children after Paul but, sorry Paul, it’s not you this time. Now you know who I am talking about. Bravo! It’s Ananias. We don’t have much detail about Ananias’ life besides that he was a disciple in Damascus, a devout man according to the Law and well spoken of by all the Jews there (Acts 22:12). But one thing we know is that he was the first person to pray for Paul to receive Jesus.
I’m currently in the States, traveling around speaking at conferences, at churches and at various organizations. As I do, I share again many stories of what God is doing around the world. Sharing with a pastor today, I was reminded of a powerful story, one that started a few years ago and is still ongoing. It’s the story of the incredible sacrifice that some make for the gospel and God’s incredible faithfulness in the midst of that suffering.
In one village there were five Christian families. The chief of that village decided he didn’t want Christians in his village, so he tried to force them to denounce their faith. They refused. The chief had the village members beat the members of the five families. When the denominational leaders heard about the situation, they sent two people to the area to try to negotiate on their behalf. The villagers also beat them up and burnt their motorbike so they had to run for their lives. The villagers then burnt down the houses and destroyed the crops of the five families so they were forced to flee. The chief held fast that to live in that village they had to renounce their faith. If they continued to stay there then they would be killed.
Partnering with local churches is so important, but it can be tricky. Sometimes we can end up taking over like the kid who’s determined to get an A in chem-lab despite her remedial lab partner. We think, “This (whatever) needs to go faster, smoother, prettier. If only they’d listen to my ideas and just do them, we would ace this.”
But the truth is, when we outsiders give our ideas and our resources, we aren’t partnering with the Bride of Christ. We’re trying to take over for the Bride Groom. Really–who should they be depending on, looking to for wisdom and provision, thanking and praising when all is said and done? Who knows what’s best for them? Who defines their calling and ministry? Who has power to transform? Not me. Not a donor. Not a church a thousand miles away or a short-term team. Not an NGO.