The honor was all mine. Sitting at the dining room table of a village leader, I was privileged to listen as she shared about the needs of the Mganduzweni village in South Africa. Her husband had been the village leader, but since he had passed away, she was providing leadership for the community's 170,000 people.
As I inquired about the needs of the village, she replied without hesitation, "We need water." I couldn't believe they didn't have water. She explained that they have water brought in once a month, but the supply was inadequate to meet their basic needs. Before I knew what I was saying, I told her, "We are going to get you water. We are going to dig you a well. Not only that, but we are going to build a church here, and one day I will come and preach here. Is that OK?"
With tears in her eyes, she simply replied, "Yes." That was a defining moment not only for our church but also for a village in great need of hope.
Since that meeting two years ago, our church has built and dedicated two wells in the village. Not only that, but we broke ground for a brand-new church building, a facility that will provide not only a place of worship for C3 Church South Africa, which worships every Sunday, but also a building for the children that we feed and care for throughout the week in partnership with an organization called Children's Cup based in Prairieville, Louisiana.
One Village at a Time
From the beginning of this journey, our passion has been to ask God to direct us to one village that we can give hope to and wrap our arms around. Our church can't solve every problem in the world, but we can do something. Our prayer is that God could use C3 Church to reach out to this village beset by poverty, AIDS and witch doctors and turn its people completely to Jesus. On our trip to South Africa several years ago, the late Dave Ohlerking, founder of the Children's Cup organization, said these unforgettable words: "Hope's name is Jesus."
One of the verses that drives us to fulfill God's vision is Acts 1:8: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
I've discovered that when I lay down my personal agenda and goals and look around, I see what God sees. There are so many people around the world who are hurting and hopeless. If all churches would take just a small piece, we can change the world—one village at a time.
One Step at a Time
Churches motivated to change the world through adopting a village or community can take these steps to get started:
1) Start where you are. Many people want to change the world but need to know they can begin by making a difference where they are. Where do you live? Where do you work? In what activities are you involved?
Start serving those around you and see what God does. When I'm faithful to use what God has put in my hands, He fulfills the dreams that are in my heart. Decide today to make a difference where you are now.
2) Take others with you. Ministry has the greatest impact when we serve with others. Great things can happen when people in their local church join together with others of a similar passion and begin serving together. Most churches have opportunities to get involved locally as well as globally. If God opens the door for you to go on a mission trip, take others with you. Even Jesus sent the disciples out two by two. My wife, Martha, and I decided several years ago to take at least one of our three children with us when we travel and minister. When we took all three of them to Africa with us, it was one of our most life-changing trips. The trip was a defining moment for all of our children. One of our daughters spent a summer in Swaziland serving and studying at the Global Leadership Academy. My son will be going on his third trip in November to serve and provide Christmas parties for thousands of children in South Africa. The passion our children now have for the world began with our trip together to Africa.
3) Partner with your church or a missions organization. For many years, our church had a passion to make a global impact but didn't know where to start or how to accomplish our mission. We also had limited resources and time. But after establishing strategic partnerships, we have been able to accomplish more than we could have on our own. We partnered with different organizations, including Children's Cup, which provides care points for children to be fed and discipled. Children's Cup also offers opportunities to sponsor children.
4) Wait on God's timing. You can't force a door open. The right decision at the wrong time can lead to disaster. Sometimes God takes leaders and churches through a process of growth and preparation for what He has for us to do. But while waiting, it's important to keep serving and trusting God to open the doors in His timing and His way.
5) Expect challenges. Satan doesn't like it when we give people hope! Impacting the dark places of the world isn't easy. That's why, according to Ephesians 6, we need to put on the full armor of God to withstand the schemes of the devil. Many Christians glamorize the mission field, but we must not let the devil blindside us. Nevertheless, the challenges are worth it when you look into the eyes of the children you have helped and see their hope.
6) Every child matters. Although not everyone in your congregation will be able to go to the mission field, they can still support the effort by praying, serving and giving, perhaps through sponsoring a child. Sponsors often reflect on how they feel knowing they have a child they are caring for personally. On our family trip to Africa, we got to meet the children we sponsor—it was so emotional! Even with the cultural differences, the impact and connection we had was evident. Together, we can change the world, one child at a time. Never underestimate the power of sponsoring one child.
7) Remember, hope's name is Jesus. Our passion is to provide real hope for real people in a real world—and hope's name is Jesus! Providing food, clothing and education is fantastic, but if that's all we give, we miss out on the most important thing they need. They need to know that Jesus loves them and that He is their only hope. Everyone needs hope and a family. We have the answer for hope in Jesus, and we have a family for these children in the church.
The opportunity is in front of us, we have the answer, and the time is now. Let's change the world together!
Matt Fry is the founding and lead pastor at C3 Church in Clayton, North Carolina.
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