A Wide Gospel: Missions as Justice for the Poor
We recently flew out of South Africa with the faces of people we had met in our minds, and conversations ringing in our ears, and so I began to write a few fairly disconnected thoughts about what missions should look. now that we had truly had an extended and raw picture of who the people of Africa are and where they are at as a people group. I’ve included it below, not to say I have the answers necessarily, but to start a conversation with you all about really thinking through what missions might look like in South Africa.
What Does it Look like…
Much of our thinking as we approached going into “missions” was asking the question of ourselves “What does it look like to be the people of God FOR the World?” We believe that God has a radical plan, not only to set up Churches but to see those communities transform the society around them, not by calling the world in, but by predominantly going out. We believe that Christians have a call not just to be in the spheres of society but to be at the fore of those sphere’s harnessing the God given creativity that comes from a relationship with the creator of the Universe.
The Problem and how the church reveals the solution…
Although not fully aware of the extent, we in the west, are fully aware of the problems facing the world, poverty and disease are good words to centre those on. Unfortunately we as the people of God have also been infected with the worlds attitude that there is very little to be done, and therefore the best option is not to think about it too much. But God is waking us all up, we have an incredible ability to see injustices such as poverty and disease not only lessened but solved. The Church at its best has been at the front of these causes, it has incarnated (which is a posh theological word for embodied) God’s heart to be the voice of the voiceless and to see the captives set free. Once we have spent some time with the poor, learnt their names, shared out lives with them, it is no longer enough just to feed them a meal, and see nothing in their life change to life them out the poverty they are in, even worse to introduce them to a non-biblical concept of a Jesus who only cares about souls but not about the realities of life.
After a while God begins creating new heart in us for these people, a heart that longs for justice, a heart which says we should live in a world where when a man works, he works for wages that allow him to have a place to live and food to eat, and friends to enjoy. That is why we think mission in our world today looks like justice.
Business as Missions…
Much of the injustice in our world at the moment is created by systems of financial movement which marginalize the poor, and perpetuate their status as the poor. There is a space which is beginning to be filled in missions for business, business not just to raise money for missions, not just to connect with people to introduce them to have a conversation about Jesus, but create business and disciple business people to see the Kingdom of God break into the every day transactions that involve whole communities, so that people not only hear the gospel of words, but can respond to a gospel in action.
The need for people to see the work of their hands come into fruitfulness…
The west has been involved in a lot of Aid in Africa over the last few decades and Aid can be vital in emergency situations, but often it can be an unhelpful crutch that has kept people poor through dependence. We believe that a more biblical imagination for sustainably freeing people from poverty is to give people the tools, in terms of how they think about themselves, their actions and communities. Through discipleship, you can empower someone in a sustainable way to lift themselves out of poverty, and through individuals, disciple families, communities and nations.
Revealing the supremacy of God in all things…
When we show the world a God who is genuinely interested and involved in every area of their lives, a God that Loves them, wants to see them lifted out of oppressive poverty through the work of their own hands, we will reach people who gave up on Church a long time ago as a lesson in “pew-filling irrelevance”.
We get to play a part…
As we were thinking about these ideas and what part we can play, we were aware that in choosing to follow Jesus with our lives we give them up in baptism to God, he gives them back to us to see God’s Kingdom come from heaven to earth. That means we get to expend our energies, our youthfulness, our enthusiasm, our lives on a cause that will exist for an eternity. What an Opportunity!
We were recently interviewed by a blog called LFS Introduces about the work we have been doing in Masiphuemelele. We haven’t done as well as we’d hoped on keeping you up to date, but we hope some of our answers might fill those blank spaces. Click here to read the original article which is reproduced below.
Please introduce yourselves, and tell us about what you are doing in South Africa just now?
