Missions

A holistic approach to missions

Aug 2005    

The good news of the Gospel should touch every area of our lives

OUR story begins with Nirmala, who lives in a girls’ home in Nepal. It is a home for girls who are either orphans or from families that are unable to provide for the basic needs of their children. She is the daughter of Mr and Mrs K. C., poor farmers in a remote farming village some 600 km away.

The village, accessible only after a three-hour walk from the nearest road, does not have medical facilities. As a child, Nirmala was often ill with what appeared to be a serious heart problem. For many years, her parents agonised over her ailment and tried every way they could to resolve the problem. But all this was to no avail. Nirmala continued to suffer severe bouts of illness.

One day, a team from Caleb Bible Institute (CBI) visited her village. CBI runs three to five months of residential theological training for village pastors and leaders. At the end of the course, the students are sent for ministry to an area where there is no established church.

K. C. attended one of their meetings where he made a commitment to Jesus and started worshiping with the few Christians in his village.

Some time later, his family was identified as a needy family, and Nirmala was admitted to the girls’ home.

I visited Nirmala’s village recently and was welcomed by K. C. and his family. The family had not seen Nirmala since she left for the girls’ home. Excitedly, they asked about her.

One of their first questions was, “Is Nirmala still having heart problems?” Although pleased, they did not look surprised when informed she had recovered. They explained that after becoming Christians they felt Nirmala’s heart problems had a spiritual cause and they had then begun to believe and hope that her health might improve. They were overjoyed to hear the good news that she was well.

K. C. accompanied us on our return trek to the main road. Along the way, we met his elder daughter, Kausilia. She had completed her final grade in the village school and had qualified for admission to a higher standard school, a distance away from the village.

Kausilia was pleased to see her father as she was waiting for him. He had given her some money to purchase her school uniform and other items for her new school that was to begin the following day. Kausilia had bought her uniform but did not have enough money for shoes, books and stationery. She was waiting for her father because she believed her father would give her the rest of the money she needed.

K. C. had planned to borrow the shortfall from friends in the village or from the church. However, he could not raise the required amount and so had nearly nothing to give to his daughter. He had no idea how Kausilia was going to continue with her education.

Then we heard the remarkable story of how Kausilia’s predicament could have been averted. Her grandfather had earlier offered to pay for all her schooling needs knowing that K. C. would not be able to meet his granddaughter’s financial requirements for school.

But he had made his offer on one condition: “You stop believing in this Jesus whom your parents believe in.”

Kausilia replied, “I am not willing to give up Jesus, he has helped us.” When she said that, she had every confidence that her father could help her pay her school requirements.

That afternoon, we saw and responded to the family’s dilemma. We bought the needed items for school just as the shops were closing. The bill came up to more than 3,000 rupees, far more than the 200 rupees K. C. had given his daughter.

The church at the village, the bible school and the orphanage are all ministries of the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) in this country. They are, together, an attempt at a holistic approach to missions. At CBI, both lay and full-time workers are nurtured in their personal faith and trained for ministry. Through the ministry of CBI, an outreach ministry was developed at the village. Through this outreach work, K. C. became a believer and a church was established. The church identified the poor in the village and admitted Nirmala to the girls’ home.

Nirmala is being educated and nurtured in the faith and her sister is able to continue with her studies. K. C. enrolled in CBI and is now a lay leader in the village church. He works actively with our evangelist in reaching out to another village four hours away from his own.

The good news of the Gospel should touch every area of our lives, including the spiritual needs, the social needs, and the livelihood needs. It must be good news for the individual, it must be good news for the family, and it must be good news for the community.

We need to develop a ministry that will support the community in their livelihood, health, education and spiritual needs, as part and parcel of the work of establishing the Gospel. Then indeed, the community may affirm the words of Jesus when he said, “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”

The Rev Ajit Hazra is the Field Director of the Methodist Missions Society.

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