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What's your role in the global church?

Reflections from Tearfund’s 2024 Impact Conference 
– By Abby Bennett

“When you travel, you find yourself alone in a different way, more attentive now to the self you bring along. Your more subtle eye watching, you abroad; and how what meets you, touches that part of the heart, that lies low at home.” - John Donohue

At the end of January, a team of us set off to participate in a partner-led Impact Conference in Kenya. We learned from each other, worshiped and ate together, and visited communities where lives were transformed thanks to the local church. It caused me to wonder what my role is in the global church.

On the first Sunday, I attended a local church with a few other people, and after the service, we had lunch with some key church leaders. One of the savings group trainers, Rosemary, was with us. As people shared their stories, their faces lit up with excitement to tell what they had learned from her. One lady shared how she had expanded her farm and even purchased a water tank (a significant deal for a region that suffers from regular droughts) thanks to what she had learned from the savings group. The community was proud to claim Rosemary as one of their own because she had invested in and cared for them so well. 

Rosemary (in blue) with one of the ladies she trained in VSL.

Then, on Wednesday, we had the opportunity to visit a pastor whose church had begun Church Based Community Transformation (CCT) training just over a year before. He talked about how the shift in mindset to embracing the integral mission of the church and restoring the relationships between God, people, self, and environment had changed his church. He also talked proudly about the trees the church had planted, the elderly widow they came alongside to build a latrine to give dignity to, and the conservation agriculture training they had participated in which was helping families have more to eat. 

After our conversation, he took us for a walk to meet some church members and drop off some food supplies for others. At one house, no adults were around; there were just three little boys sitting on the ground and a dirty water jug. My friend Simon, the CCT trainer, went and asked them their names and ages. The oldest was 5, and his name was Ian; he then introduced his 3-year-old brother as Prince and the 1-year-old as Jaiden. The pastor told us how the mother was in school and had to leave the boys alone during the day. Knowing this, the church tried to check in regularly and give them some supplies to help out. To an outsider, the situation looked grim, however, looking more closely, the church knew the situation and was there walking alongside the family, and because of that, there was hope.

Simon talking with Ian and his two brothers.

Overall, my trip to Kenya forced me to become more attentive to the self I bring along to what my role is in the global church. I am not a missionary or an international program manager. I am, however, a member of a greater body of believers. My role looks different than Rosemary or Simon, and yours probably does too, but that doesn’t make it any less important. So, what is the self that I bring along? Moreover, what is the identity that we, as the Western church, embrace if it’s not “on the ground” in Kenya? 

Together, we bring the ability to support the raising of local church leaders with the desire, knowledge, and skills to help their communities reach their God-given potential. We bring a vast network of people to cover the global church in prayer. We bring humility to listen and softness of spirit to allow our hearts to be touched by people living in challenging circumstances yet still have incredible faith. 

Finally, just like these stories of how the church is moving in Kenya encourage us, you also encourage the church in Kenya through your ongoing support and prayer. From all of our local partners to you, we thank you for your generosity and your belief in the church being the catalyst for change around the world. 

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