Living amongst the terrible tragedy of the Aids epidemic, a South African pastor began a ministry to mobilize many communities to train and educate their vulnerable young people about the consequences of HIV, unprotected sexual activity, and pregnancy. After these programs had been established the rate of pregnancies and sexual relations actually increased. In disbelief, the founding pastor asked the question, “Haven’t they been educated!?” He started interviewing the kids as to why the problems had actually increased with the provided training and was struck by one young girl’s reply. “There are no jobs, no housing, we have no hope for a better life… Even though we know better, there is no reason to do anything different. Maybe if I get aids I’ll get out of this hell-hole sooner!”
When people live in a state of despair and without hope, they often move to a state of despondence and fatalism where they don’t care about the consequences of their behavior. In these kinds of desperate environments a missional approach of simply training, educating, giving money or establishing programs will not produce long term results. Only through the establishment of trusting relationships and genuine friendship and love can these systemic issues of despair and hopelessness really be addressed resulting in measurable improvements over time. When the local Church is empowered to really act as neighbors, and fathers and mothers to these vulnerable populations within a given community, it can stand alongside those in need as “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3b)
As you consider your missional approach to providing training, education, or in funding programs overseas, how are you empowering the local church to be in loving relationship with the beneficiaries? How is your aid and relief approach connected to indigenous agencies who have established relational approaches for walking long-term with the recipients of your aid? What changes in your approach might be needed at this point to ensure that trusting relationships and hope will be there long after you are gone?
Please feel free to respond to these weekly Breakthroughs in Missional Thinking; we need your voice in this ongoing dialogue about how the Christian Church engages in missions in this rapidly changing world and culture.
Director of Global Leadership Development