In my work at GAIN, I hear and write about stories of desperation, help, and hope in struggling places like Zimbabwe, Liberia, South Sudan, and East Africa. Recently, I attended a trip debrief meeting to hear what took place during an assessment in Zimbabwe. GAIN distributed seeds to some communities in previous years, and our team returned to learn the progress and to see what other development projects we could aid. We heard stories like this:
Two pastors in one village have huge vision. They realize their job is not just to preach, teach, and visit, but to love. They caught the attention of their community by doing things like building desks for the school, helping repair water wells, and clearing land for a community garden. They mobilized pastors from other churches and denominations to labor with them. The people watching this unfold were astounded. Pastors working together in this way was unheard of in their culture. As a result, respect of the church was elevated, and hearts were open to receive the Gospel message.
A female pastor in another village was inspired by the two pastors. She began a church garden to help feed people in her village. She recognized the requirement to expand her garden because needs around her were great. She took out a loan to purchase more seeds, a water pump, and other necessary supplies. She has been able to sell excess produce and is close to repaying the loan. In her village, people have taken notice. They understand the church cares for them.
There are many more stories like this. What struck me is how in story after story, the church gains credibility by helping the community accomplish what they might not otherwise. Why is that not the case in affluent countries like mine?
The good news is there are many churches in the US working hard to help others. Some help the elderly by doing home repairs or yard work. Some pack weekend food for children who don’t get meals other than those they get at school. Some help immigrants apply for citizenship. Some pack seeds or rice and bean meals to send to developing countries. Some take food to homeless in downtown areas. Some regularly send teams to other countries to build churches, drill wells, or teach about AIDS prevention and Biblical love. Some visit people in prison. The list goes on and on.
But, do we hear about these things? Not usually. Sadly, the media loves to tell stories of church mistakes. Yes, churches make mistakes. And unfortunately, some are misguided. We are all flawed. We are all learning – together.
Thankfully, there is One who forgives our mistakes and misguided understanding. God has seen it all. He isn’t taken by surprise. His desire is for the church to become like His Son by the power of His love.
Church, let’s be bold in our good deeds so that the love of Christ will flow through us. Let our communities take notice!
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:16