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THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH AND THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENTS

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Human governments also have the authority to take actions which will help to relieve conditions of extreme poverty. The problem is that governments often do not make the right decisions or do not know what to do. Worse yet, many government officials are greedy, selfish and corrupt and are not willing to take the actions that would help solve the problems of unemployment and poverty. Such officials seem interested only in their own wealth, power and influence. At times some governments even oppose those individuals and agencies that try to help.

Some years ago, a Christian organization set up a very low-cost feeding programme for the hungry in one African city. Other Christian heard about it and provided funds to expand the programme into more than one feeding centre in the city. When the organization providing the low-cost food approached the government for permission to increase the number of feeding centres, the government refused to help the poor, but it also hindered those who were willing to help.


What can Christian do in such a situation where the government not only refuses to help, but actually hinders those who are willing to help? The answer is, they can appeal to God in prayers. Christina are commanded to pray for their political leaders (1 Tim.2:1-2). It is only the people of God whom God has promised to answer when they pray. The good news is that God has made specific promise about answering the prayers of his people (Jn.15:7; 16:23-24). Since praying for government officials is something the Bible commands Christian to do, they can be sure they are praying according to the will of God when they pray for these people. Consider the promise God gives to his people who pray according to his will: ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears Us whatever we ask –we know that we have what we asked of him’ (1 Jn.5:14-15).


If God is truly God, and if it is God who has established the institution of human government as the Bible says he has (Rom.13:1), then God is willing to answer prayer for government officials regardless of the country. The problem is, are Christian really willing to pray for their government (Mt. 6:16-18)? Is the church willing to call the whole membership together to fast and pray if the situation is really bad (Joe 1:14)? There are steps which God expects his people to take. He will not likely intervene until his peoples show they are serious about doing what he commands.


In the book of Joel, a locust plague was destroying the land because of the sins of the people nationwide. God called on his own people through the prophet Joel to a time of national fasting and repentance so that the disaster could be avoided (Joel 2:15-17). Some African countries today are in a situation of impending disaster just as the godly church leaders and their members who are willing to move the hand of God is willing to answer when his people are willing to do what he calls them to do.


God may answer such prayers by changing the hearts of government official. God change the heart of government official in the case of Nehemiah, when he appealed to the king to release him from his government duties so that he could return to Jerusalem to help his people rebuild the wall (Neh.24-6). God may answer the prayers of his people by putting a wise and godly man into a key government leadership position at a time of need. He did this when he made Joseph an important leader in the Egyptian government just before a terrible famine struck the country for seven years (Gen.41:41-43). God then used Joseph to save the whole nation from the effects of the famine by wise planning (Gen.41:33-36). God may also answer prayer by removing an existing government official and replacing him with a better official. He did this when he removed an evil advisor named Ahithophel, who had betrayed King David and replaced him with a wise man called Hushai the Arkite, who was loyal to David (2 Sam.17-14,23).


In some cases, God may answer prayer by sweeping away an entire government. He did this in the case of the corrupt Babylonian government under the leadership of King Belshazzar in the days of Daniel (Dan. 5:22-30). Secular history tells us that Babylon was overthrown when the Medes diverted the course of the Euphrates Rivers, which flowed under the city of Babylon, and the Medan army marched secretly into the city through the dry riverbed. In one night, the Babylonian government was overthrown by the hand of God (Dan. 5:30).


God swept away the corrupt government of a modern African country some years ago in response to prayer. The worldwide leader of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, called on Christians over all the world to pray for the removal of this evil dictator and his government. Six months later, the dictator and his government were gone, driven out by the army of another country. In general, however, it is more likely to be the will of God to answer prayers f or a government by changing the hearts of government officials or by replacing worthless officials with good officials than it is by overthrowing an entire government. These examples from the Bible show us that God is able to intervene in any situation, including situations in Africa today, even when the situation seems hopeless.


