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Stories of light in the darkness

In the midst of much darkness, we share some of the ways the church around the world is shining God’s light.

Tarryn Pegna | 18 Dec 2022

A cross on the roof of a church in a village in Uganda.

A cross on the roof of a church in a village in Uganda. Credit: Kieran Dodds/Tearfund

Rejoice. Rejoice always! This is what the apostle Paul encourages the church to do in Philippians 4. As we look at the state of the world around us reflected in the news, as we consider impending famine, devastating conflict and the cost of living and climate crises, how can we bring ourselves to rejoice?

Yet, when Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi, he was not relaxing in some easy context, insensitive to how difficult life can be – he was in prison. Quite possibly, he was facing death. So, how could he be telling the church to rejoice? 

‘With thanksgiving,’ Paul writes, ‘present your requests to God in every situation, so that you may find peace that comes from reminding yourselves who God is.

‘Think about the truly good things!’ he tells them. ‘Put things back into perspective! All is not lost. Do the things God has called you to do, and he will be with you.’

We, the church, today as in the time of Paul, are called to act – to be a part of God’s answer to the challenges and brokenness in our world. Not operating outside of his power, but through it, together, as part of one body on earth.

As the year draws to a close, we’d love you to join us in looking at some of those true, right, lovely and admirable things.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): a place for peace

Decades of war and violence have left physical and emotional scars in the DRC, but in a physical representation of working toward peace, guns have been turned into garden tools. Weapons that were intended for death and destruction have been remoulded into instruments for nurturing life.

Be uplifted as you watch the video.

Tearfund hosted a peace rally in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The metal from decommissioned guns was melted down and reshaped into garden tools, and a message of peace was shared by local leaders.

‘They will beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.’
(Isaiah 2:4)

Bolivia: for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these

‘If a child does not have anyone in the family who speaks about God, the child goes out onto the streets and absorbs bad things,’ says one youth pastor in Bolivia. ‘The world tells the child, “You can’t. You’re a fool” … but the church helps these children move forward in life.’

Through our local partner, Red Viva, Tearfund is supporting 40 churches in Bolivia to work jointly with communities to protect children from any type of harm. Find out more in this short film.

Through our local partner Red Viva, Tearfund is supporting 40 churches in Bolivia to work jointly with communities to protect children from any type of harm.

Pakistan: recycling for real change

Millions of people living in poverty are forced to live among huge piles of rubbish. With no other way to dispose of it, they often resort to burning it, causing respiratory problems and sickness, as well as polluting the environment and contributing to the climate crisis.

In Pakistan, Tearfund has been working with local authorities to set up recycling units to serve some of the poorest communities. Each recycling hub serves more than 6,000 households, and collects, treats and recycles solid waste. As well as improving the health of communities, these hubs are providing jobs for people and helping them to lift themselves out of poverty.

Read more about this encouraging progress.

Syria: community transformation through the church

Martin Leach, Tearfund’s Regional Director for Eurasia and North Africa, visited our team in Syria recently. He says of his visit, ‘two images stick in my mind: firstly the skeletons of scores of bombed out apartment blocks in the Eastern Ghouta area on the edge of Damascus, still standing since the fighting stopped a few years ago; and secondly the tangible sense of excitement of the leader of one of our partners, as we discussed plans for envisioning his church through Church and Community Transformation.’

Through the local church in Syria, we are working to make a difference in communities by doing things like rehabilitating a community centre in a Damascus neighbourhood where many people were displaced during the Syrian conflict.

With Tearfund’s support, the church provides educational and recreational activities for children and vocational training for women and young people. It also provides emotional support groups and individual counselling for people who have experienced trauma or who are struggling with the ongoing daily stresses of life in Syria: broken relationships, unemployment, poverty, and feelings of hopelessness.

Find out more about the difference the local church is making in Syria.

Colombia: healing and rebuilding

It is estimated that nearly 2 million Venezuelan migrants have settled in Colombia, having fled the economic crisis in their country. For many, particularly for women, their experiences are marked by physical, sexual and emotional harm.

‘When I arrived at the church, I found the peace I didn’t have before… When I got to the church, I saw that it was like my family. I arrive and they hug me. I leave and they hug me.’
Julie Ríos, Venezuelan migrant

Working across 30 churches in Colombia, Tearfund has trained 105 women to become Trauma Healing Facilitators. 30 male pastors have been trained both in the prevention of gender-based violence and in using the Bible to help change harmful attitudes in their communities.

Currently, 250 Venezuelan migrant women, like Julie, are participating in Trauma Healing Groups.

Meet Julie in this short film:

Tearfund has trained 105 women to become Trauma Healing Facilitators in 30 churches across Colombia.

Jennifer also came to Colombia in search of a better life and found support in a Trauma Healing Group. Hear her story:

Jennifer is a Venezuelan migrant who fled her country and settled in Colombia due to the socio-political situation in her country.  She has been part of a Trauma Healing Group in her local church and has received support in training and seed capital to strengthen her business.

Burundi: Transforming masculinities – transforming families

For a long time, the violence and anger that Bahati directed towards his wife Noella left them both broken.

‘I was losing my mind,’ says Noella. ‘I considered committing suicide many times.’

Then, Bahati and Noella's local church launched a Transforming Masculinities project with a local Tearfund partner which offered the couple a lifeline.

Read Bahati and Noella’s restoration story.

‘When I arrive home now, my children run to welcome and hug me. My wife graciously welcomes me too. I feel like a man, a real one.’
Bahati, Burundi

Kenya: hope through peacebuilding

‘Hope is not lost!’ says Allan Waihumbu, a graduate of Tearfund’s Inspired Individuals programme. He’s talking about peacebuilding in the context of a drought-stricken Kenya, where violent conflict has been made worse by extreme hunger.

‘We have used the local church and the media to make a clarion call on some difficulties which need long term engagement,’ he says. ‘For example, the youth that are used in the fighting are often those who have not gone to school. So, if the long term engagement involves a plea to go to school, then a miracle can happen – we'll see a generation raised that has embraced education and embraced other sources of livelihood support.’

Read more about the work that Allan is doing and the hope that is being built through peacebuilding.

We, the church

In the midst of even the most dire situations, we, the church, wherever we may find ourselves in the world, are part of God’s plan for restoration. We, the church, can carry light into places of great darkness – because we know the God who first loved us.

And as we think on that great love he has for us, let us rejoice!

 

Pray with us

Lord God,

Help us to rejoice in you always. Let our gentleness be evident to all. Help us to remember that you, Lord, are always near.

Lord, let us not be anxious about anything as we lift every situation before you – giving thanks in knowing that you are a good God.

Thank you for your peace. May it guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen

  Tarryn Pegna


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