The water in the Ngezi River at Rupemba, Zimbabwe, was never good. Crocodiles made fetching water from it a dangerous chore, and many animals drank and muddied the water there. It got worse when people came seeking gold. The chemicals they used made the water toxic. So everyone was happy when Showers of Blessing Trust came along and sank several boreholes and clean, fresh water sprang up in abundance. Life changed considerably. The risk of water-borne disease was almost gone. The future of the school was secure. It was worth planting market gardens and building better houses.
The people of Rupemba noticed something else. The team who brought the borehole had something – something that contrasted with the careless values of the gold miners that their children were exposed to. They knew Showers of Blessing was a church group so they figured a church was what they needed. The Associated Churches of Christ in Zimbabwe responded quickly with an evangelist who came to talk about a relationship with Jesus, and soon a church was established.
It doesn’t always happen like this, but this story is a reminder that challenging poverty is not just about improving people’s health or wealth. Poor people are just like us, broken in many dimensions: broken in our relationship with God, with others, with ourselves and with creation. Recognising that we are all broken brings humility to our work amongst the poor. It is not us and God fixing them, but God fixing all of us.
At Nanga, there is still no borehole. The Showers of Blessing team came but the community was in such conflict there was no point in giving them something else to fight over. The borehole would have improved their relationship with creation – they would have received the water that they needed – but the brokenness of their relationships with one another got in the way.
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19).
God is reconciling all things to himself through Jesus. God was concerned that people at Rupemba didn’t have clean water, and concerned that they were not close to him.
Sometimes development sees the former and not the latter. Encouragingly, there is increasing recognition of spirituality as a key component in development. The Australian government’s focus on working through the church networks in PNG and Vanuatu is just one example of this.
Sometimes evangelism sees only the latter and not the former. But Colossians reminds us that God is reconciling everything – not just souls – but everything. Encouragingly, the Lausanne Covenant and the Micah Declaration at the end of the 20th Century brought this perspective back into the mainstream of Christian thinking.
For GMP it makes perfect sense that people need reconciliation in all of their relationships. That’s why we work through Christian partners. That’s why we have a development program – Churches of Christ Overseas Aid (COCOA) and an evangelism program – International Church Partnerships (ICP) – which work together, and why our Indigenous Ministries Australia (IMA) program has both church and community aspects.
Along with our partners, the poor communities that they work amongst, and the whole of creation (Rom 8:21) we look forward to the reconciliation of all things – not being beamed up to a choir seat in heaven – but seeing relationships put right in every direction.