We are a newly married couple in our early twenties with a sneaking suspicion that Jesus has an amazing plan to see the World made new, humans brought back to relationship with himself and each other, and that the place we should be doing that right now is in Southern Africa. More formally though, Rachel grew up in Aberdeenshire, Scotland and has been serving Church plants, loving her nieces and nephews, and loves culture. I (Liam) grew up in Cornwall near England (that’s a South-West joke) studying Theology in Aberdeen with a background in Politics and Economics and until 4 months ago was working in the oil Industry.
We are working in South Africa helping facilitate locally led, home based simple churches/bible studies, giving people the tools and education to lift themselves out of oppressive poverty, teaching people the skills to have life giving family life and care for Children.
How did you get involved with/what inspired you to work with YWAM?
YWAM just happened to turn up at the right time really. We love YWAM’s core values and have some great friends who are involved in it. YWAM is also releasing and broad enough that you can pretty much work in any sphere under their banner.
All that being said although we are relationally connected with YWAM we don’t have any long term commitment as of yet, but their DTS* program (which we are currently involved in) seemed like a good intro to our more long term plans in South Africa. We are very much of the mind that we want to build a Kingdom not an empire, so as long as being involved with YWAM serves that we will probably stay connected with YWAM.
What is 2010 shaping up to look like for your work with YWAM?
Well from January to March we will be in South Africa continuing to scope out the land and make arrangements for our more long-term return later in the year. As part of the DTS program we are doing we have to go back to our sending YWAM base Kona for a little while, after that we are hoping to visit a few churches and friends in mainland USA for a couple of weeks up until end of April. Then from May to July we will be back in the UK to visit Churches, family and find some short-term employment to help towards our return to South Africa in August.
What is your favourite thing about the work you are doing?
We get to see people all day and we get the opportunity make a real difference to help them out of poverty.
Spiritual poverty: the sense that they don’t matter to God or have anywhere to take their burdens.
Financial poverty: helping people realise they can really step out of poverty and that it is something that is on God’s heart for them.
Relational poverty: networking them with people who care about them and want to engage in community with them.
All those areas are something that we are passionate about and so being able to work with people in those areas can be very enjoyable.
What is the most challenging thing about the work you are doing?
Situations that feel hopeless have been challenging, we are working in a community of 30,000 in a 2sq mile area – there is more depravity, poverty, and brokenness than I ever thought imaginable. We often see heart breaking injustice: an alcoholic mother who neglects her baby to the point of serious malnutrition; a refugee working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for not enough money to pay rent.
There is so much need, as soon as one problem seems to be solved; a new one comes to the fore. It just reminds us that this community needs more than just initiatives, programs or even money; it needs Jesus-centered restoration in every category.
Who do you have supporting you? How do they support you?
Our families particularly have been incredibly supportive; Rachel’s parents are even currently visiting with us. We have lots of faithful friends who pray for us regularly as well as keep in regular contact (which is actually more of a support than you would realise!). The Church I grew up in, in Cornwall has committed to pray for us as a church, and our house group and great friends in Banchory from the Aberdeen Vineyard Church really support us as our home community.
In relation to financial support, Rachel and I saved for around a year – I did some web design projects on the side back in the UK to raise money. We also asked people to gift us money for our wedding instead of the normal gift registries. A number of friends and family gave us generous one off gifts, a couple others have committed to giving to us monthly which has been of huge help but is less than 20% of our current monthly outgoings. Financial support is one of the main reasons we have to return to the UK for a few months this year.
Do you partner with any other organisations?
Yes, we love to in fact. We are working closely with All Nations, a local organisation focused on planting small simple churches in peoples houses. We are working with them to integrate a business training initiative we’ve been working on for some Zimbabwean refugees who can’t find work into a more advanced program that All Nations run. We are also working on a policy and advocacy level with Justice Acts/IOM, a part of the Counter Trafficking Coalition, on a human trafficking and prostitution prevention project for the World Cup later this year.
What piece of advice would you give to anyone that is thinking about doing mission/charity work overseas?
