by Joy Casey
Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion
for the world is to look out;
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
St. Teresa of Avila
I’m reading through the gospels and am once again struck by Jesus’ ministry. He did some preaching and teaching, but a whole lot of His time was spent doing good – healing, delivering, feeding — ordinary people in His path. “He had compassion on them” is a frequent phrase.
With Jesus as our example, can we be less compassionate, less aware of our surroundings? NewLife’s purpose is to bring the Good News to people in Ethiopia who have never heard Truth. The ways to go about that are many and varied. Going into an all-Mus!im area to share Jesus is like plowing rocks; it is tough going. But if a missionary goes into a village discerning what the needs of that community are and then showing interest in meeting those needs, he has immediate favor and people are more receptive to what he has to say. Missiologists* confirm what I have gleaned from experience: community development is a precursor to effective evangelism.
Walking into remote villages and surrounded by groups of energetic, bright-eyed children who I knew had no access to schooling, broke my heart. I knew something needed to be done about it. We couldn’t afford to build and run schools in so many places, but God birthed the idea of holding literacy classes in the newly built churches to simply teach children how to read and write and do simple math.
As it is in every society, parents respond favorably to those who pour into their children. In these villages, less than half of the fathers can read and few mothers have had the opportunity to learn. They are eager for their children to be taught and are grateful for this unexpected opportunity. Some imams warn against (or even forbid) sending children to the Christian church for classes – but our missionaries tell me many parents send them anyway.
The problem is crowd control! We now have limited the class size to 40-50 and only teach ages 8-12.
Missionaries reach out to the parents of these children and are warmly welcomed. Evangelism is ushered in through the medium of education. We often hear, “I cannot hate those who are teaching my children.”
Breaking down generational barriers to Christianity is the first step to being open to salvation. Earning the right to speak to a person is not something we take lightly. Through friendship, kindness and service, our missionaries and other Christ-followers pray for their neighbors and tell the story of Jesus.
*Missiology: the study of religious (typically Christian) missions and their methods and purposes