BY TREVOR BROWN
Despite cancelled travel and barriers to global ministry, established partnerships have allowed for a continued impact around the world.
The van bumped down the winding dirt roads, full of large bags packed with rice, beans, lentils, oil, and many other nonperishable food items. Several times a week, Denise Dagher, the country director for KidsAlive Lebanon, and a few helpers made the rounds distributing the food packages that had been prepared by the rest of the staff on site at Kids Alive Lebanon (KAL). The children’s home and school just outside of Beirut is one of First Baptist’s missions partners. This time last year, an FBC team was working on preparations for summer ministry alongside KAL. While this year’s trip was cancelled, the partnership continues.
Like so many ministries throughout the world, the residential children at the Dar El Awlad children’s home were pinned down by coronavirus lock-downs, a situation worsened by Lebanon’s complex environment of economic collapse.
The families of KAL’s Oasis and New Horizons Center, education and literacy programs aimed at meeting the needs of families with the greatest needs, had also been disconnected for weeks due to the pandemic.
Knowing the economic challenges of so many of their students and families, KAL staff immediately began making creative plans to meet needs and reaching out to their ministry partners for support. Established partnerships, generous missions giving, and the Partnership Missions Fund had enabled FBC to continue global ministry. Despite the disappointment of cancelled connections, kingdom work was carrying on.
“God is so good,” shared Denise. “He has allowed us to continue relationships with our children in this unexpected season, showing parents and families that our care and concern go beyond the classroom.
“So many willing hands and hearts have made it possible,” she continued. “Emotionally weary mothers tearfully expressed their hearts saying, ‘Thank you for thinking of us. Thank you for caring for us.’ Tired of life like this, the very humanizing action of passing by to check on them is a bright spot of hope in these seemingly unending days.”
It’s a story that, for anyone paying attention, has become incredibly common. In a global crisis, Christians around the world have found themselves dealing with strikingly similar issues: closed businesses, banned gatherings, lost wages, food shortages, and more.
“We are humbled,” the KidsAlive Lebanon staff added, “that God would allow us to serve Him to reach the least of these. Please, continue to lift up this ministry in your prayers, asking for His great love to wash over every child and their families who we are connected to in this time.”
Meanwhile, a partner church in Lusaka, Zambia, was poised to respond in like manner. In March 2020 the nation of Zambia recorded its first positive case of COVID-19. By the last week of March, the government had declared a country-wide lockdown.
“Zambia has a high rate of unemployment,” noted Dr. Mulenga Chella, pastor of Christ Life Church in Lusaka. “Many of its people live on less than $3.00 per family per day. The lockdown has resulted in many people going without food.” Chella, who visited First Baptist Amarillo last December to share his own testimony and the story of planting Christ Life Church, led his church members to seek out the best way to respond in their community.
“From a recent visit to the Chainda slum,” he described, “we found that most people had no means of protection against COVID-19. Many homes are congested with an average of six people in a two-room structure. One of the houses had a total of twenty-two extended family members, and they had no face masks, disinfectant, or food.”
Christ Life Church has seen healthy growth in its first several years of ministry, adding to its building, creating a school, and funding scholarships for local children. Through the effort of their congregation and the support of sponsor churches like First Baptist Amarillo, they were able to provide immediate relief in the crisis.
“After seeing the huge need,” Pastor Chella explained, “we, as a local church, with the help of some sponsors, were able to bless 40 families with a bucket filled with cornmeal, a bottle of cooking oil, beans, disinfectants, face masks, and washing soap. We were able to provide meals for 234 people for four days.”
Churches around the world, particularly those in regions where the majority of people rely on meager, daily wages to provide food for families, have all witnessed these same needs.
Good News Preaching Church, for example, was once a strong, vibrant presence in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When war and unrest forced thousands to flee, the congregation fled in many directions. One of those was Amarillo, TX.
Today, you will find many of its members in a weekly worship service that takes place in First Baptist’s Chapel, spoken in the central African dialect, Kinyamulenge. Many more of the congregation’s people, however, have settled in Nairobi, Kenya, where a sister church by the same name continues to bring together the large displaced community.
When the pandemic created widespread food insecurity due to work stoppages, the Nairobi church looked to its sister congregation in Amarillo for help. Together, the churches were able to purchase food and begin slow distribution to families, following government orders against gatherings. In all, around 170 families were gifted large portions of rice, beans, oil, and other cooking necessities to help span the gap in wages.
From Lebanon to Lusaka to Nairobi, faithful missions partnerships have empowered local churches to respond with local solutions to local problems. “We are so grateful to God,” added Pastor Chella, “for His love to us and in using us to transform lives.”