This is a follow-up to my last op-ed "Reaching the unreached with the Gospel only is not good enough".
Gospel in one hand and humanitarian aid in the other have been our best strategy since our encounter with the unreached. It is scripturally grounded, morally upright and strategically perfect.
Apostle James encouraged Christians to be sensitive to the plight of their fellow brethren by practically meeting the needs of the less privileged. Instead of expressing faith and blessing them with words of prayers only, he enjoined believers to practically demonstrate the love of Christ by deeds of compassion. According to him, faith without work is dead. (James 2:15-17)
Jesus showed compassion to the people that he preached the Gospel to; he provided food to those listening to His teachings and was moved with compassion to minister healing to their bodies. The Gospel of Christ is holistic; it is for the body, soul and spirit. We shall do no less than what Jesus did. It will amount to negligence and insensitivity for a preacher of the Gospel to see a naked a woman and preach the Gospel to her and abandon her nakedness.
Preaching the Gospel alone could be good enough to save their souls but it will be better if we minister to their bodily well-being as well. I sincerely do understand that the Gospel is what is needed to transform lives and prepare converts for eternity, but several times I have been moved to tears at the dehumanizing status of the unreached. Whether they will make heaven under such status is not debatable, they will surely make heaven.
I am a strong proponent of Christian suffering and have made it clear in my book and teachings that the call to Christianity is the call to suffer for Christ, the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. But it is obvious that the unreached are not suffering for any of these but because of marginalization, rejection and man's inhumanity towards man. Is it not better if we see these people as the least of Christ's brothers and minister foods, drinks, clothes, etc. as Jesus enjoined us?
Some people criticize evangelical organizations that do not provide help without accompanying evangelization. We are convinced that the greatest gift that we can give to any man is to introduce Jesus to him. Every other gift should be geared towards fostering proximity of the recipients to Christ. In all interventions, we let the target group know that all we come with are given to us by Christ to give to them. In one of our meetings some women came to us and told us to ask Jesus to visit their village.
According to them "we want to know him and thank him for all the things that he has sent to us through you." There is a video on our website about a wife of the chief priest of an idol in one of our remote mission fields whom we met with leaf covering her pubic region. She and her husband used swords to chase us round the village and stopped us from having access to the people.
We ran out of the village and when we strategized and went back, clothed the woman and the entire community and provided enough food for them, they allowed us to preach Christ to them and they all surrendered to the saving power of Christ. Today, the wife of the chief priest is an evangelist, moving from village to village, telling others about Jesus. She has one outstanding testimony, according to her, "my primary message to other women is that Christianity has stopped me from covering my nakedness with leaves and they too can come to Christ for the glorious covering."
The place of humanitarian intervention in Gospel propagation among the unreached cannot be overemphasized. Missionaries often cannot access them without first showing them kindness. No matter how anointed and zealous a preacher may be, he will find it difficult to gain access to some communities without the act of Christian kindness.
The strategy of Gospel in one hand and humanitarian aid in the other catalyzes the preaching of the Gospel and makes the target persons less hostile and friendly. It is a protective strategy for the missionaries who are prone to attack. In one of our mission fields, some group of youths approached our team with their swords and machetes and we thought that it was all over. We had prayed, "Unto your hands we commit our spirits," but I said, "Before I die, let me show my last act of Christian kindness."
I beckoned them and gave small packs of rice, noodles, soaps and detergents to each and every one of them. They stepped back and held a brief meeting and came back to us and said, "We came to kill you but because of these gifts, we want to become Christians. Since we were born, no one has ever given us a gift and now that you gave us gifts, we want to serve the same God that you are serving." We could not believe what we heard but that was how God saved our lives through little acts of kindness.
We so much believe in the words of Francis of Assisi: Witness always, use words when necessary. We share our faith by demonstrating the love of Christ to the unreached and where necessary, we communicate the Gospel orally. It is important to note that the unreached understand the Gospel better when it is communicated in love and deeds of compassion than in words.
Oscar Amaechina is the president of Afri-Mission and Evangelism Network, Abuja, Nigeria. His calling is to take the gospel to where no one has neither preached nor heard about Jesus. He is the author of the book Mystery Of The Cross Revealed.