Changing lives, impacting others

This month, we welcome Imonga, from Sesheke in Zambia as he shares his story.

Jon, Moses and I considered the effectiveness of the Life Group approach. It was through belonging to a Life Group that Philip* had been transformed. Philip only has one arm and when I asked him his story, what he told me was like a volcano in me.

Philip lost his arm in a fight when he and his friends had been drinking. He was a notorious criminal, in and out of prison all the time. Everybody knew that his life was going to waste, and nobody was surprised that he had lost his arm in a fight; it was just what people expected of somebody like him.

A Life Group meeting in Philip’s community invited him to come along. At first, he would go with his bottle and just sit there, but on the third week he started contributing to the discussions. After a while Philip decided that he wanted to change his life, leaving behind his life of drinking and crime and committing to follow Jesus.

Having recently been released from prison, Philip didn’t have a place of his own to live. The Life Group helped him by building a small place close to the local church. Philip began to clean the church every week.

He said “I am just cleaning the church. Even though I only have one hand, I want to work for God.”

After he came to the Lord, people who knew him commented on how he had changed. They were surprised. ‘You’re a church person now!’ they said.

Philip demonstrates his newfound hope by bringing his friends to the Life Group. Many of them also criminals or alcoholics, they come and listen to what is said there. He even brings some of them to church. Last week, for instance, he brought two of them. This week he brought one, who was limping. Philip and his friend stood right at the back of the room, but one of the leaders invited them to come to the front, gesturing to the seats for honoured guests.

‘When Philip told me to come to church,’ the man with the limp said, ‘I didn’t know that you would allow me to do that.’

Anyway, he went up to the front to find a seat, but when he got there, he said, ‘No I can’t sit on one of those chairs with you because we are sinners, my friend and I. Allow me to sit on this stool here. I can’t stand by the pulpit. I know most of you are surprised to see me. I will sit here and explain why I came today.”

He then shared his testimony with the congregation. He had come because he had seen the transformation in Philip, which was so astonishing that he had begun to come along to the Life Group. As a result of that, he had started going to church as well.

I said that this story feels like a volcano inside me that’s about to erupt. It has touched my heart so much and I’m not sure I can put it into words. I firmly believe that Philip would not have come to the Lord without the Life Group method. The impact is impossible to miss. Reaching him for the Lord wasn’t going to be as easy as praying and quickly going, “Hallelujah!” when he was saved. It was a longer process than that. Life Groups allow people to be heard and seen – they transform peoples lives.

These stories are rare because people do not feel welcome in many churches where they must follow many protocols. It’s possible that other approaches we use in the church would have failed to reach people like him. Philip told me that he didn’t feel he could go to church with a body like his, that he didn’t feel able to sit and discuss things. I think Life Groups can reach people like Philip and his friend because they are more inclusive, more open to the community, than the church in this region generally has been.

As I talked with Moses and Jon, we agreed that seeing how the lives of these two men had changed direction showed how Life Groups can touch people’s lives and lead to them being transformed.  At the same time, I was struck by the fact that these men had become part of both the Life Group and the local church.

‘It’s not like the two are separate,’ Jon said. ‘In many different places, we have seen Life Groups and churches working hand in hand in this way.’

The church and the Life Groups in our community are a light to sinners who live in darkness. When that darkness comes to either, the light shines into it and drives it out. In this way, people come into the kingdom of light.

*Name changed for privacy

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