In a small village in central Malawi lives a woman named Agnes. She has round cheeks and a wide, joyful smile. She lights up my heart and I call her my friend. I got the chance to meet Agnes last year when a team from Summit visited her district and helped her and many others write their life stories. These "Memory Books" contained details about their families, their joys, and their fears. The books also contained instructions regarding how each person wanted their kids to be cared for and their possessions to be distributed in the case of their death. It was important for every person to document this information because each member of this support group was HIV-positive, including Agnes and her husband.
One week ago, I, along with a team from Summit, got to spend a couple hours with this same group where we heard testimonials about their Memory Books and praises to God for their continued health.
When we pulled up at the village church, the group welcomed us with singing and dancing. I looked hurriedly for Agnes in the crowd and couldn’t find her. When I finally saw her bright smile in the crowd, joy immediately filled my heart. In her, I see a hero that stands tall with dignity in spite of her situation. I see someone with gifts and talents bestowed upon her by God. And, fortunately, so does World Relief.
Malawi is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. But while they are materially poor, they have a vibrant and growing faith community. The mission of World Relief is to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable people. Believing that the church is the avenue through which God’s goodness and righteousness is revealed, World Relief equips pastors and ministry team members to provide long-term care for the needs in their community.
By introducing programs and training that focus on agribusiness, savings and loan, and HIV/AIDS education and which blend Scripture (Word) with acts of service (deed), World Relief works to equip churches to cultivate communities that are on mission.
The goal is for each church to be equipped and serving independently of World Relief in about five years from the start of each partnership. Local churches also work together to support and learn from one another and to continue to cultivate leaders and healthy communities.
In Isaiah 1:17, the Lord instructs us to “learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” God desires for us to be concerned about the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society, and make personal sacrifices in order to serve their needs.
I am blessed to have met Agnes. It brings me joy to know she is living a healthy life with HIV, learning new skills to make money for her family, and that she knows she is loved and cherished by God. I am grateful for the work World Relief is doing in Malawi to help men and women move from pain and despair to being known and cared for by others.
If you are inspired by the story of Agnes and long to see a world filled with the beauty of men and women doing justice, I encourage you to join me at The JUSTICE Conference presented by World Relief.
The Justice Conference Live Simulcast
Saturday, June 6th from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Summit’s Waterford campus: 11602 Lake Underhill Rd, #110, Orlando, Florida 32825
$10 / $16 including lunch
Click here for more details and to register online or you can register at the event.
Lauren Gaines is Assistant to Lead Pastor John Parker.