In 2005, Tai Ping village was a typical poor rural community. Almost everyone struggled to have enough to eat. Their houses had dirt floors, mud walls, and palm leaves for roofs. They survived as rice farmers, though for three to six months there wasn’t sufficient rice so they would scavenge roots and bark to eat. There were no roads to their rice fields, which were up to five kilometers away from their homes. Each family only harvested the amount of rice they could carry on their backs over rugged hiking trails—not enough to feed their families, let alone to sell. Some kept a few animals, which walked freely around the community and even into homes. There were no latrines. People rarely washed their hands or bodies. Few children went to school, as it was a long walk. Family relationships were broken—wife beating and child beating were so common that even church leaders accepted it as the norm. The people were sick, hungry, and illiterate.
Most importantly, the people suffered from spiritual poverty. Although they had a saving faith in Christ, they had no knowledge of their Creator’s and Savior’s plan for their lives. Most people attended church only nominally. The fatalism of their culture ruled their thinking and behavior—sickness is normal, poverty is inevitable, the gods are vindictive and unpredictable. Despite being aware of many needs in their community, they never helped anyone beyond their family and friends. “After all,” they thought, “what do we, who are so poor, have to give? What is the point in trying to help?” They had no hope of a different future for themselves or their children.
Their perspective, however, changed when a trainer from the Truth Centered Transformation (TCT) program came to the village and invited a few church leaders to attend a training. At the training, they learned that Jesus died not only so they could go to heaven, but also to restore all things (Colossians 1:19-20). They learned that God’s plan is for them to grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. They also learned that God had given them resources and abilities that He wanted them to use to show His love to others. Those who attended the training returned home and began to teach others in the church what they had learned.
Each person that attended the training began to go out individually and help those in need throughout the community, typically bringing food or simple gifts. One youth shared, “God reminded me of an old man that lived in my community. He was very poor, lived alone, and had no family to look after him. So I decided to start visiting him and bringing him rice. We developed a relationship and later he, too, became a Christian.”
About six months later, the TCT trainer returned and invited the church members to be part of a longer-term training program. They agreed, and 15 people from the church formed a Wholistic Ministry Committee, who received training and then taught and modeled what they learned to others. After a three-day introductory training, the Wholistic Ministry Committee began to
meet weekly to discuss how to serve their community. Teams from the church ploughed and harvested fields for the sick. They built houses for widows and orphans. For each project, the church members pooled their own resources and trusted God to provide the rest.
In one project, the Wholistic Ministry Committee decided to help a family of five orphans (ages 3-19) who lived by themselves. The church brought them clothing, built them a new house, and set up a system to regularly provide rice. People in the community were surprised when they saw the church helping the children and many asked why. Church members shared, “In the Bible, Jesus teaches us to care for and love our neighbors. God loved us and we need to show that love to others.”
As the church reached out with Acts of Love, people in the community became more receptive to the Gospel. One person who received help from the church said, “I have been a soldier. I have lived in many areas. But I have never seen anyone with a good heart. Only Christians have good hearts and show their love.”
After a few months, the TCT trainer returned and provided another training. As part of this training, the Wholistic Ministry Committee had to draw a map of their community as they dreamed it would be in 10-20 years. This was the first time the church members hoped for a different future or attempted to make a plan for change. In their “Dream Map,” they drew a school, brick and cement houses, roads to their fields, and farm machinery.
The committee began praying that God would show them what steps they could take to make their “Dream Map” a reality. As they prayed, they felt they should build roads to their farming areas. They realized they needed to be willing to work hard, with faith that God would bless their efforts.
The Wholistic Ministry Committee gathered everyone that was willing to help and started to widen one of the trails that led to the fields. Because the church already had a good reputation for helping in the community, more than a hundred people were willing to volunteer. Even so, the project took a few weeks to complete, using hand tools to cut back the jungle and level the ground. When it was finished, they had widened the walking trail to a road that was nearly five feet wide and more than two kilometers long. Over the next year, they completed five more roads!
After they built the first road, farmers bought simple carts that could be pulled by hand and started to transport their crops more efficiently. One day as the Wholistic Ministry Committee was meeting, someone shared they had seen others in another community pulling a cart with a motorbike. The committee prayed for wisdom and felt that God gave them ideas for how to build carts that would attach to motorbikes. Since a few people had already started earning more from their crops because of the widened roads, they were able to buy motorbikes and build new carts.
