It’s that time of year again, Christmas is coming. When we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we’re celebrating God reaching out to us. God’s solution to the troubles and trials of the world was not to stay away but to get involved. As the carol Once in Royal David’s City puts it:
He came down to earth from heaven,Who is God and Lord of all,And His shelter was a stable,And His cradle was a stall;With the poor and meek and lowly,Lived on earth our Savior holy.
Philippians 2 goes further, talking about how Jesus humbled himself and took the form of a servant, coming to die for us. As christians, we’re called to follow Jesus’ example of sacrificial love for the world. We all have examples we can point to, but for this update, I want to share one that I saw on a Tearfund trip to Uganda earlier this year.
Whilst there, we visited a church in a town called Katuna. It’s small and remote, situated on a border crossing to Rwanda. The church itself is very unassuming - a small wooden building hidden from the main road behind a row of shops. We arrived to the sound of singing, church members worshipping God before our arrival.
After meeting Katuna’s leader - Pastor Johnson, we went inside to hear how the Church and Community Mobilisation Process (CCMP) has transformed church life. And how they have changed their community too.
It started 13 years ago with a series of bible studies. At the time Katuna was a small church with few resources and little influence in the community. Still, they began thinking about how they could be salt and light to Katuna town.
They realised they needed to read and study the bible together. They also began to think about the needs in their community. A big one stood out to them - HIV.
In Katuna, there were a lot of people living with HIV, and it came with a huge stigma. The church started by supporting those orphaned and widowed by it, but the discrimination was still there. So Pastor Johnson began teaching that people with HIV are just like everyone else. The church began to understand and started visiting people in the community living with HIV, showing them love. These people began coming to church, so much so that they became known locally as the Church of HIV.
When Pastor Johnson was telling us this story, that phrase stayed with me. Because, in Katuna, everyone knew who went to this church, so church members began to experience discrimination too. I found it a powerful example of loving sacrificially and the cost of following Christ. He said it was a difficult time and the church had to pray for endurance.
Today, the situation is completely different. The church that had few resources now runs 19 agriculture training groups, 13 Savings groups and provides HIV counselling. The church that was stigmatised by the community is now part of a team advocating on their behalf. The church that had little influence estimates it has now influenced over 8,000 people in the area. The church that was small, now plans where to plant churches. The church that condemned sinners now preaches grace.
Pastor Johnson described the change like this:
We started as readers of the Word, but [CCMP] made us doers of the Word.
Katuna town still faces challenges, but the church can see how far they have come. And they understand the part CCMP has played in that.
It is just one of the many churches PAG has seen transformed through their CCMP work. This Christmas we’d like to say thank you for all your support for PAG’s work. We hope you have been inspired by what God’s word can do in the church.
PRAY WITH US
- Thank God for the transformation that has taken place in Katuna. For the way individuals have joined together to ensure support for all; for the way they have chosen to love sacrificially to ensure no one is excluded - to ensure all are welcomed.
- Thank God for how he is using Katuna Church as a light in their community.
- Pray that this light grows within the communities all around Katuna.
- And pray for leaders like Pastor Johnson as they guide their churches and communities in CCMP. Pray they experience ongoing blessing from this work.