This article first appeared in the March 2015 edition of ITMI Monthly.
Why do we feed the poor? They stink.
Why do we care for widows and orphans? They have diseases and miseries of every kind.
Why do we go to dangerous and semi-closed countries to evangelize and disciple the persecuted? We could get a disease or be killed.
Why do we do all that?
Because they are souls for whom Christ died.
And He gave Himself for us. And for them.
We love and serve them with the same love with which Christ loved us, when we were stinky and miserable and dangerous.
We want to see their hearts changed and the blessing of God on their lives.
Here are two examples:
Scenes from a refugee camp in South Sudan.
A refugee mother with her baby.
South Sudan won its independence from Sudan in 2005. But in a very short time the tribes in the world’s newest country, most notably the Dinka and Nuer, began to fight with one another for control of the country.
The country claims to be a Christian nation, and 95 percent of its citizens claim to be Christians, yet tragically civil war is raging.
The many South Sudanese people live by a one word motivation…revenge.
When you have a godless society, void of Biblical principles and Biblical leadership, the society settles down to the lowest common denominator and in this newly formed country revenge is an overall driving force that has no bounds or ends in humanist thinking.
They have sought revenge for insults and injuries and injustices of the past.
Foreign aid and oil profits flow into South Sudan, but ungodly leaders believe it belongs to whomever holds power, leaving little for the people.
The cost of living has risen due to un-Biblical financial models of getting and spending as much as you can get by with and no one is safe from gangs, criminals, soldiers or angry relatives.
Lawlessness and chaos reign. Life has become so bad, so scary, we are told that the people “on-the-ground” whisper they long for the former days under Islamic rule, where life was harsh but there was some standard of behavior.
It reminds us of Israel after God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. After wandering in the wilderness, they remembered “the good old days” of eating leeks and onions, even though it was in slavery.
The South Sudanese, like the children of Israel, wanted their perception of stability and safety, rather than God’s best in their lives. After decades of fighting their common enemy, the Islamic north, the citizens now fight each other.
In go missionaries and support personnel from ITMI.
Why do we do this? ITMI does it to see hearts changed.
Steve also preached in Jahim’s newly planted outdoor church how God will meet all of our needs for work, comfort in suffering, endurance with a difficult leadership, marriage, etc.
Jahim didn’t plan on starting a church so soon, but when you have so many converts, they need a place to grow!
Steve preaching to Jahim’s church.
Jahim setting up for the Sunday gathering of his church.
There was a woman in the crowd who felt he was speaking to her directly. Her situation was similar to what Steve was preaching. She saw the contrast of the revenge and hate-fueled life of that drove her countrymen to war and subsequent refugee camps and how she had been living her life.
The contrast is of life-consuming anger and revenge with the forgiveness God offers through Christ.
Islam does not offer this good news.
Animism does not offer this either.
Certainly, the corrupt officials and gangs and soldiers did not offer restoration among the people of South Sudan. Her people were more likely to abuse and pronounce curses upon one another than to love with humble hearts.
Only God’s way has any mechanism for forgiveness and love.
“Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” -Colossians 3:13
The fact that Steve came all the way from America and taught the same message that Jahim regularly teaches made God appear truly large, powerful and capable to this woman.
Her heart was revived.
Forgiveness is a very profound and amazing concept to those who have never heard of it before. There was a great contrast between that woman’s life in South Sudan and the life God designed for people who obey Him.
She saw first hand that God is big enough to speak to her, to Americans and to His children as told in Exodus, with the same hope giving truth.
Americans don’t often see this shocking, fantastic contrast, due to our abundantly blessed society, with not nearly the daily living needs that third-world countries experience moment by moment and day after day.
The contrast, our needs in our society is many times not great enough to show us our need for utter dependence on God’s protection and provision. This mama’s life was changed, changed by realizing God’s promise to provide, was meant for her.
Poverty is one of the most prominent aspects of Ugandan life.
It leads to:
- street children
- twelve-year-old mothers
- abandoned children
- drug-resistant sexually-transmitted diseases
- little to no sanitation
- highly contagious diseases
- child armies
- human sacrifice
- drug use
- financial fraud
Life seems hopeless for these people and they feel helpless to change their situation.
They think, “If only I had more money, my problems would be over.”
What a comfort when poor Ugandans learn God will provide for them just as He feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies. Instead of seeking “what do I get?”, they learn what they can do for others.
For example, when someone gives Kawede two shirts, he will give one to another less fortunate pastor, thus God blesses both of them.
“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:32-34
Steve taught a group of pastors from the Seven Areas of Life Training (SALT) materials. The lesson titled “Financial Liberty” lets people see what God thinks is good for us vs. what we think is good for us.
Steve training ISM students on Biblical finances.
This is opposite of the prosperity gospel, which is running rampant in Africa. The prosperity gospel is an unbiblical doctrine that teaches proper prayer, speech and donations will cause God to make Christians rich.
This false gospel fits right in with many African tribal beliefs, but is not what the Bible teaches.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” I Timothy 6:10
In African thinking, culture says you always want to be the boss, the “Big Man”, the leader, the founder or director of something. They are always seeking position…and an income stream.
But after Steve’s lesson, the women sat taller and began to feel empowered because they understood that God didn’t need them to be rich or powerful to be loved or accepted by Him, or to be used by Him.
They discovered they were just as important in God’s estimation as any man. And the men, with their shoulders and heads noticeably drooping, seemed to realize that their previously held belief about money was not God’s plan and they needed a whole new focus for finances.
ITMI partner, Muhindo Kawede is passionate to reach Uganda through equipping her pastors.
Kawede talked with a few of the pastors after the financial teaching and gathered their feedback.
He later told Steve, “the prosperity gospel is dead” among these people.
He explained, saying their understanding of the Word of God changed their thinking. Now they would tell their church members the truth and those people would tell others.
ITMI exists to support and disciple nationals to start that ripple effect of the influence of God’s Word in the hearts of people, “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive for-giveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” Acts 26:18