Pulling their crops in motorized carts had a dramatic impact on the income of those in the community. They were able to grow enough not only to feed their families, but also to sell. With their motorbikes, they were able to transport their rice to the main roads, where it sold at a higher price. These families saw their income increase 5 to 10 times.
The people in the church continued to complete many projects, such as building wells and brick houses. They saw each project as an act of worship and service to God. However, the church members longed to do larger projects that would meet their community’s needs and glorify God even more. They frequently gathered in prayer to ask God what they should accomplish next. In 2008, they decided to build a bridge. It was a large and expensive project, and they weren’t really sure how they would do it.
By this time, some of the local government leaders had become Christians. Through these leaders, and because of the good reputation of the church for helping the community, the government promised to provide steel for the project. Many church members gave money or volunteered to help. Finally, the Wholistic Ministry Committee felt it was the right time to start, even though they didn’t have all the necessary materials. While they worked, people in the community saw what was happening and brought money or supplies. Every day there was just enough for them to keep going until, finally, the bridge was complete.
Then, in September 2009, a typhoon swept through the community. Crops and homes were destroyed and the bridge was washed away. Despite their personal loss, the church members gathered together to rebuild a temporary bridge. But just two months later, another typhoon hit and washed the bridge away. For a third time, the church came together to rebuild. Someone donated land so the bridge could be built in a safer area, and everyone donated money and materials as they were able. The government was so impressed that they invited the local TV station to film a news story on the church who kept loving their community. The news item was shown all over the country.
The Wholistic Ministry Committee then set their sights on a school. The few children who attended school had been meeting in a rundown house to study, but the house had become too dangerous to meet in. The church members met to pray about their role in helping, but felt God said, “Wait.” Soon after, the government announced it would build a school for the community as a reward for all their hard work. The government built the school in the exact location where the Wholistic Ministry Committee had drawn a school on their “Dream Map.” To the Christians, this was a real sign that the school was a gift from God. Now, all their children attend school through high school, and for the first time ever, a number of children are attending university—an achievement that no one in the community could ever have imagined just five years ago.
Throughout this time, the TCT trainer continued providing trainings two to three times per year. One of the training topics was health. The church learned that their bodies were given to them by God and should be taken care of appropriately. They learned it was not God’s plan for His people to be continually sick. The training included 20 lessons on hygiene and treating common illnesses. Following the training, the Wholistic Ministry Committee incorporated these lessons into the church’s small groups (such as women’s group, youth group, middle-aged group).
The community’s health began to transform. As the church members applied the health lessons to their lives, their neighbors saw the benefits and began to do the same. Soon, everyone in the community had and used a latrine, washed their hands before eating and cooking, penned their animals, washed their dishes, and kept their homes clean. Every household began gardening and eating vegetables. To this day, the church maintains three gardens, which they use to feed widows and orphans and to provide for special events. With proper sanitation and nutrition, people are rarely sick. Children no longer die from diarrhea. Because they know how to treat common illnesses at home, families no longer go into debt from unnecessary hospital bills.
Another TCT training taught the committee what Scripture says about the roles of husbands and wives. Even the church leaders had never heard before that God’s plan is for husbands to love their wives. One leader shared, “I have never loved my wife. It was an arranged marriage. I don’t even like her.” This man never took his wife anywhere or showed her any affection. They were both miserable. After the training, he realized the way he treated his wife was wrong. He wanted to obey the Bible’s command to love his wife, so he started treating her well. Their relationship improved quickly and they were both so happy. When others in the church saw the change in this leader’s life, they stopped beating their wives and began to show them love. In turn, wives treated their husbands with respect, and parents began to show affection to their children.
As the church members have reached out with Acts of Love, the church itself has been transformed. The congregation previously consisted of a few families, mostly nominally attending. Now 90% of the community (about 700 people) professes faith in Christ, attends church, and tithes regularly. About 80% of church members actively participate in acts of service.
The Wholistic Ministry Committee still remembers the day in 2005 when they drew the “Dream Map.” It seemed impossible that in 10-20 years they would achieve their dreams. Now they recognize that in 2010—just five years later—God already made their dreams a reality. The Wholistic Ministry Committee continues to meet, pray, and plan. But now the projects they plan are for the surrounding communities, as they no longer have any needs in their own community.