If you know anything about One Body One Hope, you know who Emmanuel Bimba is--and you are likely well aware of his passion for church planting and spreading the gospel. Although God is at the helm of the Abide in the Vine Disciples’ Church family, Emmanuel is the Lord’s “feet on the ground” as this partnership of churches continues to transform communities all around Liberia. It has long been the goal of OBOH to more fully support Emmanuel in this endeavor, and we are incredibly enthusiastic about his goal to plant at least one church in each of the fifteen counties in Liberia. However, we have always known that this sort of collaboration would require more than our humble ministry can provide. And it is this knowledge that has spurred us on in the last two years to create a church partnership program that will pair local churches with AVDC churches in Liberia. We are so excited to announce that the OBOH church partnership program is officially launched!
Three Northwest Iowa churches are each exploring what it means to enter into relationship with one of the AVDC congregations. Our focus is, as always, the development of meaningful, reciprocal relationships that will benefit not only the Liberian congregations but also greatly impact the U.S. halves of the partnership. We are only too aware that our needs in North America are great--we are slaves to our own materialism, greed, and watered-down gospel, and we need the power of the incarnational kingdom of God just as much as our Liberian brothers and sisters need clean water and healthy food. What better way to fully participate in the body of Christ than to learn from and share with one another? Aaron Baart, the president of OBOH, says it like this: “We’re interested in reciprocal missions, the sort of outreach where missions isn’t a downhill slope of money, but a true, mutual, equal, reciprocal partnership founded upon relationship.”
Churches involved in our partnerships will enter into a period of “getting to know you,” of discovering more about the congregation they have been paired with and how they can help each other. During this time they will pray, educate, receive, and give as they go from a surface connection to something much deeper. If both churches are happy with the way the relationship is progressing, the next step will be to send a team from the U.S. church to Liberia to meet with their partner congregation. It is our hope that they will discover more about one another, break bread together, commune, fellowship, and uncover what the next steps of their partnership might look like. Finally, if both congregations are ready and willing to commit even more fully to one another, at this juncture OBOH will ask them to enter into a covenantal relationship. This commitment is intended to be long-term and intimate, not the sort of short-lived zeal that flames bright but fades quickly.
We are so excited to watch these relationships progress. It has been thrilling to watch a match strike in the hearts of different congregations, and as we try to fan the flame into an inferno, we know that God will be faithful to the people he loves--both here and in Liberia.