“… your Kingdom come, your will be done, in the life of this team, and in the poor communities of this city, as it is in heaven…”
What does it mean for the Kingdom of God to come among Southeast Asia’s urban poor?
What do redemption, transformation and fullness of life mean when you sleep a few feet from an inner city railway line, sharing your shelter with rats
and mosquitos and the smoke of burning rubbish?
How does the good news enter a culture that is closed to – or opposed to – direct proclamation of the gospel? And how does it spread among families living on narrow alleyways, sleeping five or more to a single room with no running water or natural light?
These questions have driven the work of our small team of cross cultural workers and local partners for the last five years as we’ve sought to be salt and light in one of Southeast Asia’s most densely populated communities. Part of our vision for our one-room community centre is that, despite its small size, it will be a ‘spacious place’ in this crowded neighbourhood. A place where people can come for a brief refuge, and explore how they could see change in their lives and their community. It’s a vision drawn from Psalm 18:19: “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”
“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”
A spacious place
We run a range of activities designed to bless the community, praying that they might know this transforming, delighted love. There are educational activities for kids like a maths club, reading lessons for kids who are not in school (and also for one fifty-year-old lady who wants to learn to read!), and groups developing creative skills like dance, arts and craft. We’ve run a wide range of courses too. Topics include parenting and family nutrition for mothers, a football and leadership group for youth, and a microsavings scheme where members set and achieve financial goals by saving and learning to manage their own money. A local medical doctor has volunteered alongside us, serving those with chronic illnesses and providing community health advice. The people we serve know that we are followers of Jesus, and we
have opportunities to pray for the sick in his name, and sometimes to share more directly on the rare occasions when people ask us why
we do what we do.
We understand our work holistically, with practical service and disciple-making flowing naturally together out of the great commandment to love God and neighbour. Until we see both practical and spiritual transformation happening in this place, led by an indigenous church, our work is not done. It is slow, hard work. We haven’t yet seen the transformation that we long and pray for, but we do see glimpses that thrill us when they come.
The beginnings of transformation
A young mother describes the change in her relationship with her husband as she applied what she’d learnt in the parenting course. Two girls from the railway are now back in school, proud as anything to be told by their teacher that they are “the cleverest readers in their class.” Young men learn about respect and the power of forgiveness from their football coach. A rubbish collector is able to pay for emergency medical treatment to save his finger after cutting it on a shard of glass. A group of men hear about God’s love revealed in Jesus and his defeat of the power of darkness, and one of them says he couldn’t sleep for thinking about it. A dying neighbour asks for more prayer in Jesus’ name when I visit, and we pray together for God’s revelation, healing and peace in front of his whole family.
Will you join us in this prayer? For God’s revelation, healing and peace – for his kingdom to come – in this community, and for the whole city and region?
It’s a prayer we continue to offer for the communities we left behind in the UK when God called us to serve here, and the same work that God started in us when we learned to serve others in our churches at home. As we found at home, it hasn’t been an easy journey – if it was easy to help poor communities there wouldn’t be any left to help! Sometimes serving God and serving our neighbours in this way seems to demand all of our souls, all of our minds, all of our strength and all of our hearts. Which of course makes perfect sense.