“If (the vision) seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” Habakkuk 2:3 (NLT)
I had no idea when I left for Nairobi in late January of this year that just five months on I would be writing about a pilot economic empowerment training that’s become a church plant. It’s happened with a group of Swahili speaking people at Mavuno Church’s Hill City Campus. When I arrived, my prayer was that God would give me a launching pad within Mavuno, to begin a biblically based pilot economic empowerment training. God answered my prayer and the first training began in mid-February and ran for fourteen weeks. The following week the first Swahili service began.
The key leaders and core members of the Swahili campus are the very same people from the pilot economic empowerment training. This excites me more than I can say as it has long been my vision to see biblically based economic empowerment groups become redemptive communities of faith in every sense of the word - spiritually, economically, emotionally - holistically.
In his book ‘Courageous Leadership’, Bill Hybels writes that a compelling vision can result from seeing a ministry or situation which “ignites an internal response that simply can’t be ignored” (p33). And so it was for me almost nine years ago. I had visited a group of women, many of whom were
HIV positive, in a Bright Hope World partnership in Mbale, Uganda. This group had come together to not only make savings and loan payments but to pray and worship together and to care for one another. I was profoundly affected by the sincerity and simplicity of this group.
This example of authentic, practical and caring Christian community never left me. In the intervening years, I had opportunity to pilot biblically based economic empowerment training materials with mostly women and youth in various settings in Nairobi and beyond. (For instance, last year I spent time developing the curriculum while training a group of women in a Kampala slum.) The curriculum invites participants to approach economic empowerment in the context of ‘their world’ but from a biblical world-view. It assumes that a biblical world view is a viable world view which is an essential part of deep and lasting transformation.
Towards the end of last year, I was invited to join the staff team at Mavuno Church to pilot an economic empowerment training there. This was with a view to introduce it out across the wider church network. This invitation came about through the partnership that my commending church, Riccarton Community Church, has had for some years. It has partnered with Mavuno Church in a church plant in Burundi.
The team is excited and amazed at what God is already doing in and through the Swahili campus at Mavuno Hill City. On the first Sunday, 76 people worshipped together and since then numbers have been around 100. But more than numbers, our hope and prayer is that those who come will encounter God, maybe for the first time, or in a fresh new way. We are passionate about seeing these Swahili people mentored and discipled in their faith and to become ‘Fearless Influencers of Society’.
The Swahili group is drawn from the Athi River locality and from nearby Mlolongo, Kitengela and Machakos. The environment around Athi River is harsh and dry, that’s physically, spiritually and economically, and the area is known for witchcraft, killings and prostitution. Stories of witchcraft and demonic activity feature in the testimonies and backgrounds of many of the group.
“So what now?” you might ask? Two things stand out, mentoring and leadership development. The initial economic empowerment pilot training is just the beginning! The most challenging and yet the most potentially rewarding part of that journey starts now, mentoring and discipling those who have completed the training as they plan for and setup small business activities. Others in the group would love to have regular employment which would enable them to provide for their families and to send their children to school.
One of the main priorities for the Swahili Campus is to identify, train and develop key leaders and ministry associates. And we plan to walk alongside them to see them become more financially stable. These people will take responsibility for the various activities of this new church plant.
We can’t accomplish this task alone or in our own strength. We need God’s help, that much we know. God is already at work and we are privileged to witness first-hand what He is doing in the lives of these Swahili people. While the opportunities are great, the journey of these last few months has been challenging. I’m reminded of the words of Paul, “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.” (1 Cor 16:9 NLT) It is the same for us. It’s vital we remember that, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12, NIV) Despite the obstacles, we are encouraged by answered prayer and the interest shown with developments with the Swahili campus and by the commitment of the recently graduated economic empowerment group.
Please pray for our ability to impact the Swahili speaking community that surrounds the Mavuno Hill City Campus. We can invest strategically in the Kingdom of God and to see people’s lives transformed through a life-giving relationship with God.
Day 10 - GC3 Daily Prayer Guide