Over 50 Presbyterian church leaders attended our workshop at the Presbyterian Special Assembly looking at how churches can transform communities locally and globally.
Three key messages emerged from the discussion :
Firstly, churches have the potential to transform society on a massive scale. In Ethiopia last year for example I visited The Meserete Kristos Church, a denomination which is helping 15,000, 1 in 8 of the local population. If our churches were operating on the same scale in Northern Ireland, we could be helping over 200,000 people, nearly 60% of the people living under the poverty line.
Secondly, churches which listen well to peoples’ needs, and build strong relationships, are able to transform people’s lives holistically. For example, one of the staff from WDO, one of our Cambodian partners, lived in Pastor Chheoun’s village for 6 months helping him establish a small church and train local leaders. After listening to the community’s needs, the team then trained local people to plant nutritional crops and build a rice bank, ensuring there was food during the hungry season. As a result, Pastor’s Chheoun’s community is thriving and 20 families have now come to faith.
Thirdly, start small. Ballynahinch Baptist started engaging its community through a litter pick up. Over time they have acquired a community house to run support groups and established a scheme to provide furniture for vulnerable people and families.
As part of the session three Presbyterian church leaders highlighted the opportunities and the very real challenges they face in engaging communities locally and globally. Over the next three days we plan to share these stories on this blog.
In the meantime you can find out more about Pastor Chheoun’s amazing story by clicking here.
Northern Ireland Director, Tearfund