1) Do your research – cultivate a cultural, historical and spiritual understanding of the country, understand the main difference in the culture you are coming from and the one you are entering. Find out what groups are already at work there, and understand how you want to partner with them. Learn some of the language.
2) Create Community – lack of support is the number one reason people leave missionary work, whether it be an organisation you are working with, a home church, a house group, your family, friends, a society, find a group of people who will partner with you, believe in you and what you are working for, a support team is really integral to any long term sustainability in missions.
3) Love God, Love Others – Missions work, especially in developing nations can be relationally, emotionally and physically exhausting, if you are not rooted in an understanding of the Love of God for you, and for the people in the World it must be entirely unsustainable. Relational conflict amongst missionaries is another major reason people leave missions work, get ready to be humble, submit to each other in love, you will likely come with cultural baggage and other westerners will more likely rub you up the wrong way than the local population. Bonhoeffer said in his book on living in Christians Community called Life Together – “If you love the vision you have for community, you will destroy community. If you love the people around you, you will create community.” There is no integrity in showing the love of God to a local community if you can’t practice it between other people working to the same end.
How can others engage with you and support you in the work you are doing with YWAM?
I think I’ve already been too long winded so I’ll direct you to our website for that! –
Click here to help us by praying with us, follow us on our blog or you can sign up to receive our email updates. You can communicate our story to your local Church or housegroup and we would also hugely appreciate anyone prayerfully considering financially supporting the work we do in South Africa on a regular basis, you can find more about that here.
To Read the article in its original context and leave a comment click here.
If people would like to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?
1. Safety – Everyday we are working in a community with a shockingly high violent crime and murder rate and sometimes getting involved in difficult social and family situations, we haven’t had any issues so far but we certainly need God’s continued protection as we seek to be light in the darkness here.
2. Wisdom – We could get involved and see meaningful transformation in almost every sphere of society if we were to give our time to it, so please pray that we would work in strategic areas to help bring about the radical transformation Jesus announced when he was on earth.
3. Marriage – We consider a strong and loving marriage to be one of our most compelling witnesses in a community with so much unfaithfulness and broken families, please pray that we would continue to grow in our love for each other and commitment to each other.
Thank you so much for sharing with us Liam & Rachel! We will be praying for you as you prepare to get settled long-term in South Africa.
To keep up to date with what Liam and Rachel are up to, and to find out more about the different ways people can support them go to their website & blog at www.liamandrachel.com
Well, We first need to start with a bit of an apology, we realise we have been a little slack with the blog even though we endlessly encouraged you all to read it before we left, so here, on paper (kind of), is a commitment to be more regular with up
dating you on all that is going on.
Our lectures so far have already been significant times of learning for us in terms of how we approach our longer term goal in South Africa, We are hoping to post some more reflections on what we’ve been learning very soon, bur for now we wanted to let you all know that we are doing well, learning a lot and really feeling like we are being challenged, grown and stretched as we come towards the second half of this time serving in South Africa. If you want to understand some of the areas we will be working, you can find out here, but something that has also been shifting with us, is the areas we will be working with in South Africa. We will still be involved in the areas we mentioned before we left, but as our hearts and minds are shifting as we pray and think about our effectiveness there, along with utilizing the gifts we have in the group which will travel with us to South Africa.
We have started to meet in small groups with the location teams, but the team to South Africa is numbering around 20, so we are meeting in a couple separate groups, we are making great friends here, some like are good friends Calvin and Camille who are going to a different location, but also the groups heading to the same locations are starting to make good connections, and I (Liam) am glad to have another mac geek onboard the trip in the form of Gary and his wife Anna Brndiar from Colorado, Gary is blogging far more faithfully than me right here.
