Growing up at our home in Limuru, Kenya, my mother loved working with widows and orphans. Early every morning, women from a nearby village walked to our rented property. My parents, who rented a six-acre farm, believed God could continually supply the funds to hire a dozen women. My mother asked widows to care for the crops from 8:00 until noon. Then, she paid each one a full day’s wage. The women cared for their children the rest of the day. Harvest season arrived with corn, carrots, beans, lettuce, vegetables, and fruit divided among the women who had been gardening. Mother believed funds would come for 12 women, but she and my dad were never guaranteed the money would automatically arrive. They belonged to Africa Inland Mission, a “faith mission.” During the years we lived there, God honored their faith. The women were paid in cash and on time. For widows and orphans, sustainability mattered. They needed food on the table and clothes for little ones.
The concept of sustainability in Christian ministry is both simple and complex. Consider a pastor in a local church. He trusts the finances will be maintained through a faithful membership. However, the youth department may go up and down in numbers, and there may not be a willing couple to take on the youth in the coming year. For youth and families, sustainability matters.
In this issue of our LAM Newsletter, we explore several aspects of sustainability in mission work. Our daily lives in ministry deal with theological tensions and apparent contradictions. On the one hand, Jesus Christ tells us to ask, knowing we will receive what we’ve asked for. So, we say, “God will provide all our needs.” But being responsible stewards of God’s work also involves planning. So, we also say, “We develop skills, anticipating future needs.”
All my life, I’ve been interested in church growth. The tiny African church building where I was saved accommodated about 200 people, but another hundred or so crowded when services began! Years later, I returned to Kabartonjo, finding an enormous church building. It seats ten times as many people as the first chapel. Further, another 100 churches had been organized as new congregations, with many trained as new pastors. Leaders believed in God for financial needs and made well-thought-out plans.
In Costa Rica, near San José, a school program attends to more than 900 children. Many of them live on the Roblealto property. A large portion of the income needed for the Roblealto Children’s Program comes from dairy and poultry farms. Long ago, the Latin America Mission realized sustainability matters. Because of careful planning, more children are cared for.
John and Tracy Pieters speak about church planting in Mexico City in this Newsletter. Jorge and Gail Atiencia show how Biblical preaching is sustained through a growing program in Colombia. Juan Porras, who oversees the continuing development of Roblealto Children’s ministry, shares a lovely three-minute video. Joao Quadra and Dione Santos Lima each write about ministry among Brazil’s indigenous groups. Finally, Rosa Camargo shows us sustainability in women’s ministry is strategic in Barranquilla, Colombia. All because sustainability matters.
By David Phillips