by David Gould, OMF International Facilitator for Creation Care
Fuel for Faith?
Akhai* had seen his three brothers die as a result of alcohol addiction, and he was afraid that the same thing would happen to him. Then one day his girlfriend Ulzi* persuaded him to go to church with her. He went to please her, but it changed his life – there he heard the gospel, and received new life in Christ. He no longer needed to drink. Akhai and Ulzi married and were led to serve those who wrestle with alcohol addiction in Mongolia, to offer them hope founded on Christ.
The Lord called Ben to go and work with them. Ben is a specialist in waste management, with a heart for mission. How can these two things come together? During his visits, Ben saw the potential to ‘up-cycle’ waste to provide fuel for sale, and he trained Akhai’s team to make and use the tools needed to process the waste. Akhai is a gifted evangelist and leader, and is starting similar work in other cities. By offering his skills, Ben is helping this ministry to grow and become self-funding. People are coming to faith, and churches are being planted. And the ‘fuel from waste’ project has modelled a cleaner alternative to burning coal, whose smoke is a major health hazard.
A sense of belonging in a particular place is shared by many people in East Asia. In Manila I met Kamal*, who had reluctantly brought his family to live there because he didn’t want his children “to grow up with guns”. His family’s land was in a part of the country where sectarian fighting has blighted many lives; yet he longed to return there. In his community in the city many are suffering from malnutrition, and he welcomed the friendship of a team who are offering training in nutrition for children.
Elsewhere in the Philippines, several urban communities have been displaced by sectarian
fighting, and have lost most of their traditional sources of income. An OMF team is planning a model farm near the city to help them develop sustainable food production.
In Bangkok people of different faiths are meeting to discuss ways of improving the health and welfare of those living in the urban poor communities. Promoting the use of simple water filters can be very effective, providing work as well as affordable, potable water, and opportunities to introduce people to ‘living water.’
Peter,* a gifted research engineer, is working in a university in a large city in East Asia, helping to develop more sustainable technologies, while seeking to be a witness to Christ among his students and colleagues.
These are examples of meeting people of other faiths on ‘common ground’. This can help to build trust and friendship, and so open doors for sharing the gospel. This gospel is good news for those who are lost without Christ; for communities who want to live sustainably in their land; for displaced people seeking a new life in the cities; and for all creation, which has been spoiled by human sin. The Bible has much to say about the connections between sin, environmental degradation and human displacement**. The remedy for sin, won by Jesus, the Lord of 1 creation, gives us the glorious prospect of the healing of all brokenness, and an eternal sabbath rest when God will dwell among his people in a renewed creation.
Every year, millions of people move to the cities of East Asia in search of work. Often this involves parting from their families and the gradual break up of rural communities. These migrants can be more open to receiving the gospel in the city; and some of those who come to faith may be called and trained to return home as self-funded church-planters. There they can share their faith while bringing new skills that can help people remain in their home communities. These skills might facilitate such things as sustainable fishing and animal husbandry; reforestation and ‘sloping land technology’ to restore degraded soil and grow cash crops; and eco-tourism that encourages the conservation of significant ecologies. Modelling and training in such skills can thus contribute to missional church movements in the cities.
The church is called to be signs of God’s kingdom. By practising, teaching and celebrating a life of sabbath rest in the land, we can be part of God’s plan to invite unreached peoples into his kingdom. There are many opportunities for people with technical skills and missional hearts to support church-planting ministry in the cities of East Asia. Are you being called to become, or to send out, a ‘migrant worker’ for Christ?
* Names changed to protect identities
** Gen. 3:17-19,23, 4:10-12; Deut.30:15-20; Hosea 4:1-3, Rev. 21:1-5 etc.
A fuller exploration of creation care in urban mission can be found in David’s essay ‘The Church and Sustainable Cities in East Asia’, in ‘Creation Care and the Gospel’, Edited by Colin Bell & Robert White (Lausanne Library, 2016).
For more details visit www.omf.org.uk