If God’s people are willing to fast and pray with clean hearts, God is willing to intervene even in a nation on the brink of disaster. It is not that God does not have power to solve humanly impossible problems. He waits for true repentance, obedience, humility and prayer from his people. Unfortunately, some church leaders are so preoccupied with establishing their own power and influence in the church that they have no time to do what God wants them to do to save the nation. When this is the case, perhaps the local church members need to fast and pray that God will first humble such church leaders-even before they pray for their national leaders.


To many people, the situations in Africa today seem beyond the power of God to change. War, famine, starvation, disease, poverty, tribalism, corruption and many other evils seem to be hopeless problems to solve. What can God really do? It is worthwhile at this point to look at a situation in history that was as bad as any in Africa today. The following true story from the Bible describes how God kept his word and performed a great deliverance in a humanly impossible situation.

Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. There was a great famine in the city. As the king of Israel was passing b y on the wall, a woman cried to him, ’Help me, my lord the king!’ The king replied … what ‘s the matter?’ she answered, this woman said to me, “Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son. “So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, “Give up your son so we may eat him, “but she had hidden him.’ (2 Kgs. 6:24-29)


How bad can a situation be that people would eat their own children?


It was in this unbearable situation that God acted according to his power and kept his word. The story continues.

Elisha said, ‘Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the LORD says: About this time tomorrow, a seah o flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a skekel at the gate of Samaria.’


The officer on whose arm the king was learning said to the man of God, ‘Look, even if the LORD should open the floodgate of the heavens, could this happen?’


You will see it with your own eyes,’ answered Elisha, ‘but you will not eat any of it!’


Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. The said to each other, ‘Why stay here until we die? If we say, “We’ll go into the city”- the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.’ At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariot and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Look, the king of Israel has hire the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us! So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horse and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.


The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.


Then they said to said to each other, ‘We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight punishment will overtakes us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.’


So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, ‘we went into the Arameans army… they found the whole road strewn with the clothing and equipment the Arameans had thrown away in their headlong flight. So the messengers returned and reported to the king. Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. So a seah of flour sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley sold for a skekel, as the LORD had said.


Now the king had put the officer on whose arm he learned in charge of the gate, and the people trample him in the gateway, and he died, just as the man of God had foretold when the king came down to his house. It happen as the man of God had said to the king: ‘About this time tomorrow, a seah of flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a skelel at the gate of Samaria.’ (2 Kgs. 7:11;14-18).

The lesson of this story is that God keeps his word. No problem or person on earth can prevent God from keeping his word. The same God who did this in the nation of Israel long ago is well able to keep his word in Africa today. God is able to work miracles of love of love and compassion to overcome even disastrous national problems when his people come to him in repentance, humility, prayer and faith.


Concerning hunger, consider the Gospel story of a young boy with a small lunch and five thousand hungry men. This story is found in all four Gospels to illustrate how God is able to multiply the little we have to meet an impossible human need. In this situation there were between ten and fifteen thousand people actually present, since the Bible tells us that there were ‘about five thousand men, besides women and children’ (Mt. 14:21). The human part of the solution to the problem here was the willing and generous heart of one young boy. In John’s version of the story, Jesus purposely challenged the disciples with the impossibility of the situation. He asked them, ‘where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ (Jn.6:5). Philip answered his question with the obvious impossibility of the situation: ‘Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite! (Jn. 6:7).


In Mark’s version of the story, two other interesting facts emerge. First, the disciples of Jesus do exactly as we tend to do. They asked the Lord to just make the problem go away. ‘Send the people away’ (Mk. 6:36), they said to Jesus. But that is not how Jesus planned to solve the problem –then or now. In reply, Jesus said something that must have sounded utterly impossible to the disciples. ‘You give them something to eat’ (Mk. 6:37, emphasis mine). That was just what they did not want to hear, but that is exactly how Jesus planned to solve the problem!


So also today, it is God’s will to meet the needs of the poor in the church through his people. It is also God’s will to use responsible human governments to help meet the needs of unemployment and poverty in a nation in response to the prayers of God’s people for that government.


Jesus knows we do not have the ability or resources ourselves to meet the impossible needs of the poor in Africa, but he still tells us to do it. Why? Because he is God, and he has the power to do what we cannot even imagine. He simply wants from us a willing and obedient heart such as he found in the small boy who offered Jesus the little he had to feed the great crowd.

