In the most impoverished and/or rural areas of developing countries, the local church (if there is one) is often relied upon by the surrounding community to fulfill many different roles.
Of course, the church building (or shaded tree, or secluded hut) is the main place of worship and teaching. But in some villages, the church is also the primary meeting place for general public gatherings. In others, the church is the first source of basic assistance when food or water is scarce. In rural India, the church often functions as the doctor's office by providing basic medical care and first aid for free to poor families who have no access to modern healthcare systems.
The most beautiful aspect of a local church's multifaceted role in its respective community is this: every act of service or provision is another opportunity to share the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Whether leading worship, preaching the Bible, providing food and water, teaching a new skill, or performing first aid checkups, the Church is God's chosen way of representing Himself to those who do not yet know Him. The Church is called the "Body of Christ" for many reasons, one of which is the fact that it is physically here as a body of people, each with certain talents and roles, all doing good works for others as the functioning hands and feet of Jesus until His return. This is of the reasons why IDES' model of ministry is to equip the local churches here to bless those who are suffering through local churches there.
Thanks to your support, we recently had the opportunity to assist a rural church community in India in rebuilding their meeting place following storm damage. As soon as the rebuilding process was completed earlier this year, the church members and leaders immediately continued reaching out to their neighbors with the hope of the Gospel.
It became apparent to them that many of the families in their village needed medical assistance, but could not travel the far distance to the nearest healthcare facilities in the city and could not afford treatment. In order to meet this vital need, the leaders of the church reached out to IDES in order to host medical clinics for the families, providing check-ups, basic treatments, and medications. The spiritual impact of this act of love was quickly realized.
"There are many problems in this village," our partner reported. "The leader of the village is from the same community and very much strong in his own religious practice, and always says 'no' to the Gospel. However, the medical clinics support his village very much, and his mind change process is taking place...slowly saying yes to [allow] evangelism."
The medical clinics opened a long-shut door for the Gospel to finally be received by this village leader. As the church continued to reach out with God's love, more people received the Gospel with open hearts. Several even accepted Christ and committed their lives to Jesus through baptism (see pictures below).
"This...should be a real encouragement to IDES [supporters], as you can see how Christian generosity is directly affecting people’s lives in making disciples for Jesus Christ," our partner said. "The people in the villages can see that Christian people care about them, enough to meet some of their physical needs, and this opens the doors of opportunity to reach them through the Gospel, which is the 'power of God unto salvation' (Romans 1:16)."
Praise God! These are human souls being saved, friends. These are new brothers and sisters in Christ that we will see at that heavenly feast someday! These stories of redemption are directly due to your willingness to faithfully support IDES and our mission partners around the world. We are thankful for you!