In the July 2007 issue of Christianity Today magazine there is a great letter to the editor I want to tell you about. This week we're talking about micro-economic aid to developing countries along with preaching the gospel. But how do we integrate the two? This letter was really helpful to me in my understanding of how the gospel transforms a people group economically as well as spiritually.
The letter writers are a missionary couple to the Turkana people in Kenya. They write that they feel church has offered much more than the NGO's. There is a famine in that area due to lack of rain. Here is some of what they say,
Turkana's Christian communities are finding ways to solve their problems. Plus, without Christ in their lives, traditional greed, deceit and fear of ancestors and diviners will continue to work toward the destruction of the Turkana -- rain or no rain. It is our responsibility to give food to those who are hungry, but maybe the indigenous church can offer better solutions...I would encourage them [Christians in America] to support the work of missionaries and local churches who are feeding the Turkana and other groups with the Bread of Life. It is only through Turkana's communities of Christ followers that authentic transformation will take place. That's the real story.
A few years ago, in Advance Magazine (the Foursquare magazine), there was an article by a missionary in Latin America. I cannot remember the country now but I think it might have been southern Mexico. After a lot of conversions in a certain village in which the missionary was ministering, the entire village changed without much aid. How? Some of the problem with those in Third World countries is their paganistic beliefs which does affect how they live. Look at AIDS. How does it occur?
The paganistic-like Catholicism of Latin America, besides being quite psychic and occultic, is also very fatalistic. What will be will be...whatever; que sera sera. The people in this village didn't work much and the men were drunk most of the time. After conversion, however, the people became more industrious. Their prayers helped the crops and gave them some wisdom to how to make a better living. They began to prosper so much that people in other villages began to notice and asked this village what changed. The villagers then had an open door to preach the gospel and help their neighbors.
My point is this - at times people do need microeconomic aid, but at other times they can do it themselves if they are a changed people. But even if we do aid micro-economically, unless there is conversion among some of the targeted peoples will this economic aid and training last? I don't think it will.
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