By David Cachi, church capacity builder in Bolivia
The Jihucuta Church used to be a small congregation in a remote Bolivian village. Most of its members were elderly and had reached a point of complacency in their Christian walk. They had little passion for the Lord and rarely organized evangelistic outreach activities for the benefit of the community.
In 2008, the Samaritan’s Purse ministry team started working closely with the church and its pastor, Florencio Tarqui. We arranged for Florencio to receive training from a local theological seminary and began building up the church to revive its evangelistic zeal.
After working with the congregation over a period of time, we started noticing some significant changes. The members began seeing the importance of engaging in holistic ministry. They used to be confined within the four walls of the church, but now they see the need to engage the community with the Gospel.
They felt that if they were to have a transforming effect on the community, it would have to be with not just words but with genuine acts of love and mercy. So they launched into a series of activities that would allow them to share the love of Christ in both word and in deed.
One of the activities they planned was to clear trash from the central plaza. Every Thursday, people come from the surrounding villages to buy goods at the local fair. The fair typically finishes at noon and leaves the plaza looking like a dump. People would throw plastic bags, wrappers, bottle tops, and all sorts of things all over the place, and no one would pick it up.
What most people would see as an annoyance the church saw as an opportunity. They began picking up the trash every Thursday and started showing the love of Christ in a practical way.
This simple act of service opened doors for church members to discuss spiritual matters with their unbelieving neighbors, some of whom started coming to church. The community started viewing the church in a different light. Instead of being seen as a lifeless gathering made up of religious fanatics, it now was regarded as a valuable contributor to the well-being of society.
Not only that, the municipal government was awakened to the great need for garbage collection and provided trash bins at each of the community plazas.
The experience taught everyone that with a little bit of genuine love, displayed in even the simplest of forms, the church could make a world of difference.