When you think of God’s kingdom, what do you picture?
In Luke 10, Jesus sends out disciples and tells them to share that “the kingdom of God has come near.” In the Christian Reformed Church, we see glimpses of God’s kingdom come near all the time—but we also recognize that we live in both the “already” and the “not yet.”
This plays out in many ways. Someone comes to know Christ, but their family and friends are not interested in joining them to learn more. One family gains access to clean water, food, and economic opportunities, but their neighbors still struggle to afford food daily. For every answered prayer, there’s still a “not yet” story. There’s something we’re still hoping for and working toward. Here are two of those stories.
Stepping Away from Witchcraft
Mr. Kham is the spiritual leader and healer of a tribe in Cambodia that believes in the power of witchcraft. He holds a lot of respect in his community—and he also recently decided to follow Christ.
But he’s not yet ready to share his new faith with others.
“(Kham) has been holding the power of witchcraft for his people in the whole village and surrounding areas. He prayed for rain, (and) rain came,” explained Resonate Global Mission missionary Navy Chann-Chhay.
Chann-Chhay and her husband, Ly Chhay, facilitate Timothy Leadership Training in villages throughout Cambodia where witchcraft holds a powerful grasp on people’s spirituality. TLT is a curriculum of Raise Up Global Ministries that Resonate missionaries like Chann-Chhay and Chhay use to equip local pastors and other Christian leaders for effective gospel witness.
Pastor Sopheap is one local leader who has been participating in TLT. After the training on caring for God’s people, Sopheap felt convicted to share the gospel. He made a plan to visit several villages, but he also felt burdened to talk with someone he interacted with almost daily: Kham.
Kham and Sopheap had worked together for quite some time, and Kham always respected Sopheap. When Sopheap shared the gospel with him, Kham was intrigued by Jesus. The two men met regularly for years to read and discuss the Bible, pray together, and build a friendship.
“Slowly (Kham) saw the life and testimony of Pastor Sopheap’s family and how (Sopheap) serves others without conditions and shows love and sympathy for those who are poor,” Chann-Chhay said.
One day, Kham decided he wanted to follow Christ. But that was just the start of the story.
As the spiritual leader of his tribe, Kham holds a respected position. His decision to follow Christ will affect his entire community. He still has a lot of questions about Christianity that do not have simple answers. He’s not yet ready to share about his Christian faith with his family and tribe.
“He wants to take time to understand the Lord Jesus more,” Chann-Chhay said. “He does not want to disturb his family and the village until he is sure.”
Discipleship is a lifelong process, and that’s why it’s an important part of Resonate’s ministry. Pastor Sopheap continues to meet with Kham and disciple him, and Chann-Chhay and Chhay continue to support, equip, and mentor Sopheap as he works with Kham.
“We pray that God will change Mr. Kham’s heart and he can share the gospel to his family and his whole village,” Chann-Chhay said. “If Mr. Kham leads, (it’s likely that many of the) villagers will follow. That is exciting!”
Finding Income Security
Sometimes in our faith, God works in incredible ways through unexpected avenues. Perhaps provision comes out of left field in the exact amount necessary. Maybe God uses a passage of Scripture to do a new, groundbreaking thing in you, or the testimony of a friend encourages you to serve in a new ministry. Similar blessings are emerging from World Renew’s Village Savings and Loan Associations.
VSLAs have brought people from despair to hope, not only through income stability, but through healing in marriages, spiritual lives, and vocation. Brenda, a member of a Village Savings and Loan group in Zambia, tells her story with gratitude. She shares that women in her area buy “charms,” a part of witchcraft believed to protect the women from spirits and curses and inspire their husbands’ love and loyalty in marriage. “This is part of normal life these days for women who have not joined a VSLA,” Brenda said. “Nowadays, the only charm I give my husband is supporting him in providing for the family and sharing the gospel that we listen to in meetings.”
“The VSLA program has changed my life, and now I play my part in providing for my family with groceries and fees for my children using the money from VSLA,” Brenda continued. “Like most women in VSLAs, my involvement in productive activities to put food on the table has revised my husband and my relationship. He loves me even more than he did when I was just a common housewife.”
Furthermore, Brenda said the VSLA program has enabled her to have strong business and saving skills. She participates in local markets to sell her produce, and her profits have tripled since starting. These amazing accomplishments have come through VSLA participation, borrowing to invest in her business, and saving to pay back the loans.
“Each time my group meets,” Brenda said, “we always start with prayer, Bible reading and sharing. My fellow members' spiritual lives have improved greatly. Even those who did not attend church are now in fellowship with church activities and live together in harmony, as brothers and sisters in Christ.” Brenda has come to recognize the importance of giving to the Lord and has been able to increase her giving to the church from her earnings. There is no doubt that VSLA programming improves the lives of people not only economically and socially, but spiritually as well.
Brenda thanks the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian and World Renew for the positive impact VSLA programs have had on her life. While poverty still exists, God’s kingdom is coming in as we continue to implement VSLA programming in the countries where we work. Praise God that through contributing to their families, women are walking away from putting their hope and identity in magic and instead trusting in what Christ has already done for us on the cross.