Over this past summer, I had the privilege (yes, it was a privilege!) to read through hundreds of pages of Annual Reports and missionary stories from our past. In addition to finding lots of facts that went into our timeline, I discovered that InFaith has been reaching locally and changing lives in all kinds of ways for the past two hundred years. I have talked in other places about what it means to reach local and change lives. This is the first part of a series taking a look at how that has manifested over the past two centuries.
The very formation of InFaith as an organization was a response to the changing context of the day. The founders of the mission were businessmen and politicians who recognized that Sunday schools were a powerful way to reach out to the hurting around them with the gospel. The schools where held on Sunday (hence the name, “Sunday School”) because local people worked the other six days of the week. The goal of the schools was to teach literacy in addition to Biblical values because many local children and adults could not read. (This was before the public-school system was established!)
The mission called itself the Sunday and Adult School Union. Forming a “Union” brought together several different groups who all had the same goal. The organization focused their efforts, raised funds to pay for teaching materials (and later paid missionaries), created lessons and books, and developed best practices for conducting Sunday Schools. It was a response to the need for a guiding organization to help the fledgling groups better reach their local areas with the gospel.
In some times and places, God calls men and women to spontaneously reach out and touch the lives of those around them in extraordinary ways. In other times and places, God calls for a group of people to come together to form an institution with a long-range strategy for systemically caring for the least of these. The existence of InFaith and formation of our organization in 1817 is an example of the latter. It was ordinary and mundane and powerful. How is God calling you to reach local and change lives?