What Does God Say Concerning the Poor
What does God expect his people to do concerning the poor? First, there is a need to understand how God thinks about the poor and needy. Second, there is a need to act on what God says. Let us read from the Bible how God feels about the poor and what he wants his people to do for them.


There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward the poor and needy in your land. (Deut. 156:11).

I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. (Ps. 140:12)

My whole being will exclaim, ‘who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them. ‘(Ps. 35:10)

Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; many the poor and needy praises your name. (Ps. 74:21-22)

Some of God’s Commands Concerning the Poor and Needy


Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the right of the poor and needy. (Prov.31;8-9)

Defend the cause of the week and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Ps. 82:2-4).

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleaning of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God. (Lev. 323:22)

Jesus answered, ‘if you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me ‘(Mt.19:21)

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor (Lk.12:32-330

Some Warnings to Those Who Don’t Care for the Poor

He who oppresses the poor show contempt for their Maker. (Prov. 14:31)

If a man shut his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. (prov. 21:130

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies… she opens hers arms to the poor and extends her hand to the needy. (Prov. 31:10-20)

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha who was always doing good and helping the poor. (Act 9:36)

Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’(Lk.19:8-9)

This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. (Jas. 1:27).

It is clear from these scriptures that God is very much concerned about the condition of the poor and those in need. It is also clear that he expects his own people to do something to help them. We can only wonder what would happen in a village, a city or an entire country if the whole Christian community in that place took these words of God to hear and acted on them.

Some Promises for Those Who Minister to the Poor
Whoever is kind to the needy honors God. (Prov.14:31)

He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. (Prov. 19:17)

Toward your needy brother… Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to (Deut.15:9- 10)

Blessed is the man fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands…. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will come to him who is generous. (Ps. 112:1,4-5)

A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. (Prov.22:9)

He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses. (Prov.28:27)

If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will always be secure (Prov.29:14)

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the cripple, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Lk.14:13-14)

How Shall the Church Minster to the Poor
It is quite clear from the Scripture references given above that it is the will of God for his people to minister to the needs of the poor and needy. The question is, what should be done and what is the best way to do it? These are questions which will require serious though and discussion by each local church.

As a starting point, the local church should have some sort of fund or programme to help the needy right within their own congregation. One simple plan adopted by some churches is to have a special offering for the poor which is taken on special occasions, such as during the services of Holy Communion. The church elders then give this money to the poor in the church.


Another plan which some churches use is to have a regular time for the people in the congregation to express their needs during an appointed church service. After this time of sharing, an offering is taken specifically to meet these needs. The church elder then distribute the money according to these needs.


There are often other needs beyond financial needs. There may b e a need for housing, for transportation to a certain place, or for special prayer or medical help. There may be a need for fellowship for lonely older people (especially widows and widowers) who may not be able to leave their homes. If the church has a scheduled time when such needs can be expressed, it will provide an opportunity for others in the congregation to consider how God may want to use them to meet these needs.

The Principle of Empowerment
There is a good way and a bad to help people. The good way builds up the dignity and responsibility of the needy and gives them a sense of their importance and value to God. The bad way degrades the needy and makes them feel dependent, hopeless and useless. What does God want people to do for themselves? What does God want outside to do for them so that such help does not make the poor more helpless and dependent?


In Proverbs 30:15 we read this interesting statement about begging and beggars: the leech has two daughters. “Give! Give!!” they cry.’ is it wise or compassionate simply to respond to the demands of the leech to give? The answer is no. Which is more caring and shows more godly wisdom? To give a man a fish to meet his need for food, or to help him make a fishing net and to teach him how to catch fish for himself? It is easier and faster to keep on giving him fish. But that does not solve his problem. It does not cure the attitude of the leech.


It may be necessary to give the person fish a short time while need are teaching him how to catch fish with a fishing net. You may need to provide him with the material to make the net. But once he has made a net, the person should have a sense of responsibility and dignity because he is really able to catch his own fish and feed himself. This is a simple principle, but it should apply to giving all kinds of help to the poor.


