Executive Director's Message
Malaysian Care 2012 Theme:
God is Able to Do
Greetings in His Name and Blessed New Year to you!
Caring for the poor and needy has never been a walk in the park. To work alongside individuals, families or communities who are marginalized requires intensive, extensive and long-term efforts to address its causes. While addressing these, often times challenges arises in the form of opposition.
This can come from within the poor in the form of apathy, suspicion, lack of confidence or vested interest. However, more often than not, it comes from outside because the position and interest of the oppressor is threatened or from unjust laws and social norms.
We can see this clearly in the ministry of Jesus when he saw the needs of the poor and needy and gave care to them:
- The crowd at Jairus’s place thought he was either crazy or a charlatan in Luke 8:49-56.
- He was accused of breaking the (Sabbath) law when he healed a man with a shrivelled hand and a crippled woman in Luke 6:6-11 and Luke 13:10-17 respectively.
- In Matthew 8:28-34, he was asked to leave by an entire town because they feared his liberative work would threaten their lucrative economic activity.
- Then in Matthew 9:1-7, he was accused of blaspheming and undermining the dominant religion there and subsequently being cast as the devil’s crony in Matthew 9:34.
Jesus’s very act of caring wasn’t just a mercy service provided but also a loud declaration against sin and oppression. And this was what engendered opposition.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and into our local situation. This year Christians in social work have been subjected to unsolicited limelight when a couple of national paparazzi newspapers front-paged news of how Christians allegedly used social work to entice beneficiaries to swap beliefs – aid in exchange for acceptance, food for faith. Is caring then just a means to an end as implied by these allegations?
When we look at Jesus’s example, we must surely say ‘No’ for as in the Bible examples above and in many more, our Lord seamlessly integrated addressing spiritual and social needs. His work was always wholistic and where people accepted it, the result was true transformation. Transformation takes place when we are reconciled with God through Christ, when our view of ‘Self’ is redeemed from its brokenness, when our social relationships are restored to reflect justice, and when our relationship with God’s creation is re-sown into one of responsible stewardship. Transformation is incomplete if it does not encompass these four foundational relationships.
This understanding then forms the basis for our response to the controversy facing us. First, Christians should repent if we have used social work as merely a means to an end. The term ‘Rice Christians’ that aptly refers to the controversy at hand has to be ejected from the way ministry is done. Christians care because God has always cared despite our unbelief and weaknesses. To render care or social services to the marginalized is something we do because it is in the character of the God we follow to lift up the poor and needy.
He raises the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s; and on them he has set the world. 1 Samuel 2:8 (ESV)
Restoring justice and mercy in social relationships is one of the foundational ‘pillars’ of transformation and not peripheral to the reconciliation of man’s relationship with God.
Second, as we acknowledge the critical place of just social relationships we concurrently recognize that transformation must be total and wholistic encompassing every foundational relationship described above. Therefore, we cannot shrink from engaging in any of them even when it has the potential for opposition.
Finally, one of the best ways to mute accusations that social work is merely a means to an end is not to shrink from it but to give even better quality and professional services that meet real needs for this shows the depth of our concern for the poor and needy who are usually given second or third class treatment by the world. We should invest a sufficient portion of our resources and training into it to attain the professionalism needed so that it reflects its foundational place in ministry and its quality of service is beyond reproach. In giving our best standard of services we are merely reflecting our Father who gave his best for us.
In the most conducive of environments, doing all these would be a challenge already but in today’s situation, the task for Christians seems even more formidable – transformation in the face of opposition, mobilizing churches to wholistic ministry, quality and professionalism in the midst of resource constraints. For the past two years, Care has had the theme ‘Launch out into the deep’ taken from Luke 5:4. In this period, God has launched us into new geographical areas especially in East Malaysia, advocacy on poverty and social work issues, growing partnerships and networks with churches in serving the urban and rural poor, special needs, drug and HIV/AIDS clients. We are indeed thankful to God and to our partners and supporters for these developments.
Even as Care heads into a new year building on the initiatives that had been launched, the challenges loom large and we asked ourselves what is God saying to us afresh as a theme for 2012? The passage from Ephesians 3:20 best sums his message to us: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us (ESV)
As we engage with the opportunities and the challenges ahead, our capabilities, resources and thinking can only take us so far. But as we depend on His power at work within us (individually and corporately), He will do abundantly more than what we can ever imagine to bring forth fruit from the opportunities and to address the challenges that face us.
With that assurance, we look forward to what God has in store for us in further developing what He has launched us out into and beyond, so that we may together with churches in Malaysia impact our nation for Christ.
And so, our theme for 2012 ‘God is able to do abundantly more’ reiterates our dependence on Him and states our confidence in Him to make things happen. May our service bring glory and praise to His Name! And may God fill you with his abundant peace and joy this Christmas and New Year!
Yours in His service,
Wong Young Soon