Sometime in 2017 Rev. Wandii Rukorio, a missionary pastor who was based in Northern Kenya preached in our church. He talked of the great work that God was doing in Northern Kenya extending to South Sudan. It was quite interesting to hear about the intrigues and unique challenges of evangelizing to the ‘unreached people groups’ in that area and how God was working everything out.
But one statement stood out for me and I have been pondering over it ever since.
He said that he had purposed in his life that he would not do those things that the world can do.
He went on to talk about how people in South Sudan, when they heard that there was a missionary in their midst, came to him in a delegation, to let him know that they did not have a hospital, a school and good roads.
‘What else don’t you have?’ Rev Rukorio asked them. They cited everything they needed. He went on to assure the delegation of elders not to worry and that within the shortest time possible, God will provide what they needed.
‘I assured them because I believe that God has all those things’ he said.
After walking back to his ‘home’ about 3 hours away, he found that UNICEF had come, and they wanted to start a school with a boarding facility and to provide all the items that were on the aforementioned list. They were also going to construct a road to access the community. The World Health organization (WHO) was also to replenish the existing health facility with medicine and other supplies.
‘Their needs were met but not by me, they were met by the King of the Kingdom’ reported Rev. Rukorio. ‘We are called to do what the world cannot do’ he added.
He went on to talk about how our church had given 42 tons of food the previous year which was distributed among the communities in Northern Kenya. Although it was a great gesture which gave the church a good name, it soon ran out.
Then the locals were back to where they were, hungry and uncertain of their food security.
Then guess what, an emergency food relief organization brought food that lasted an entire six months.
We have more
‘We have been given something that the world has not been given, the gospel has been entrusted to us, and so we should be witnesses’ said the Reverend.
For some time after that sermon I thought that the missionary was insensitive to the needs of the people he was ministering to. I felt that the physical and emotional needs of the people ought to be met even as they are preached to.
And there are enough scriptures to support that.
I believed that social good – meeting people’s physical and emotional needs – should be at the core of the Christian message, in any case that is what most western missionaries did when they came to Africa. They built schools, hospitals and many other social amenities.
But as much as meeting people’s physical and emotional needs is good and should be encouraged, I am convinced that Christianity is about more.
Like Rev. Rukorio I now believe that winning the soul of man is more important than him/her having a comfortable life here on earth.
Jesus’ response to Judas in John 12:8 is something that requires careful reflection.
‘The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me’.
That was in response to Judas’ request that the expensive perfume that Martha used to wipe Jesus feet be sold and the money given to the poor.
Judas was being dishonest but let’s focus on that juggernaut dropped by Jesus that the poor will always be with us.
Jesus did not lie, by today’s statistics, even the wealthiest countries in the world have poor people.
I take this to mean that Jesus is informing us of the reality, that poverty (and other social ills) will not be solved by us. It will not be solved by an individual, or the church, or moneyed philanthropies with their well-meaning programs. Yes, there is ‘much’ we can do in our circles, but it will never be enough to solve poverty entirely.
I must disclaim here that this is not to say that we should not help the poor, as the bible is very clear on the ‘true religion’ which is ministry to those in need. It is just that the fallen nature of man will not allow for total prosperity on this side of eternity.
But again, did Jesus always meet people’s physical needs? The answer is no.
In John 6.1-14 Jesus had fed the 5000. It is Jesus who asked Philip ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’ He wanted to feed the people and he multiplied the bread and fish miraculously to do that.
But then in John 6.26 Jesus boldly rebukes the crowd that followed him because he had fed them the previous day and not because of the signs they saw. He went on to urge them to seek the food that endures eternally, the bread of life which was him.
Here we see Jesus leading people to something more important than physical needs, which is eternal life in Him.
The parable of the Rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31 is another interesting text to consider. Lazarus, being poor in this world, obviously knew God and that is why he ended up in heaven upon death.
Should God have intervened in his situation while he was on earth? Why was Lazarus’ situation not changed here? Why did he have to live and die poor?
Well, it’s because there is something more important than living a good life on earth, and that is knowing God.
This means that we can find God in our poverty, in our weakness, in our distress, in our oppression.
We have a friend in Jesus, who is accessible even to those considered the lowliest of this earth. The poor are rich in him, the weak are strong in him.
The believer’s response
Christians need to call for societal equity or equality (whichever you subscribe to), but they must realize that there is something that transforms man’s heart better than good policies and programs.
Churches need to advocate for social good, but they must understand that the church exists for more than that. Finding God is more important than being treated right. Finding meaning and purpose is more important than being rich.
According to Rev. Rukorio, “doing good” is part of the church missions but such “good works” must always be accompanied with the proclaiming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“When the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the love of God, the repentance and forgiveness of sins and the receiving of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour – is presented with or without social activity, the church’s missions is complete” says the Reverend.
“Social needs should not define church missions but may be part of it. Holistic ministry should not be a tool to put pressure on the church to use all resources for social action.”
If you had a choice, would you prefer a rich life here then eternity in hell or a poor life here then eternity in heaven?
Those who know Christ would choose the latter, because they have an eternal perspective. They understand that 70, 80 or even 100 years on earth is nothing compared to eternity.
A Christian must have his eyes fixed on heaven, despite his or her circumstances here on earth. In any case Jesus promised that we shall face trouble in this world. He also that he will be with us through it.
What I learnt from Rev. Wandii Rukorio is that what Christ has deposited in a believer is infinitely important than what the world has to offer.
That a Christian can give more than the world’s best charities can, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the hope of life beyond the flesh.
Rev. Wandii M.G Rukorio is an Intercultural Church Planting Minister (Missionary) and Intercultural Ministry Education Teacher and Trainer. He has nineteen years of practical mission work experience in Turkana, Marsabit and South Sudan.
His passion lies in training competent cross-cultural workers from socio ethnic, organizational and generational ministry cultural domains to meet globalization challenges. He teaches in bible colleges, churches, universities and Christian organizations preparing students and mission field workers for Intercultural ministry both locally and abroad.
You can reach him on phone; +254722477436 and email; email@example.com.