God is concerned with all the needs of human beings-not just with their souls. The hearts of people are made open to the love of Christ when they are helped at a point of physical need in their lives in the history of missionary work down through the ages, it is a fact that most of the earliest converts came to Christ from among those who received medical or other physical help from the missionaries. The true ministry of Christ will always be a holistic ministry to the whole person. But the church must carry out such ministries with godly wisdom. God’s people must help needy people to become self-sustaining. They should help them even to be able to help others, rather than making them dependent on the help they receive. It is only when people begin to help and reach out to others, instead of just thinking about their own needs and problems, that they are truly helped and changed.


Listen to what the word of God says on this subject. ‘He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work doing something useful Churches and donors should require those they are helping to take an active part in their own rehabilitation.

With his own hands. That he may have something to share with those in need’ (Eph. 4:28). Notice how God says that the solution to the practice of stealing does not take place just when a person stops stealing. A permanent change takes place only when a person uses his own skill and energy to do something to meet the needs of other people who art needy like himself. This principle has many applications. In the matter of meeting the needs of the poor, it is essential for the poor person to take an active part in his or her own rehabilitation from poverty. Even more important, it is necessary for such people to to become involved in meeting the needs of others who are as bad off as they were. It is only when people begin to do this that a permanent solution has been found to the problem of poverty and need. We will see how this works in real life as we continue the true story of Dinatu begun at the beginning of this chapter.

The rescue of Dinatu from hopeless poverty began in 1993. The end of a civil war in her country and a change in government led to a situation where there were many needy, displaced people in the capital city. Some of these people were soldiers who had been injured in the war. Some were war refuges and some were from families hurt by the war in different ways. A number of these people began to settle in temporary shelters on the street near the centre of the city. Dinatu and Garba were among these people.

After a time, there was a settlement of 48 households of needy, displaced people living in makeshift shelters of cardboard, plastic and burlap sacks in one small area of the city. The condition of the people living in this settlement was very bad. Most of them were extremely poor.

God put a burden of compassion for these people into the hearts of a group of Christians who lived nearby. The Christians began to discuss possible ways to help these displaced people. Out of this planning and discussion came a project to relocate and rehabilitate as many of these 48 household as possible. Eventually the project became known as ‘New Life’-an accurate description for what happened to these people as a result of the project.

The people to whom the project was directed were homeless street-dwelling people who survived by begging, stealing or selling a few small items on the street. Many of them were physically or mentally sick, especially with AIDS and TB. From the perspective of normal and stable human society, the initial condition of this group could be described as a form of living death. Every family unit was in serious trouble physically, economically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally and socially. There were no happy marriages, no employment and no proper family life. There was hunger and sickness. Anger, hatred, bitterness, disease, disunity, immorality and violence characterized this group. There was a desperate need for the holistic salvation of God in each household. The resettlement plan was designed for the complete rehabilitation of whole family units-from their physical and economic needs to their emotional and spiritual needs.

The first step was to provide some kind of job training which would enable the people to sustain themselves in an honourable and fulfilling way. The next step was to provide a place to resettle the people in a healthy environment. The greatest challenge was to set the project up in a way that would give the people themselves the inner motivation to start a new and different life. Only a holistic approach to rehabilitation could hope to have success.

The government supplied the land for resettlement, but it was not given in outright ownership. The plan was to have a trained builder teach one person from each household the necessary construction skills to participate in the building of his own new house. The required training opened a door for the men to learn a skill by which they could make a living in the future. This training was purposefully planned in order to create a sense of ownership of the project by the people. The street-dwellers could not become a part of the project unless they agreed to sign a contract which stated that they would participate in the construction of their own homes and in their own lives. Thirty-eight of the 48 needy households agreed to sign the contract. In the end, 35 household stayed with the project to the end and were given a new start in life.

The men were divided into teams, each with a different skill. One group did the masonry work, one group did the carpentry work, one group made concrete blocks, one group did the steel work and one group did the plumbing. A relief agency provided the funds to buy the materials needed to build the houses and to cover other expenses. Three skilled builders were hired to train supervise the construction workers.

