“Why did Jesus die?” As Nam explained on Friday, Jesus came to restore each of the broken relationships—our relationship with Him, our relationship with each other and our relationship with creation. When God created the world everything was perfect, but that perfection was broken in the fall. While we recognize that perfection will not be restored until Christ’s second coming, we do believe that even today, Jesus’ death and resurrection starts the process of restoring all things. What do these restored relationships look like? We want to share what we’ve seen in the TCT program.
Our relationship with God
The restoration of our relationship with God begins with our acceptance of Him as our savior. Through the TCT program, we desire to see as many people as possible accept Christ and grow in their spiritual maturity. From the start of the program, TCT churches show God’s love to their communities through simple Acts of Love (for example, planting a field for someone too sick to work their land). As churches reach out to their communities, non-believers become interested in learning why the church members are doing what they do. Why are they taking their time to serve in this way? As members of the church share that they are obeying God by loving their communities, non-christian members of the community become interested in Christianity, often attending church to ‘learn more about the God that loves them so much.’
Church members also testify that through serving others they grow in their relationship with God. Sacrificially serving, praying for wisdom, praying for resources and seeing God multiply their efforts all serve to strengthen their faith. As one person shared, “the more I serve, the more I love God and the more I want to serve.”
Our relationships with each other
TCT focuses primarily on four types of relationships with others. Relationships with the poorest, with those in authority, with the surrounding community and within families. In many areas where we work, people are suspicious of Christianity. Those in authority think of Christianity as an outside religion that breaks from the culture, and members of the community think that those who attend church are strange. Acts of Love break through these relational barriers in a radical way. Many Acts of Love directly care for the poor—providing basic needs for widows, orphans and the sick. Other Acts of Love benefit the entire community, like building wells and roads. Over time local officials begin to appreciate the church for serving the entire community. Relationships between Christians and non-Christians are restored throughout the community as churches serve sacrificially.
How many of us have experienced that our most difficult relationships are within our own family? This is true in the areas we work as well. In our TCT communities, it is common practice for marriages to be arranged. Therefore, many couples have never experienced marital love. The TCT program includes marriage and parenting trainings based on biblical truth. At one training, a group of pastors said, “We’ve never thought of loving our wives. We don’t even like them.” Nevertheless, these pastors returned home looking for ways to help with their spouses’ work load and to show them kindness. Their marriages transformed, inspiring others in their communities to change as well. Some couples even say they have fallen in love for the first time.
Our relationship with creation
TCT focuses on two primary areas where we hope to see our relationship with creation restored: health and agricultural training.
In many of our TCT communities, disease and child-mortality are accepted as the norm. TCT teaches them that God has a better plan and that Christians have a responsibility to care for our bodies. God created us. In His laws for His chosen people, He showed great concern for their physical well-being. We then train them in basic hygiene and healthy practices like using a latrine, washing hands, and washing food and dishes. In one of our early trainings, pastors were shocked to learn that God cared about their health. Over the next six months, their churches built a latrine for every home in their community and visited families to explain the importance of using them. Disease was radically reduced. Since then, we have seen similar things happen in community after community.
Agricultural training is also provided through TCT. The vast majority of communities we work with survive as rice farmers. With no roads to their rice fields, each family only harvests as much rice as they can carry on their backs over rugged hiking trails. They scavenged roots and bark to eat when the rice runs out. TCT teaches that God’s intention is for us to rule over and care for creation so that it is fruitful—not to sit passively and accept the problems that we see. A common story that we use in our trainings is from Disciple Nations Alliance (HYPERLINK): There was a village where rats ate their crops every year. Despite the losses and their hunger they did nothing about it. A trainer taught that according to the Bible we are called to rule creation, not be ruled by creation. “Who is ruling?” the trainer asked. The villagers laughed, admitting the rats were ruling them. Reminded that this was never God’s plan, they worked together to find solutions. Similarly, as TCT communities understand they are to rule creation, they build roads to their crop areas, plant trees to stop deforestation and build irrigation systems. Their harvests multiply 5-10 times or more. Hunger becomes a thing of the past.
Restoring relationships with God, others and creation requires the participants to change both their thinking and behavior—the ways they have lived throughout their lifetime. This change takes years and doesn’t happen in a classroom. It’s only as people apply what they learn in the TCT trainings that they can learn from their experiences and see God and His faithfulness. The training only serves to encourage participants to try something new and give them the skills to do so. Then, as communities work together addressing needs, prayerfully looking to God in His power to multiply their efforts they are able to accomplish so much.