God makes a way for his children and gives them his favor, no matter how desperate their situation.
In Acts chapter 3, Peter and John are entering the temple, and a lame beggar asks them for money. Peter responds, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you.”
Pause there. This is a very strange response.
In the chapter before, we’re told the believers had everything in common and shared money with any who had need. Surely Peter or John could’ve run down the street and asked for some money to get this poor beggar through the day.
Instead Peter says, “I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”
The formerly lame man goes leaping and dancing into the Temple, praising God.
Not only was the burden for his survival no longer on those around him, but his life also became a testimony to God’s provision in a very different way than it had ever been before.
Empowering the Community
Peter’s response is a model in many ways to the work we do around the world.
World Challenge operates in some of the roughest areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The base of our operations in the city of Beni has about 80 warring tribes that have been in conflict for the past 40 years. In the past year, Beni additionally became the epicenter of the most recent Ebola epidemic.
People in this region are often trapped in cycles of desperate poverty, and when the team first started working there four years ago, there was an automatic assumption that we would be handing out money like many other foreign organizations.
However, we offered a vision seminar, asking people to identify the resources God had put around them along with the abilities they had been given.
Pastor Kilima was an attendee of that initial conference, and he returned to his village with a spark of hope that God could create change through him and his church.
Locals Taking Action
Cantina where Pastor Kilima lived has a population of about 30,000. There’s not a single powerline that reaches them, and last visit, I think I saw one car in the entire town. Regardless, he gathered his church together and asked them what they felt was the greatest need in their community.
They all agreed on one thing: children’s education.
“So, what can we do about that?” Pastor Kilima asked them.
After a long moment of silence, one man offered to cut wood in the jungle so they could construct a basic building. Another spoke up and said he would start gathering money from the neighborhood for a tin roof. Piece by piece, the church members pooled their resources and built their own school.
When I visited nine months ago, over 500 students were attending this school, and the parents pay $1 a month to support the teachers.
The building looks downright rickety by our standards, but everyone there is incredibly proud of the school. No one gave it to them. It’s all theirs.
Building on That Foundation
While education for the future generation is a vital achievement, I believe another one also took place the moment Pastor Kilima asked what God could do through the community and those believers stepped forward to offer whatever they had.
It’s easy for a big, outside organization to drop in and fund a project.
The problem is that whatever they’ve built or paid for doesn’t spread to other village and communities that also need it. Locals know they can’t achieve what the outside organization can with all its money.
However, if a project is internally sourced, that not only really builds people’s faith in God’s provision and the abilities He’s given them, but it also spurs them to go to other communities and say, “God empowered us to do this, and He can do the same through you.”
Case in point, the church is now also renting a field for produce that they use to provide for the widows and elderly in their community. Furthermore, Pastor Kilima has begun discipling members in his church to go out and similarly lead others.
What Does This Mean for You?
Community development work takes time. Changing the way people view themselves and their resources doesn’t happen overnight.
More than anything, our partners and trainers need prayer for steadfast spirits and wisdom to see open doors to help others.
This is especially important in the coming year, as we are almost doubling the number of countries we’re reaching.
Pray for the people they are reaching out to as well, that God will open their eyes to the good gifts he’s given them. They desperately need to see how much they are loved by their heavenly Father.