The Mobilising Effect of the Local Church
Hey Jim! Super excited to hear some of your thoughts about SeeKenya, thanks so much for joining us! First things first, what are some of your favourite things about Kenya?
It’s hard to know where to start! I absolutely love Kenya; I’ve been going every year for ten years now and over time some of the people I’ve met have become some of my dearest friends. I love the people – they’re big hearted, generous, fun and I just enjoy being around them and the culture. There’s lot of faith in the midst of real hardship.
I’ve got so many fun stories; I think just driving around is always a hair-raising journey! One time, there was seven of us squeezed in the back of a Land Rover with a goat and two chickens bumping and jostling travelling through the bush with its proper dirt roads in Samburu – it’s unlike anything you’d ever experience here in the UK! It’s a lot of fun. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful place too but most of all I genuinely love the people.
As the Senior Pastor at The King’s Church Mid-Sussex, why you do you think it matters that the church gets stuck in with justice? Where does theology come in here?
When we talk about justice, we always start with who God is, the character of God. We see in the Bible that God is just, and therefore He is passionate about justice. Poverty, exploitation, slavery, all forms of injustice are so alien to the world that God has intended, which has been broken and corrupted by sin.
When we look at the Biblical story, that God will one day renew all things where there is no injustice, it’s a glorious end. It’s the in between, the moving from one to another of the ‘now and not yet’ is where we come in. You can’t read the Bible without seeing the heart of justice, it’s on every page from the Old Testament law to take care of the orphan and the widow, to the radical example of Jesus that this gospel message is good news for the poor. The whole story of Scripture speaks of justice, so if we’re not practicing it, then we’re not being carriers of God’s heart and will for justice.
As a pastor, Scripture informs what I think and believe about the local church, and if we’re not manifesting the heart of Christ which is for justice, then I think we’ve missed it. It’s not just for a small group of enthusiasts, it should be at the very core of who we are. And SeeKenya is seeking to do just that. Going to Kenya has helped me recognise the massive inequality between the rich and poor, the have and the have-nots and eye care is a very good example of that. Here, we can get a quick eye test, receive all the necessary healthcare we need and there is no reason for it to impact our work or education – in Kenya it’s a very different story. As a church based in the UK, I truly believe we have been blessed to be a blessing although I would stress that it looks different for different people. As a pastor, it’s not my job to change anyone, it’s to point to Jesus. We’re all works in progress which is ultimately a lifelong journey.
Great stuff, thanks Jim. So how do you see local churches playing a role in community transformation?
Well, you know I’m a local church guy and I’m sold out for the local church! I wholeheartedly believe that it is the primary vehicle for the Kingdom of God coming to earth and that it is how communities are changed. Ephesians chapter three talks about the manifold wisdom to be revealed through the local church, and for me, when there’s a group of us doing all we can to be like Jesus we can have a much greater impact.
I think the key to SeeKenya is that it was birthed from a local church partnering with other local churches on the ground. In this way, we have the ongoing community allowing for follow up care and support; they are essentially the frontline response making SeeKenya a success. I’m passionate about seeing viable, Bible-believing churches bring change to the towns and cities they’re planted in. To that end, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here: we may only run a clinic there for a couple of weeks but it’s the continuous presence of our partners at Kambakia Christian Centre that really makes a difference. That’s the beauty of the local church and it represents what global mission is all about.
We want to be serving Kenyans in every way we can through a genuine partnership and not just in eye care. Our teams are organised with both Kenyan and UK volunteers working together and our goal is that most of the responsibilities are fulfilled by Kenyans which we resource with training and finances.
We’re still learning and we’re still growing with each year that passes. I think it’s so important that we adopt the mindset of putting ourselves in another’s shoes in humility, recognising we don’t have all the answers, but we can learn from listening to others’ stories – storytelling is powerful. We know we’re in this for the long haul, so we want to be consistently adapting to what works best while keeping the vision of affordable, accessible eyecare as the primary goal.
When I look back on the years, it’s incredible to witness the journey that SeeKenya has been on. We started just handing out glasses from a suitcase – now we’re building a permanent clinic to service thousands. It’s been a remarkable decade.
For sure. Just to wrap up, I’m keen to hear about your experiences running marathons for SeeKenya! Can you share some of that with us?
My thought process for running marathons for SeeKenya is pretty much, well why wouldn’t I? It’s a great way to raise the profile of SeeKenya as a charity as well as raising money through JustGiving pages. Not everyone will go to Kenya, but we know and realise that many people both inside and outside of our church are passionate about it, and we all have a part to play. At the end of the day, we are a charity that exists on donations, and none of the work we do is possible without the generosity of people that have caught something of what we’re trying to achieve. Running a marathon might not be for everyone, but every donation be it £2 or £2,000 makes a difference. Just £10 will buy essential eyedrops for someone and some lifechanging procedures can be carried out with £50, so we should never minimise what each of us could do.
Written by Lizzi Joyner