Recently, a call was taken in the office of Baptist World Aid from a supporter asking how our role in overseas development acts as a witness to Christ.
How does the work of Christian aid agencies form part of Jesus’ great commission to ‘Go into the world and preach the Gospel’ (Mark 16:15). What form should this ‘going’ take? What would Jesus do if He were in our shoes?
I was pondering these questions when a representative from one of our partner organisations, International Nepal Fellowship, came into the office. Mukunda Adhikari has been on a speaking tour of Australia and was due to soon fly home. His home country has seen an unprecedented rise in Christianity in the last few decades so I decided to ask him what it is that has made such a difference to the people of Nepal.
“In Nepal, Christianity is seen as a ‘western religion’,” Mukunda told me. “People are very suspicious for that reason. They think Christians are out only to convert them or to get their money. Just preaching the gospel message at people in Nepal is like being a ‘clanging gong’. At INF we work hard to show people we love them for the reason that they are valuable in the eyes of God. We work hard to care for people in practical ways with no strings attached because Jesus compels us to do good works.
“People know we are all Christian at INF and they watched us over the five years we have worked in their sometimes very remote communities. They watch how we care for their physical needs and how we speak out on their behalf about injustice. They see that we care for their family members who may have leprosy, HIV/AIDs, TB, or be disabled in some way. They see that we care for them when no one else does and that we refer them to specialised hospitals where they receive treatment. They watch us meet outside of work to pray together and attend house church. If they come to our offices they may see our personal reading material such as Bibles or Christian books and they ask us, what is this all about? Why do you do what you do? Why do you love us in this way when no one else wants to know about our problems?
“We call this approach the ‘Jesus Model’. Out of the 28 separate instances in the gospels where Jesus personally carried out ministry activities – or instructed his disciples to do so – there are only two times where he talks about preaching without acts of service. There are far more times where Jesus works tirelessly healing and caring for people without preaching a word (12 times) and in most cases He proclaims the good news while at the same time doing good deeds.
“In Matthew 5:16 we are instructed to ‘Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’. At INF, we build friendships and we help to rebuild lives. We are the Gospel in action – and the people are always watching. And then soon they start asking, why? And who is this Jesus? And then, when they ask, we become 1 Peter 3:15-16 in action. ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.’
“We always trust that God is using our good deeds for His purpose,” Mukunda concludes. “And now we see more people in Nepal than ever before wanting to know this Jesus who loves them with real action and not just words.”