Malaysian CARE has just released Module 2 of its ‘Why Care?’ Devotional Series, focusing on social empowerment. We asked Keith Gonsalvez of Malaysian CARE’s Communications team to explain more about integral mission and how social empowerment is part of following Christ.
Q: Hi Keith! Thanks for speaking with us. First off, why are Christians called to be involved in social empowerment?
Keith: In this area of ministry, indeed “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. (Matthew 9:37). How wonderful it would be if every prisoner or an ex-addict has someone who is willing to journey with them, as they decide to leave their past and journey towards a new life of recovery, freedom, and hope.
Imagine if Jesus were on earth today, would we find Him in the prisons, talking and dining with addicts or holding the hand of a person with HIV? I’m sure we would. He would be there “to seek and to save the lost!” (Matthew 25:36, 40).
Serving in this area is often seen as an inconvenient job and one easily misunderstood by society but as followers of Christ, we must not be selective about who we love well.
We encourage you to watch the Real Life series on our Youtube channel and see how everyday people made a difference in the lives of this often marginalised group of individuals.
Q: Why is social empowerment one of Malaysian CARE’s focus areas of work?
Keith: In the context of Malaysian CARE, Social Empowerment revolves primarily around our work with those affected by crime (prisoners/ex-prisoners), substance abuse and people living with HIV/AIDS.
This group of individuals within our population face strong stigma and discrimination and have very limited opportunities towards positive reintegration, acceptance and overall wellbeing. Moving forward, we continue to remain optimistic in advocating for reforms in the prison system and promoting second chances for ex-offenders through a new initiative – the Youturn project.
With the recent announcement from the Prison Department that two-thirds of prisoners are to be released and undergo rehabilitation in the community by 2030, the Church would need to be aware, ready and remember a fundamental truth about our God is that He is a fan of second chances and we have a role to play.
Q: Could you give some examples of Integral Mission in everyday life, for the everyday Christian?
Keith: We ought to remember that our God is not only higher than all the Gods of the nations, but He is also lower than all the other gods. He does not simply operate from the safety of heaven, but he draws near, gets in our face and even confronts leaders who are unjust.
If we think we serve an indoor God, we have lost a great part of our faith. We must break through and ensure that we do not get comfortable with institutionalised worship and look at the real reality that is found outside of the church walls.
We are to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel everywhere God has placed us – at work, in school, at a ‘lepak’ session in the mamak with our friends, in our residential area, in our community, state and nation.
In the context of this devotional:
- If you are working in a corporate organisation, you could talk to your HR to provide employment opportunities for ex-prisoners.
- If you are retired and you have time to spare, you could drive n HIV patient for a hospital appointment and introduce him/her to your cell group members over a cup of coffee.
- If you’re a youth and you love fitness, run a fitness program at our halfway homes.
- You could also take a look at the needs around your home or church and talk to the local people to assess if there is anything you and your church can do. Start small and God will open doors.
Q: How do you hope Christians will use this devotional and what will they take away from it?
Keith: The devotional can be used both communally (in groups, as a cell) or individually, and they are designed to be used in four sessions as each topic is different from the other.
Visio Divina is something new for most of us but it has been around for centuries and we hope that this creative form of reflection will ‘stretch our spiritual imaginations’ even as our hearts are stretched to care for those we don’t often think about.
The biblical reflections, discussion questions and prayer points are all prayerfully written in collaboration with our colleagues who work directly with the community on the ground. They are actual prayer needs that we hope will not only spur conversations but move Christians to act out of courage and kindness.
There is also information and options presented on how one could get involved in little or big ways and we hope that baby steps will be taken towards getting involved and building a more equal and just Malaysia.
God’s call to serve the poor and marginalised is very much a command in the Bible and therefore each of us should strive to embody it each day!
Q: Where can I get this devotional and is it a free resource?
Keith: Our ‘Why Care?’ Devotional Series is free for all Christians. You can find the two modules we have released so far on Economic Empowerment and Social Empowerment online here. You are encouraged to use these devotionals once a week for three weeks followed by a week of Lectio or Visio Divina.
If you would like to obtain a PDF version of the devotionals, click here to request your copy. We hope you will be blessed, challenged and inspired to live out the integral mission: the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel every day.
Malaysian CARE is a non-profit Christian NGO established in Malaysia in 1979, committed to serving the poor and needy irrespective of religion and ethnicity. The organisation focuses on empowering communities, aiming for long-term sustainable development and seeing ourselves as partners to the local church and the people we are serving.
All photos provided by Malaysian CARE.