—This is a blog post by Rob Bonk (yes, THAT Rob Bonk…my dad) that he posted on the Ubuntu trip’s blogsite. He just went to Malawi in July with a team of The Road Church members to witness and participate in the work of the “Church in Community” program that World Renew supports there. While there is no people group who is perfect and we do well to not idealize humans without discernment, there is a deep well of truth in what he witnessed in Africa. There is a deep well of truth wherever there are people created in the image of God.
Faith, the Gospel and Kamanzi Crop Production by Rob Bonk
“…and their faith was fulfilled by what they did.” James 2:22
Let’s assume, and I don’t think this is a huge stretch, that the faith talked about here was a faith in the idea of a Kingdom of God put forward by Jesus the Christ. A Kingdom which belonged to the poor, the meek, the prisoner – a kingdom where the ‘Acceptable Year of the Lord’ was actualized.
Church in Community is an initiative by World Renew to “help church leaders and their congregations work to bring about positive change for their larger communities” (Fay Yu; WR website). Their success and legacy could easily be summed up by James 2:22. During our recent visit to Malawi, we spent days in countless meetings going over the impact that the Church in Community ministry has had on the village people who have participated in its vision and program. Meetings which saw no shyness by the people of the villages share with pride on how the ideas, the programs and directives of the Church in Community staff have improved the lives of all who have participated.
A participation that saw people being able to double and even triple their crop yield by using local materials to embellish traditional fertilizer with the result of turning one bag of chemical fertilizer which would burn out the soil after repeated use to ten bags of naturally formulated 90% organic fertilizer that could be used in perpetuity and with no risk of harming the native soil.
A participation that taught gender equality – husbands can help their wives in preparing the meals, fetching water from the bore hole or even looking after the kids.
A participation that brings all God seekers together for the greater good of the village. A participation where the all can look after the all. Where Christians and Muslims, Catholics and Anglican, Pentecostals and Presbyterians, Baptist and Seventh Day Adventists, can sit together in a room and have constructive meaningful dialogue on how to help the orphan, the widow and the the “other” in the community.
A participation where the people can study the Bible together and see how they can affect good stewardship of the earth by serving and protecting their environment to ensure it sustains them for generations to come.
A participation to see how the village can influence their own destiny by building houses, schools and churches using their own resources. By pooling assets and hiring local workers, thereby adding to the village economy and not waiting for outside teams of foreigners to helicopter in, build something and leave. A participation of ownership, a participation of pride and a participation of collective fulfilment.
This “doing” of participation can be seen as the the manifestation of the Acceptable Year of the Lord – the Year of Jubilee – the year where everything begins anew; the year of the second chance.
In the agrarian society of rural Malawi we see so much of the Gospel in action but the very significant and prophetic words of Isaiah show a correlation between crop production and the plan of God;
“For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all nations” Isaiah 61:11
God does his work of reconciling all things to himself – all things back – this is his work and we get to witness it – point to it – like Dad is here. “Look there it is! Look at what God does! Look at who He is! Look!” And then we are invited to jump in, and join in. Where there is health and growth – point and join. Where there is reconciliation, point and join. Where there is redemption, point and join. Anytime someone chooses to trust rather than hoard, to forgive rather than resent, to love rather than fear – Point it out! Jump in! Join in! God has always been on the move – its good to have our eyes opened.
We are nobodies saviours. We just get to point and join. And we will be surprised at how bodily, how physical this salvation is – at how much it has to do with real life. But that’s the kind of God we find in scriptures – always present. Ever present. In this real life. Point and join in on people’s real lives. Even your own. This is the call.
(ps. Also, I love how obvious it is that I’m his kid. He’s a good dad.)