Some men could not do some of the required building jobs because of physical handicaps. To provide for their rehabilitation, the handicapped men were taught to make toys for children so that they could make at least a bare living. The women in the project were taught how to make jewellery to sell. The initial materials needed to make the jewellery were provided by the relief agency. Once they began to sell the jewellery, the women had to use some of the profits to buy their own new materials to make more jewelry.

In the very first month of the project, the project co-ordinators fed the people and gave them fruit and vitamins because they had no money for food and most of them were seriously malnourished. After this initial help, they were required to use the money made from their labour to buy their own food. In the beginning, the project provided 90 per cent and the people provided 10 per cent. The percentage of this subsidy was gradually reduced over a two-and-a-half-year period until no more free food was given.

Before these displaced people could have the motivation necessary to participate in the project, it was clear that they needed intensive individual counseling because of their severe mental, emotional and social needs. A Christian counselor was assigned to the project. He was given specialized training in counseling displaced persons and sin counseling AIDS patients. The project leader realized that the primary emphasis of the counsellor’s work must be to help bring the people in the project into a personal, praying relationship with God. Such a relationship would provide them with the spiritual strength needed to overcome the serious problems in their lives. It was clear that the key to success in the project was the mental, emotional and spiritual rehabilitation of the people.

The most serious problems were related to marriage and interpersonal relationships. It was not clear at times who was married to whom. There was rampant sexual immorality, along with a kind of informal marriage arrangement, between various individuals. Many of these ‘marriages’ lasted only two to three weeks. There was so much anger and hostility among some of the women that it was necessary to keep them off the compound while the building work was going on.

Since the street-dwellers had only known a subsistence day-to-day survival, they could not think in terms of planning for the future and they were not motivated to try to help themselves. This made it very difficult to work with them at the beginning of the project. The leaders of a nearby local church did not want to become involved with the project because ‘the people were too difficult to work with’.

The small group of dedicated Christians who began the project found that it took much more than a casual level of commitment in order to minister to the mental, physical and emotional needs of these people.

There were severe needs in regard to mental and physical health, relationships, childbirth, marriage, family life, children’s education, death and other realities of the human condition. In spite of these difficulties, those who had committed themselves to helping with the project preserved to the end by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Because of their deep and sacrificial commitment to God, God did a great miracle in this pathetic group of street people through the selfless love and faith of these Christians.

The lesson to be learned from this story is that God will do the impossible in People’s lives if there are truly dedicated Christians who will persevere with unselfish love, hard work, godly wisdom, prayer and faith in order to see god work a miracle of rebuilding broken human lives. Every Christian who participated in this project testified that he or she experienced the reality of the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. God works his miracles in human lives when we first give ourselves unconditionally to God. God gives supernatural grace and strength to us when we commit ourselves to obedience to his word. It does not happen any other way.

The second greatest commandment of God is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mt. 22:39). Although this is God’s commandment, it can only be consistently lived out by the power of the Holy spirit, who comes alongside to help us as we make the decision to obey God. The Bible says, ‘it is god who is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Phil. 2:13, NASB).

The story of Dinatu and Garba shows us what God accomplished through obedient people. Garba had signed a contract to help build his own house through the New Life project. However, his addictions and his violent behavior were more than the project could tolerate. Garba’s behavior was so violent that he was dismissed from the project after one year. Dinatu could take no more, and they were divorced. Before he was dismissed from the project Garba heard the word of god in the Bible study meetings, but he refused to listen or to follow Christ.

After he was dismissed from the project, Garbia passed through severe trials which finally broke him and brought him to genuine repentance. He came back to the project directors a broken man. His behavior revealed a very great change in character. Even |Dinatu was amazed by the great change in Garba. The project decided to take him back and give him another chance. Garba grew so much in his faith and changed so much in his character that he became a Sunday School teacher for new believers in a nearby local church. He also began to lead a weakly Bible study at the new housing site.

