The call to social justice – to ‘defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow’ (Isaiah 1.17) – lies at the core of the church’s mission. Across the globe, churches have unique strengths that enable them to make an important contribution to seeing ‘every person’s potential fulfilled’. Embedded in their local communities, with dedicated volunteers and networks committed to helping, churches can powerfully advocate for and serve the most vulnerable.
The Methodist Church Sierra Leone is one of a number of international churches that All We Can is working together with, through its Church CAN initiative. A joint programme between All We Can and the Global Relationships team of the Methodist Church in Britain, Church CAN supports churches to identify their strengths and the areas in which they can grow in order to become more effective agents of change in their local contexts.
Since beginning to work together with the Methodist Church Sierra Leone (MCSL), the church has begun to utilise its own enormous potential. The church has been affectionately referred to as a ‘sleeping giant’ within Sierra Leone, in recognition of the movement for positive change it has the opportunity to be. Through the Church CAN programme, the church has been supported to develop a strategic plan – a fully inclusive roadmap for the journey the church needs to take, to enable the communities it serves to embrace life in all its fullness.
Once distant from these communities, the church is now seen as in relationship with its congregants. Mapping the strengths of lay people in service to the church has been key to this process. The church now recognises the incredible, varied, and unique strengths within it – rather than continuing its dependence on outside support.
But what does this mean for the communities which the church is serving?
In the words of Francis Kakpindi Musa, the MCSL Development Secretary, MCSL was encouraged to ‘use what we had in our hands’. By looking inward and developing its own, internal resources with which to build community projects, the church is exploring key ways in which its ministers can help support and serve the communities in which they are embedded. For example, training has been provided to ministers in improved crop production. This vital skill can then be passed back to farming communities in Sierra Leone, supporting families to earn a living and ensure a sustainable income. Likewise, an increased focus on gender issues, and the recruitment of an individual to lead on gender issues within the church, aims at increasing the number of women in leadership roles in the church and improving gender equality in communities.
Many challenges lie ahead for the church – further complicated, of course, by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Using funding raised itself and from supporters around the world, the church has been supporting vulnerable communities in Sierra Leone by distributing food and PPE, and by broadcasting public health messages on the radio to raise awareness of Covid-19 and how its transmission can be reduced.
Further opportunities to strengthen and equip the Methodist Church Sierra Leone abound in 2021 and beyond, as All We Can, the Global Relationships Team of the Methodist Church and MCSL continue to walk together in partnership. You can help support this work enabling churches across the globe to pursue their call to social justice, as well as All We Can’s other work with marginalized communities across the globe, by making a gift today.