This is part one of a five part series written by USPG entitled All Things Are Possible, exploring how faith in God can change the world.
Key Text: 2 Kings 4:1-7
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states:
‘We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.’
In this study, we suggest that God has to be a part of the picture if we are to live truly prosperous and fulfilling lives. Therefore, there must be a faith dimension if we are to make any progress with the SDGs.
First, in silence, consider for a moment the things you value most.
Make a list.
USPG is supporting a community development programme run by the Anglican Church in Zambia.
A new approach to development is inspiring communities in Central Diocese, Zambia, to tackle local concerns using their own skills and resources.
The approach – called the Church and Community Mobilisation Process (CCMP) – starts with a series of community bible studies that emphasise individual uniqueness and the importance of sharing.
Participants are delighted to discover that each of them has gifts and skills to offer the community. Participants are then encouraged to work together to set up projects to boost income or improve the local environment.
After attending CCMP, lay reader Chrisphine realised he could earn money selling the grass that grew on his smallholding – a rare type of grass that is much in demand for roofing and making soft brooms. So he employed local people to harvest the grass – creating jobs – then sold the grass to businessmen, making enough profit to buy six goats, poultry, and fertilizer to grow more grass.
Until she attended CCMP, Judy had been paying people money she couldn’t afford to manage her smallholding. Following the bible studies, Judy decided she could do the work herself – and started growing crops of soya beans and groundnuts, which she had learned were profitable at market. With the money she saved from not hiring people, she bought three beehives and started selling the honey. All of this means she no longer struggles to pay her children’s school fees. She said: ‘I realised God had created me for a purpose and put resources around me at my disposal.’
Ezekiel, like many men in his culture – and indeed around the world – admitted he used to see his wife, not as a partner, but as a resource for earning money.
But through CCMP, he and his wife Evelyn started using the trees on their smallholding to make and sell charcoal. With the profits they bought fertilizer and were able to grow a healthy crop of vegetables and maize. Evelyn goes to market to sell the vegetables they grow. The couple has been able to pay their children’s school fees, and they give thanks to God by giving a tithe to their church.
Ezekiel said CCMP has changed his outlook on life and said he now sees his wife in a new light.
Now the wife of a member of the company of prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead; and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but a creditor has come to take my two children as slaves.”
Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?”
She answered, “Your servant has nothing in the house, except a jar of oil.”
He said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbours, empty vessels and not just a few. Then go in, and shut the door behind you and your children, and start pouring into all these vessels; when each is full, set it aside.”
So she left him and shut the door behind her and her children; they kept bringing vessels to her, and she kept pouring. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” But he said to her, “There are no more.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your children can live on the rest.”
Take it in turns to reflect on the question posed at the start of this study: What does it mean to prosper? Share briefly your insights.
Experiencing the richness of God
Each of our studies will close with what we are calling a ‘contemplative exercise’.
Choose one person to lead the group through the following silent ‘experiential’ prayer.
Read slowly and clearly – leaving long pauses between phrases to give people time to let the words sink in.
Take some time to sit in silent wordless prayer. [Pause]
As you do so, allow the following descriptions of God’s richness to sink in, filling your soul.
If a particular description doesn’t make sense for you, focus instead on those that do. [Pause]
Divine flow [Pause]
Infinite source [Pause]
Universal love [Pause]
Forgiving God [Pause]
Mystery yet known [Pause]
Totally accepting [Pause]
For a few moments, allow yourself to rest in God. [Pause]
Know that you are accepted just as you are right now in this moment. [Pause]
Know that God’s riches are in you. [Pause]
Generous God, we thank you for your loving care
And abundant provision for all your children.
Give us grace to share your gifts with others,
for the greater well-being of all.