Lois Ooms worked closely with AIM and the Africa Inland Church (AIC) in Kenya for 39 years. For ten years she lived at Litein Hospital and was the Director of Community Development for AIC Kenya. She then spent eight years supporting AIM missionaries across Africa, leading workshops in transformational development. Now she is retired, but continues the challenge of adapting the principles to the North American context.
God moves in mysterious ways. A young national pastor felt the Lord’s call to the unreached people groups of the East African coast. He walked from place to place encouraging small groups of believers. He was sometimes robbed and beaten, and he spent many nights hiding in the bush. Nevertheless, he returned with a desire to reach the unreached people. Enemies burned the guesthouse where he usually stayed but, in God’s providence, that night he was delayed and was not there. After laying low for a few months, he returned and slowly began talking with the people again, but this time he discussed how they could begin small businesses to improve their living conditions. They welcomed him and his colleagues to lead a seminar on microfinance.
“…he spent many nights hiding in the bush. Nevertheless, he returned with a desire to reach the unreached people.”
He talked about how they were created in God’s image with dignity, choice, and the ability to take control of their circumstances. By the second day a few said they had never heard such words. They openly asked forgiveness for not treating their wives as image bearers of God. By the end of the week, 80 people, both men and women, stood up and acknowledged that their traditional gods had deceived them. They then said, “Pastor, tomorrow we will build a small shelter. We want you to return on Sunday to begin a church and tell us more about this God and Jesus.”
That was nearly three years ago. Today there are three churches among that people group. Furthermore, the leaders have asked him to find additional pastors like himself, so they can go into more remote areas to share about this God who gives people dignity.
Let’s move to a blighted community in Gary, Indiana. It has gangs, drugs, no schools, and no businesses, yet there are three churches united in Christ to bring change to the community. Talking with the community, their priority was to rehabilitate the baseball field, so their children had a safe place to play. A suburban church worked with the local churches. Many from the community came to volunteer their skills—I can fix the fence; we can help you paint; we can repair the swing. That was four years ago. The churches are growing. At the first community clean up day they collected five tons of rubbish and a dump truck full of old tyres. The mayor took note of the community initiative and helped to repair streets, remove snow, and tear down abandoned houses. Last year they celebrated by planning a community festival with their own resources. Then on Sunday at a combined worship service in the park, they praised the Lord for how he is transforming their community. The mayor attended and thanked the churches for giving holistic leadership in the community.
“When I see someone caught in the darkness of sin, what do I see—the remnants of the image of God or all the negative effects of sin?”
Everyone has a place in the church. The woman whose daughter was killed by her granddaughter is there praying with those who are grieving and traumatised. At the trial she didn’t ask for a reduced sentence but asked that there would be a Christian counsellor available to talk with her granddaughter in prison. Two local men are proud to wash the dishes at church functions. A mentally challenged young man helps the elderly carry their food to the table.
The Spirit works in mysterious ways. It begins with our attitude. When I see someone caught in the darkness of sin, what do I see—the remnants of the image of God or all the negative effects of sin? Then it works itself out in mercy—compassion that acts. After all, isn’t this what God demonstrated through the incarnation?