When we think about community transformation in developing countries, what comes to mind is often NGOs, CBOs, INGOs and government work. This belief is strongly rooted in the Christian community as well. In countries like Nepal, India and Bangladesh, where Christianity is considered a minority group, we don’t have much significant influence with our community. We are heavily influenced by the idea that spiritual ministry only reaches as far as the four corners of the church building.
When we introduce TCT to church pastors and leaders, they often think we (RW) are bringing some kind of community transformation program. As they go through our training, they are surprised that we will not provide any money for doing community projects (what we call Acts of Love).
In one of our trainings, as we were teaching Module 1, our facilitator emphasized that NGOs are not the hope for our community transformation, government is not the hope for our community transformation… but the Church is the ultimate hope for our community transformation. I was listening to this teaching, sitting in the back row with the trainees. One of the trainees whispered, “We need money to do that. No money, no transformation. How can we do it without money?” I realized in that very moment that even churches are heavily influenced by the NGO and project culture.
In another training, I was teaching Module 2, and I asked, “How many of you are doing Acts of Love?” None of them had done ANY. I asked them further, “Why not?” Because they understood it to be a social project, and they do not have funds for this. As a result of that nobody did it. It took me one and a half hours to teach what Acts of Love really means. When I met them for Facilitator Development training six months later, every church was doing something and excited to share about what they had done.
I attended one church where all the church members were saying like popcorn what they had done for one particular family. They helped one father who had been paralyzed for two years by collecting ten thousand rupees and bringing him to the hospital. Now, he is able to walk. As a result of the church showing God’s love, all the family members received Christ!
Acts of Love often seem simple, but the impact is more than any other big projects done by NGOs and other organizations. That’s because the local church acts with the intent of showing God’s love. If all the local churches in this province did the same thing this small church is doing, it is not too hard to imagine the transformation of our community. It is a paradigm shift for the local churches in this region, where Christians are isolated in the community. But when we teach the truth, truth will set them free. This is how we believe communities will be transformed—as local churches start to be obedient to what God tells them to do. Small acts, with the love of Christ, will transform our whole community. I am fully convinced with Paul, as he tells the Ephesian church believers that “through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 3:10 Net version). God’s plan is to bring community transformation through local churches.
Dinesh Shrestha, TCT Asia Regional Coordinator