As we write to you, with the subject of being busy, we are on the sunday morning of the first weekend off since we have been here. We have work duties at an old YWAM base on the Island called Kings Mansion every other weekend, it mainly involved landscaping and gardening as there are no seasons here so things grow all year round, all the time! Even in the fortnight between us being there, we see the grass that we seeded grown out, Hawaii has quite an incredible eco system! Ive attached a video below of some very strange plants which live in the grass, I cant remember the name, but I think they are Japanese in origin. They must be related to the venus fly trap because they close when you touch them! Click on the play button on the bottom left of the video below!
In between the weekend we were working at Kings Mansion, we were volunteering for the Ironman Triathalon here in Kona, which was an incredible experience. The Ironman Triathalon begins with a 2.5 mile swim, followed by a 112 miles bike ride, then a marathon!! We were there at 3am for the start at 6, here is a short video of the swim start, it was quite an event!
We were security for the bike ride section, but then hung out at the finish line to see what a person who swims 2.5 miles, ride 112 miles and then runs a marathon looks like, we attached a video below:
So finally, we are hoping to keep this as up to date as we can, please feel to free to comment on the bottom of this page, we love to hear from you.
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We have arrived! As you can tell from our last post we have quite an adventure, but we are delighted to be here. We have had a pretty hectic week and a half, we began by going through our induction processes, paying our fees, getting campus badges made, which was followed by a formal hawaiian welcoming ceremony with dances, they took us through the process of joining “Ohana” which is the hawaiian concept of family and emphasized our responsibility toward the islands ecology and culture. In the evening there was a meeting to celebrate the different nations who are at the University for this quarter. We were amazed by the amount of countries represented, most amazingly, North Korea, China and Kosovo. There are over 40 different nations represented here and it has already been amazingly enriching to be in a community with such a diverse background.
After the opening ceremonies we met our class and the staff, we have some really great staff including a guy from Guilford in England who we have convinced to be our “accent accountability” whilst we are here to ensure we don’t end up getting those strange anglo-american accents as most of our staff are from the US. Stuart Fyvie will be pleased to know that so far we are doing fine, and throwing in the odd eastenders quote for good measure to ensure our British roots stay strong!
We have 65 in our class, from late teens up to people in their 40’s, we are dormed in the married area of the campus which has been great, especially in light of our single friends who have to dorm with at least 6 others in very close proximity. By comparison the married rooms are very nice, even though we have to push 2 single beds together! Throughout the staff and students in the community transformations school there are 7 married couples, 3 of which are our neighbours on the second floor of the building we are in. We are staying in a building called the GO Centre, there are no glass windows in our room, only mosquito netting and wooden slats that can be angled to close. Without air conditioning it means the room keeps a good air flow, but it also means we hear every sound from the road in front of the building.
Our classroom is the other end of the campus which makes for some good exercise and sweaty bodies on arrival, we have had a different teacher each day this week as it has been presented as an introductory week, we have already understood what people had told us, that learning on DTS is like drinking from a fire hose! There is so much we could pass on, but one of the main phrases that has stuck with us this week was from Jim Orred, the head of the campus whilst the founders of YWAM Loren and Darlene Cunningham are travelling; He said “Most people have a vision for their lives, but not a vision for their hearts”. This challenged us that so often we can have certain desires or aspirations for our lives, which aren’t in themselves bad, but we don’t often think about how we want our hearts to grow, to have vision for our character to be formed more and more into the image of Jesus.
If anyone wants to hear more about what we are doing, or has questions for us we would love to hear from you! You can comment in the boxes below, or if you prefer email us by going to the contact page.
We are having a leaving party for all our Scottish friends and family on Saturday the 5th Sept at 7.30pm, hosted at IBC, in Cults, Aberdeenshire. We’ll be serving drinks and dessert, taking lots of photos, tell you a little bit about
what we are going away to do, and generally have some fun hopefully!
We have set up a facebook event which you can RSVP through by clicking the attending button.
If you aren’t on facebook, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you are coming!
Venue: International Baptist Church, Earlswells Road, Cults, United Kingdom AB13 0DS
To see a map goto: http://ibcaberdeen.org/about/directions