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Teaching the church to fly in Mali

How a greater understanding of the Bible led to a church in Mali helping their community out of poverty.

Written by Rachael Adams | 24 Mar 2023

A man and a smiling woman sitting down with three young men standing behind them

André (bottom right) with his family outside their home in Mali. Since taking part in training with Tearfund’s local partner, André’s church has been able to help transform their community and lift people out of poverty | Image credit: ODES-Mali Tearfund local partner

Churches can play a central role in bringing about the change they long to see in their communities. From restoring relationships to providing practical support to help lift people out of poverty, it is all possible through the local church. When André’s church in Mali realised how their church could make a difference, everything changed.

André works for a church in Sikasso – one of the most populated cities – in southern Mali. Like other countries in the Sahel region of West Africa, Mali has been hit hard by the effects of the climate crisis; the changing weather patterns have led to millions of people going hungry.

But, how could the church help?

‘Like a bird with one wing’

‘The church in general had no vision,’ shares André. ‘They did evangelism, focusing only on the spiritual side without thinking of the physical. So, the church flew like a bird with one wing.’

Then, an invitation came from ODES-Mali, Tearfund’s local partner. André, along with the church leader and another member of staff, took part in Tearfund’s training, which uses the Bible to equip churches in how they can make a difference in their community.

‘Thanks to ODES-Mali and its partner Tearfund, now I am truly aware of my responsibilities and those of the church vis-à-vis the community,’ says André.

Here’s what the church did next.

Putting their faith into action

Following their training, André and his church had the resources they needed to get their whole congregation involved. They set up Bible studies twice-monthly in their church, and then the change started happening, not only in the church – but across the whole community.

Funds were mobilised across the church in order to help the most vulnerable. From this, eight people from the church and 60 people from the wider community were given rice, sugar, oil and a cash grant so they could buy what they urgently needed.

Since the Bible studies began, André has noticed that tensions across the community have reduced. There are also more people getting involved with activities that the church is running, including more young people and women. André has also decided to get in contact with the local leader in Wayerma to see how the church can help the city further.

‘The subsequent Bible studies have transformed my life,’ says André. ‘I understand more that evangelising holistically is a duty for me. I strongly understand that I have the duty to participate in the wellbeing of my direct neighbours. Finally, I understand that I must participate in the development of my neighbourhood.’

A group of people sitting in a circle

Even more people are now getting involved with the activities André and his church are running. The Bible studies have changed the church and helped the church to transform their local community too | Image credit: ODES-Mali Tearfund local partner

Life and life to the full for everyone

‘A church that is equipped to its full potential is one that can bring lasting change to its community,’ says Kossi Agbo, who leads Tearfund’s work in West Africa.

‘Tearfund runs training like this for church leaders around the world, adapting the courses to local contexts and running them in different languages to make them accessible for everyone. After taking part, we are seeing churches play a leading role in helping their community to overcome poverty.

‘We would love to see even more churches get involved. In Mali, over the next five years we want to be able to reach 150 churches and 200 church leaders with this training. This will lead to millions of people being transformed by the power of the Bible and many people being lifted out of poverty.

‘We cannot do this without God. Prayer underpins all we do at Tearfund, so please join us in prayer for this. Thank you.’

Pray with us

André has asked us to pray ‘that timidity will fade at the church and that the church will have more courage to build relationships with its community and work in harmony.’

  • Pray with us that God will continue to use André’s church to make a difference in the community and for relationships with the community to flourish.
  • Pray that Tearfund will be able to reach 150 churches and 200 church leaders with its training in five years. Ask God to open up opportunities for this to happen and for the resources needed to run the training across the country.
  • Pray for provision of food and clean water for people in Mali who are affected by the effects of the climate crisis. Ask God to bless them with what they need not only to survive, but to thrive.

Written by

Written by  Rachael Adams

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