Dinatu became a dedicated Christian and began serving in the same local church. Because of the great change in Garba’s life and also in Dinatu’s, the couple were reconciled in their marriage. Garba has been greatly changed by Jesus Christ and he is now a witness to many people. Through the training he received in building his house, he now makes his living working as a mason in a block making co-operative. Dinatu has been trained in making jewellery through the project and adds to the family income with her skill.

The story of this couple, along with others in the New Life project, is proof that there can be hope until there are completely dedicated Christians who are ready to do the will of God. Salvation is a free gift from God, but bringing that salvation to others can be the most costly thing in the world.

ATHE RESULTS OF EMPOWERMENT
Most of the people in the New Life project now have a working mentality instead of beggar mentality and are employed through one of the three co-operatives. There is a block-making co-operative among the men, a toy making co-operative among the disabled and a jewellery-making co-operative among the women.

The change in outlook among the children those living at the new housing site is especially evident among the children. Most of the school-age children are now in school and doing well. Almost none of them were in school at the beginning. At the start, the children were ashamed to speak about where they lived. There was little sense of family solidarity. Now the parents celebrate birthdays, weddings and other family events. Most of those participating in the project have begun to take on the culture of the urban community around them. Some have even begun to reach out in hospitality to others, in some cases even begun to reach out in hospitality to others, in some cases even inviting people from outside the community.

The group has elected its own local council for the community. This council has begun to make decisions for the community on health problems, schooling, water supply, discipline, fines for things like fighting on the compound, damaging property and other offences. The council also handles the rent for the houses and the utilities for the community and carries out its own business with the government. There is a retail store run by the co-operative of the ladies who make the jewellery. Some of the adults are now taking adult education at primary and secondary level. One man has finished high school and is now the chair man of the council.

There are about 25 people from the New Life community attending a local church. The greatest number of these are children and teenagers, thanks to the commitment of a very dedicated youth worker in the project. Most important, there are now 19 people from among the 35 households who have experienced a dramatic change in their lives through putting their faith in Jesus Christ.

This true story demonstrates that there is a need for the church to become involved in a limited way in vocational rehabilitation programmes for the poor so that such people can rebuild their lives I an honourable way. There are many who have put considerable thought into identifying possible ways of helping people develop skills which will enable them to earn a living. The local church benefit by studying what has been done by secular rehabilitation programmes. An example of this would be the Job and Skills Programme for Africa (JASPA) of the United Nations.

The church cannot bring investment and heavy industry into a nation. That is a function of the government. But the church can set up rehabilitation programmes for people on an individual level which can include helping them learn a job skill to earn a living. Helping people to become self-sustaining through projuects of individual micro-industry is particularly suited to the church’s task of making disciples for the Christ. Skills such as commercial cooking, weaving, sewing clothes, furniture making, carpentry, plumbing, automobile repair, electrical repair, masonry, building and other practical skills can be taught, by those in the church who have such skills, to individuals one by one or in small classes. In this way, needy people can be given skills that will help them to earn an honest living.

By sharing what they have, the people of God are able to give hope to a world that is without hope. The Bible says, ‘do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased’ (Heb. 13:16). Sharing, whether in a small or big way, encourages people and gives them hope. Sharing good news of salvation in Jesus Christ the greatest possible hope to people without hope.

SUMMARY
Poverty is one of the greatest problems in Africa. This problem can be overcome within a local church. The church can even be the means of helping many poor people outside the church. When everyone in the church practices tithing and generous giving beyond the tithe, there will be resources to meet the needs of the poor in the church and even to help many people outside the church. In addition to giving money, the church should seek to use thee skills and abilities of its members to help others find ways to make a proper living. Beyond meeting the needs of its own members, the church has a serious responsibility before God to pray for the government to take the right steps to meet the needs of the nation. Even in time of great difficulty, God can use the prayers of his people to save a nation from disaster.

To meet the needs of the poor, God’s people must be willing to do what God has commanded them to do in the Bible. Jesus set the example for the church by ministering to the physical as well as the spiritual needs of people. He commanded his disciples to do the same thing (M

Churches and donors should require those they are helping to take an active part in their own rehabilitation.

Written By Dr. Lewis Akpogena

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