by Jim O’Donnell, Board Member

Think about it for a minute.  What comes to mind?  What do you brag on? The children’s ministry or the great preaching? And, dare I say it, what do you complain about?

This past week, while traveling in Kenya, I saw church description from a different viewpoint.  In my opinion, it’s one to pay attention to.

“My name is pastor So-And-So.  I lead This Church.  And we are right now helping our people get the food they need for their families, and find access to anti-retrovirals to keep them healthy since they are HIV+.”

For pastors in Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums in Nairobi, their church should be known for how they meet a very dire need in their community.  To them, it seemed most important to share how they are being the hands and feet of Jesus to the people around them. 

 Is that how you would describe your church?  I’m not asking if your church does that kind of work, because likely you are doing something to help people who really need it.  The question is whether or not that is the first work that comes to mind when telling someone about where you worship. 

I met with these pastors in the midst of their Common Ground Academy class one afternoon.  I was impressed by their commitment to education, even though they were already preaching, even though they had a lot of work to do, even though the coursework they are going through will take them two years to complete. 

These pastors share with us the belief that the local church has a vital role in the health of its community, and that being most effective in that work takes continually learning about Christ and his ministry.  They are acting because they believe it’s the right thing to do.  What a privilege to work with them.

I’ve been to Africa several times.  Each time, I leave a little different.  This trip proved to be no different, and I am grateful for the time I spent with these pastors hearing about ways they are literally sharing the love of the Gospel in word and deed.

Jim ODonnell is a member of the African Leadership board, and leads the finance committee.  He is a retired CFO, and resides in Franklin, Tenn.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of African Leadership.